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A tribute to Dessie Scahill
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A tribute to Dessie Scahill

Off The Ball
Off The Ball

21:40 28 Jun 2018

Johnny Ward joined Wednesday's Off the Ball to pay tribute to the retiring Dessie Scahill ahead of the Irish Derby this weekend. 

The commentator's legendary career has spanned nearly five decades and Ward was quick to praise his contribution to Irish racing down through the years. 

"It got harder over time - there's probably more riding on it. Back in those days, Dessie would have commentated on for the race track only and maybe the betting shop that didn't have picture. Maybe you could get away with it the odd mistake as well because nobody could see.

"I interviewed Dessie a few years ago and he did admit that if you make a mistake now in a race and if call a fall and it's a different horse - this is going to cost somebody thousands of Euro.

"Now you're calling it for the race-goer and the race-goer is almost the least of your concerns because everyone else is listening on their phone or watching on their phone or on their laptop and Dessie had to embrace that. 

"I think what ultimately made Dessie 'Dessie' - was his voice. He just had a voice like no other. I know Jerry Hannon, his heir apparent is slagged because he sounds like him but Jerry would have looked at Dessie like we maybe would have looked at Marco Van Basten. He wanted to be a commentator and he was his idle. 

"And, there's a famous photo of Dessie commentating in Listowel with Jerry behind him as a teenager and Jerry had a lot more hair back then but it's a beautiful photo and he always looks back at it fondly. 

"Dessie, he was passionate, he didn't editorialise - he just called it as he saw it. He called it in the order of where they were in the race. 

"In the really good races - he was pumped...and I would be a big, big advocate of that: context.

"If you're commentating on a race on a Monday - I don't care what difference it makes to the owners - you have to have a bit of perspective. You can't get too excited if it's a bad race - Dessie was very good at that. He got excited for the big races.

"There's a strange sadness for me...when I got into Irish racing, I would spend hours and hours doing impressions of Dessie Scahill doing commentaries...he was an icon. I got to meet him - he was a good guy. 

"I think maybe it could have been handled a bit better by the Association of Irish Racecourses. You could tell there was an element of bitterness about the departure for him that they, kind of, didn't really explain it - they just, kind of, said 'That's how it is'.

"And I think after all of his years service, albeit getting paid for it, maybe his role in Irish racing will be right up there with very few people because he was an icon. He might have deserved a bit more respect from AIR."

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