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The Irish News - Nov 15 1997: If Peter O'Sullevan had been at charge of the Light Brigade ...

Legendary racing commentator Peter O'Sullevan 

IF Peter O’Sullevan had been at the charge of the Light Brigade, the story goes, he would have given rank, name and number of each rider – plus, of course, the name of each horse.

Few sports commentators are as attentive to detail.

Even less are capable of conveying accurately the sheer excitement of the last furlong of a great race as 20 horses hurtle in a blur of colour towards the finishing post.

That rare talent was marked this week at a glittering West End bash to celebrate the life of the Voice of Racing who retires at the end of the month, aged 80 and after the best part of 50 years at the microphone.

Picture the scene as O’Sullevan, dinner suited and immaculate as ever, stood on stage, microphone to his lips, calling home two of racing’s most famous characters in one of the season’s most bizarre and entertaining races. JP McManus, the Irish owner and mega-rich punter, sat on one side of the dinner table with one eye on his watch anxious not to miss his night plane to the United States. Peter Savill, the stylish but multi-rich owner, sat on the other.

The prize for victory? The final race card of O’Sullevan’s commentating career, packed with his usual copious notes and subtle observations, colour coded for ease of reading in the heat of battle.

No matter that the commentary hasn’t even taken place yet and won’t until November 29 and O’Sullevan’s farewell at the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury.

But then they were off, the auction starting slowly but gradually gaining momentum urged on by less well-off diners. “No reserves tonight, three I’m bid on my left,” said O’Sullevan, in that wonderfully melifluous voice, resonant and attractive yet at the same time urgent and compelling.

The rhythm flowed “five on my right, do I hear six?” just as it does on the racecourse where the tone, quickening and slowing with the pounding of hooves and the nod of the horses, has become so familiar and so trusted by television viewers.

“Nine and a half, was that a bid?” inquired O’Sullevan. “Remember the card will be signed by all the jockeys in the race – and it will be framed.”

Why that fact should clinch it for men who could easily afford to hang Picassos and Van Goghs on their walls was unclear, but suddenly the pace quickened like a field coming round Tattenham Corner.

“Ten on my right, JP at 11, 12 I’m bid, do I have 13?” Moments later O’Sullevan’s last commentary card was pledged to JP McManus for a staggering £13,000.

“Now you can go and catch your plane,” said O’Sullevan with typical timing and humour in a voice which had reverted to its usual confidential whisper.

ooooooOOOOOoooooo

ARMAGH'S NFL ram-raiders can expect fire to be met with fire tomorrow against Donegal at Davitt Park.

A clash with their unbeaten rivals earns top billing for round three of the league programme.

It contains enough promise to deliver a meaningful match and for Armagh their first true test of the new season.

Declan Bonner's honeymoon period as Donegal manager has run without a hitch, with wins over Longford and Derry more than satisfactory.

As for his opposite numbers, the two Brians, McAlinden and Canavan, it's been a free-scoring explosion to kick-start their campaign to qualify for the playoffs.

Antrim were pitiful, London a shade tougher but more or less as porous, as Armagh ran riot to the tune of nine goals and 35 points.

The rehashed, revised, and bordering on ridiculous pick and mix decisions system will no doubt deliver further unnecessary punishment to Kilkenny, Waterford and such like as times goes by.

Antrim were under strength on the day, London not up to scratch, and both were mercilessly taken to the cleaners.

A total of 13 players have already scored in the series for the Orchard crew, with Diarmaid Marsden leading the early scoring romp with 2-7.

ooooooOOOOOoooooo

DERRY City skipper Peter Hutton rescued a frustrating night for his side with a dramatic late winner against Drogheda in the Harp Lager National League Premier Division.

What should have been an easy win for Derry was anything but as they left it too late for comfort.

A struggling edgy City side never got to grips with their opponents who worked their socks off.

Had Derry taken first half chances it could have been a different story but what was created was wasted.

Drogheda had the bit between their teeth late on and were determined to turn their good work into the prized possession of a point against the champions.

And they appeared to be well on their way until Hutton turned up in injury time to shoot Derry to a valuable 1-0 win.

Drogheda: Byrne, Hill, Coady, Impey, J Reid, Murphy, Beggs, Rammage, Fox, Gallen, N Reid.

Derry City: O'Dowd, Doherty, Gallagher, Hutton, Curran, Dykes, Mohan, Hegarty, L Coyle, Beckett, Keddy.

Sub: R Coyle for L Coyle (64 mins). Ref: J Feighery (Dublin)

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