News and Views

Irish sports broadcaster to be honoured by UCC

21 Nov 2019

Marty Morrissey’s 30-year career in sports broadcasting will be recognised with the awarding of an Alumni Achievement Award by his Alma Mater University College Cork (UCC) on Friday (22nd November).

Other UCC alumni being recognised on the night for their achievements will be Naomi James, the first woman to sail solo around the world via the treacherous Cape Horn route, Ireland’s renowned Michelin starred chef, Ross Lewis, one of the country’s best-known psychologists, Dr Maureen Gaffney and a pioneering surgeon, Professor Calvin Coffey.

“My first ever commentary was on the back of a tractor and trailer” 

“I'd love to say I had a great plan. This was all an accident. In 1984 my Club Kilmurry -Ibrickane were playing our great rivals and neighbours Miltown Malbay in the Clare Under 21 Football Final, and the Post Office owner in Quilty Patrick Galvin decided to get a video done of the game. He asked me to do the Commentary  which I refused initially  but eventually relented and so I headed to Doonbeg on October 28th ( it was my birthday!!) and did my first ever commentary on the back of a tractor and trailer” commented the RTÉ sports broadcaster, who was born in Mallow (1958), raised until he was ten in the Bronx in New York, before returning with his family to live in Co Clare. He graduated with an Arts degree from UCC in 1980. 

Marty Morrissey joined RTÉ in 1989, has been a member of ‘The Sunday Game’ team for 30 years and commented on every All Ireland Hurling Final on TV and radio since 2012, but the passionate GAA fan and former Clare county player, was initially refused by RTÉ, “I started applying to RTÉ and the more they refused me, the more I wanted it and finally I got my chance 3 years later, and here I am today! As I said, an accident!”

“I had to prove to myself that I was alive, and that I couldn’t die.”

Naomi James was the first woman to sail solo around the world via the treacherous Cape Horn route.  She departed Devon on 9 September 1977 and began her adventure aboard the 53-foot yacht, Express Crusader. During her voyage, she once nearly lost her mast, capsized and had no radio for several weeks. After 272 days she completed her challenge, and on the 8th June 1978 became the first woman to sail single-handed around the world via Cape Horn.

Speaking about her decision to undertake this spectacular feat of human endurance, James says; "For forty years I didn’t know why I made the decision to sail around the world single-handed. Finally, I understand that I had to prove to myself that I was alive, and that I couldn’t die.”

In recognition of her achievements, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1979 was the subject of the British TV show, This Is Your Life. After her voyage, she moved to Cork with her husband, who tragically died in a sailing accident ten days before their baby was born. She found solace in a return to education, graduating with a BA in 1997 from UCC, completing an MA in Philosophy at UCC, and later a PhD from Milltown Institute.

“Teaching children about how to eat and how to cook is a fundamental life skill”

UCC Dairy Science graduate, Ross Lewis, is renowned for championing the best of Irish artisan food produce at his Michelin starred restaurant, Chapter One. Lewis and Chapter One have placed Ireland firmly on the international food map with culinary gurus such as AA Gill, Colman Andrews and Barbara Fairchild among the esteemed food writers who have visited the restaurant.

It is not surprising then, that Lewis has strong views on the importance of educating children about food; “Teaching children about how to eat and how to cook is in my opinion a fundamental life skill that directly affects physical and therefore mental health”.

He adds “by not teaching our children at school one of the most important life skills then regretfully we are missing an opportunity that will have implications for the rest of their lives.”

We are addicted to our smartphones

Dr Maureen Gaffney graduated with a BA in Psychology from UCC in 1968. Today Maureen is a well-known psychologist, broadcaster, and writer. She was a columnist for the Irish Times and is the author of the best-selling books, ‘Flourishing’ and ‘The Way We Live Now’. Her new book, ‘Your One Wild and Precious Life’, will be published next year. She has worked as a Clinical Psychologist in the Health Service Executive (HSE), a Senior Lecturer in Trinity College Dublin, and as Director of the first Doctoral Programme in Clinical Psychology in Ireland. 

Speaking about how modern life has impacted our health and wellbeing, Gaffney says; “The single biggest factor in my view is distraction - much of it self-created by addiction to smart phones, social media and the cult of convenience. The result? Cognitive over-load, chronic low-level stress and rushed, distracted close relationships”.

Finding a new organ

Professor Calvin Coffey, recently made headlines around the world when he and his researchers reclassified part of the human digestive system, the mesentery, as a new organ. This discovery led to updates in Gray’s Anatomy and Langmans’ Medical Embryology, and featured in Time Magazine, National Geographic, CNN and the Guinness Book of Records.  The impact of his research is ground-breaking. As Coffey explains, “identifying the mesentery as an organ clarifies what we are and how we are made up.  It re-orientates human biology and by extension, clinical practice”. Coffey qualified with a degree in Medicine from UCC in 1998 and completed his PhD in 2005.

The Alumni Achievement awards dinner is an annual celebration by UCC of its alumni, last year’s winners included Glamour Editor-in-Chief, Samantha Barry and Máirín Hughes, UCC’s oldest known Science graduate at the spritely age of 104.

For more on this story contact:

Interviews with Alumni Achievement award recipients can be arranged on the night via Patricia Finucane, UCC Alumni and Development 086 3493407/  p.finucane@ucc.ie

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF

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