It was with very heavy hearts that have learnt of the passing of the man who is undoubtedly the voice of Greyhound Racing, Michael Fortune.
It is fitting that his son Ian lead the tribute to him on Talking Dogs.
“For over fifty years it was his great joy to report the news. Sport has always been his passion, greyhound racing was in his blood, it was a way of life, a first love and he was lucky enough to make it his career.”
Read Ian’s full tribute to his father now below.
These are the hardest words I’ve ever had to write, but on Monday evening Michael Fortune, my father, passed away.
For over fifty years it was his great joy to report the news. Sport has always been his passion, greyhound racing was in his blood, it was a way of life, a first love and he was lucky enough to make it his career.
Through his work with titles such as the Irish Press, Evening Press, Irish Examiner, Racing Post, Sporting Press, Irish Greyhound Weekly and the Irish Independent he wrote tens of millions of words about our sport and never took that responsibility lightly.
In 1978 he began a 40yr undertaking, producing the first Irish Greyhound Review. With the help of Frank Quinn, Margaret Walsh and so many others, it was to become the sports main reference guide, a detailed review of each year’s action and, as time passes, a constant and accurate guide to the sport’s past. The 2019 annual, which came out last November, would be his forty first and last.
He was also the voice of Irish greyhound racing on RTE, both TV and radio, for many years and he saw it as an honour to share his love for the sport to anyone who would listen. He also thoroughly enjoyed his time presenting, commentating and reporting for Greyhound View.
For so many of my generation and subsequent generations he provided the soundtrack to some of the greatest greyhounds to ever race. His commentary of College Causeway’s 2009 Derby success is often cited as his best, but he was most proud of his call on the Cool Performance Derby in 2001.
Shelbourne Park was his second home, a special place with special memories and it’s difficult to picture the place without him. While his health was fading in the past week, I asked him what he missed most while stuck in hospital and his answer was a simple one. “I miss doing a bit of work, watching some sport, going to the dogs. I’d love to be going to Dundalk on Friday.”
That Saturday morning, while struggling to keep awake, I told him Killmacdonagh had won the International and he replied, “She’s had some year”.
His involvement with
greyhounds wasn’t just in a working capacity, of course. He also owned greyhounds for many years with the highlight being the victory of Cool Survivor, who he owned with his great friend Phonsie King, in the 1995 Oaks.
In recent times the Night of Stars took up much of his time. He came up with the idea many years ago, but it was only this decade that it finally came to fruition. The work that he and his partner in crime, Pat O’Donovan, put into the night made it the success it was.
Those who knew my father well would know my mother, Rita. They were a pair, rarely separated, travelling companions, lost without each other. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.
He was a brilliant dad to myself and my sister Michelle and in recent years a loving granddad. It’s our greatest regret that he won’t get to see his grandchildren, Cara, Aoife, Conor and Saoirse, grow up.
He also leaves behind him a great number of friends, most of whom he met at greyhound tracks up and down the country and all of which he shared a drink and a laugh. In recent weeks he got a kick out of Priceless Blake winning the English Derby for Ireland and his friend Paul Hennessy, while Wexford beating Kilkenny in the Leinster final raised his spirits no end.
Lastly, I’d like to take this opportunity, on a page that he put so much of his heart into, to thank Dad. He introduced me to greyhound racing, fed my appetite for the sport and passed on [much of] his wisdom.
He was a great father, grandfather, husband, friend, colleague and companion. He lived his life like a champion, he knew how to enjoy himself and was the best company. He was my best friend and I will miss him forever.
Rest In Peace, Dad.
Funeral details to follow.