Michael Sheeran: The Leader was the final port of call for a journalist of the old school

IT was back in 1997 when the word came seeping through on the grapevine that one Michael Sheeran had just been appointed editor of the Leinster Leader.

IT was back in 1997 when the word came seeping through on the grapevine that one Michael Sheeran had just been appointed editor of the Leinster Leader.

I had not seen Michael for a fair few years but knew him from our school days together at Naas CBS, mainly as a fine footballer, one of the mainstays of the Naas CBS U17 Leinster Championship winning team of 1967; an ever-present player with his local club Kill and one who had worn the white of Kildare in the Leinster Minor Football Championship.

I can vividly remember meeting him on his first day in the Leader as he made his way up the steps to his office, with his brown leather ‘case’ under his arm. I wouldn’t call it a brief case, that would be much too posh for Michael, definitely more like a satchel but to this day I never really found out what he carried in it.

Michael’s reputation, work-wise, had preceded him. A highly respected member of the Evening Press, The Kerryman, he was the first sports editor of the Irish Daily Star, and more besides, he had done his apprenticeship before ‘coming home’ to a position he always said would be his final port of call.

In many respects Michael was an old-style journalist. Not one to stand on ceremony, nor dilly dally around a subject, never a member of the politically correct club by any means (and proud of it), he was a man who shot from the hip and dealt with the fallout later.

He was, what my late mother used to say, “a well read fellow.”

Whenever you met Michael he invariably had two items with him. One being The Irish Times and the other a well-thumbed book that he was reading at that particular time. He was never without a book, regardless of where he was and many is the time he would sit in his local, alone but for the companionship of a pint, reading and supping, only to raise his head for a refill or ask the barman to switch the telly over to the six o’clock news, something he never ever missed.

He was a man who loved an argument, and regardless of the subject he had an opinion and usually one he could articulate with passion.

We had many an argument. Many, many an argument, as did each and everyone who ever had the pleasure of his company. From sport to politics, the state of the nation, the future, the past and everything in between we discussed.

When I found myself under pressure, especially when it came to politics I would invariably throw in the remark “you’re nothing but a smoked salmon socialist” to which he took grave exception. His reply was always instant and along the same lines. “That’s sweet coming from a closeted Fianna Fáiler”, something which (of course) I instantly denied.

In all my dealings with Michael and in all the arguments whether it was with myself or a third (or fourth) party, no one ever fell out. Once you realised you were never going to win the argument no matter what the subject, you were fine and when the dust settled, Michael would invariably suggest “I think it’s your round!”

In many ways Michael Sheeran was unique, hard to put your finger on it, difficult to even put it into words but unique probably sums him up best.

A fierce loyal and proud Kildare man, he was so chuffed to land the editor’s job at his local paper.

Some 12 or 15 years ago when cancer came his way and he was receiving treatment he insisted, no matter what, that he would write his weekly editorial for the paper. And he did so without ever missing an edition.

It was a time before laptops and internet access became a journalist’s tools of the trade but he made his way to an internet cafe near where he was hospitalised and sent on his weekly offerings.

Those offerings were invariably late, invariably way beyond the required word count and invariably headed “my words of wisdom for this week”.

I heard many words of wisdom from Michael Sheeran over the years and am extremely grateful to him for his advice, his guidance and his undoubted journalistic know how.

He will be missed and missed greatly.

Hard to imagine those often repeated words will be heard no longer.

“It’s time to go, but we’ll have two for the road, think it’s your round!”

- Tommy Callaghan