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Born in Ennis, County Clare, Des Lynam worked in insurance before starting his broadcasting career as a sports reporter for Radio Brighton in 1968. He joined BBC Radio 2 within a year, presenting Sports Report and moved to BBC Television in 1978.
For over twenty years Des was the BBC’s main sports anchorman, presenting Match Of The Day, Grandstand and all major events including the Olympic Games, Wimbledon, the World Cup and the Grand National. In 1998, he had a cameo role in Arthur Smith’s film for the BBC, My Summer With Des. Other programmes he presented include How Do They Do That?, Sportsnight, Points of View and The Holiday Programme. He also had his own Friday drivetime show on BBC Radio 2 and was the host of the original series of They Think It's All Over on BBC Radio 5.
In August 1999, Des moved from the BBC to ITV to anchor their live football coverage, primarily the Champions’ League, Euro 2000 and the World Cup 2002. In June 2000 ITV acquired the rights to broadcast Premier League highlights from August 2001 and Des presented their flagship programme, The Premiership for three seasons. He also hosted the BAFTA Television Awards in 2000. Des left ITV after presenting their coverage of Euro 2004.
Des returned to the BBC in August 2004 with a new series for Radio Five Live, Des Meets…, in which he conducted one on one interviews with major sporting figures. He has been the guest presenter of Have I Got News For You on BBC1 three times. In 2005 he hosted We’ll Meet Again, BBC1’s flagship programme for the 60th anniversary celebrations of VE Day and co-presented The World’s Greatest Sporting Legend, a live debate series for Sky One, with Sir David Frost.
He also hosted an evening show Des At Wimbledon for Radio Five Live and asked the nation Are You Younger Than You Think? on BBC1. From Autumn 2005 to Christmas 2006 Des was the host of Channel 4’s long running quiz, Countdown. In October 2005 his autobiography I Should Have Been At Work! was published.
In 1985, 1987, 1988, 1993 and 1997 Des was voted Sports Presenter of the Year by the Television and Radio Industries Club. He was chosen by the Radio Times and Open Air as Male Television Personality of the Year 1989. In 1994 and 1998 he won the Royal Television Society’s award for Sports Presenter of the Year and in 2002 he was presented with their Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also presented with the much coveted BAFTA Richard Dimbleby Award for the Year’s Most Important Personal Contribution on Screen in Factual Television 1994 and, in 1996, BBC viewers voted him Top Television Presenter on Auntie’s All Time Greats, a celebration of sixty years of BBC Television.
He was also chosen as the Best TV Performer in a Non-Acting Role by the Broadcasting Press Guild in 1996 and the Variety Club of Great Britain presented him with its Media Award for 1997. When the Radio Times celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1998, its readers voted Des the Host With The Most.