Sunday, September 27, 2009

Harry Cahill: 1930-2009

(From Stephen Findlater's "The Hook" hockey blog)

Irish hockey Hall of Fame player Harry Cahill died on September 19 at the age of 79. Widely regarded as the best goalkeeper to ever don the pads for Ireland, he earned 72 Irish caps during a 20-year period stretching from 1953 to 1973.
During that period, he was selected for three Olympic Games for Great Britain – finishing in fourth in Rome in 1960, ninth Tokyo in 1964 and 12th in Mexico in 1968 where he was Britain’s oldest Olympian at those Games.
He also played with the Irish side for the first European Nations Cup in 1970, aged 40.
In a time of minimal protective gear, Cahill was revered for his fearless approach to the game allied with razor-sharp reflexes and athleticism.
He played his club hockey initially with Pembroke Wanderers before moving across channel to play with the Coventry and North Warwickshire club.
He was inducted into the IHA Hall of Fame in 2006.

From the Irish Times:

HARRY CAHILL, who has died aged 79, was one of the finest international hockey goalkeepers of his generation.

He made 72 appearances for Ireland from 1953-1973, played for Britain in three Olympic Games (Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964 and Mexico 1968) and toured India and Pakistan with Britain.

He represented Ireland in the first European Nations Cup in Brussels in 1970, was a member of the Irish team that won the Santander Trophy in 1972, and toured South Africa in 1973.

His initial hockey was with Pembroke Wanderers in Dublin. Following a business move, he joined Belfast YMCA in the late 1950s (winning an Irish senior cup medal), before moving to Coventry and North Warwickshire. He finished his hockey career with Worthing, helping them to win the Sussex Cup in 1981 when aged over 50.

He was a natural sportsman, converting initially from soccer to hockey and taking up goalkeeping only because he found himself playing in a team without one.

He was Irish triple jump champion in 1951/52 and was chosen to represent Ireland in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. However, as with three other selected athletes, he did not go because the Irish athletic authorities were short of funding.

When playing for Coventry hockey club, he used to train with Coventry City soccer club, whose manager at the time, Jimmy Hill, was so impressed with his skills that he offered him a contract.

When he retired from hockey, he had time to play golf, squash, run three marathons – London, Dublin and Worthing – when well into his 50s, and help with umpiring at Worthing, where he was club captain from 1986 to 1990.

Cahill was born in Dublin, one of three children who excelled at sport: his sister Irene was captain of the Irish women’s hockey team and his brother Cecil played for the Irish amateur soccer team.

In 2006, Cahill was inducted into the Irish Hockey Association Hall of Fame. He is regarded by many as the greatest Irish hockey goalkeeper to date.

A modest man, he was noted for his kindness and warmth. He is survived by his wife, Ina, and their two daughters.

Harry Cahill: born June 9th, 1930; died September 18th, 2009.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


IRISH boxing was last night mourning the loss of a potential world champion after Olympic bronze medallist Darren Sutherland was found dead at his English home yesterday by his manager, reports the Irish Independent.
The 27-year-old super middleweight, who won bronze for Ireland in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, was discovered in his flat in Bromley, south London, by Frank Maloney.
The boxing promoter, who signed Sutherland as a professional in October last year after his Olympic triumph, said: "It is a tragedy for Ireland and the world of boxing."
He described the death as very sad and unexpected. "At this sad time, my thoughts are with Darren's family and I hope their privacy at this very difficult time will be respected by the media."
A Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed that the young boxer was pronounced dead just after 3pm. His death is not being treated as suspicious.
The death of 'The Dazzler' drew an immediate reaction from across the country.
Sports Minister Martin Cullen said: "Ireland has lost a sportsman of wonderful ability, a clever and popular man with a future of real potential."
Mr Cullen said his death was "a great personal loss" to his family and many friends. "The tremendous effort and determination of this young man brought immense pride to Ireland in Beijing in 2008 when he joined a very select group of men who have won an Olympic medal for Ireland. It takes work, effort, desire and dedication to be a champion -- qualities Darren had in abundance."
Olympic Council of Ireland president Pat Hickey described the news of the young boxer's death as "unbelievable".
Mr Hickey recalled that he had presented Darren with his Olympic bronze medal in Beijing. "He was the greatest fellow in the Irish camp. He was the life and soul of the party, a fellow who got on well with everybody. This is such an awful shock," he said, adding that the OCI extended its sympathy to Darren's family.
"I remember him talking to me about turning professional and he was so positive and so sure he was going to do well."
Dominic O'Rourke, the honorary president of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA), last night described the death of Darren Sutherland as "shocking" and "unbelievable".
"I'm trying to get my head around it. I'm totally shocked, it is a total tragedy and I feel for his family. It is a tremendous loss. Words cannot describe it, it is hard to believe it," he said.
Describing the young man as "a phenomenal talent", former world champion Barry McGuigan said he had expected his compatriot to become a world champion one day.
"I am deeply shocked and deeply saddened by this news and my heart goes out to Darren's family. It is an absolute tragedy."
Boxing pundit and former champion Mick Dowling spoke of his shock on hearing of Darren's death and said he would be a massive loss to world boxing.
"He was the kind of fighter that every coach in the world wanted to see walking into their gym. He was an absolute natural and had the world at his feet," Mr Dowling added.
"Darren would definitely have been a world champion. He had power, dedication and he was so, so committed from a fitness point of view."
Darren claimed three Irish senior titles, two European Union gold medals and an Olympic bronze medal while boxing for Ireland out of the St Saviours OBA club in Dublin.
The young boxer, whose parents live in Navan, Co Meath, was due to fight Tony Jeffries in the Seabum Centre in Sunderland next month.
According to his Facebook site, Darren's ambition was to become "a future world champion".
"I was drawn by the drama, glamour, showmanship and excitement of the professional game," he said.
He started boxing full-time when he was 15 and quickly found he had a natural talent for it. "I love the thrill of the fight and performing in front of big crowds," he said.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Boxer Katie Taylor has got her chance to compete at the 2012 London Olympics.

In Berlin, the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) executive decided yesterday women’s boxing, which narrowly missing out on inclusion at Beijing last year, will be part of the London programme. Women will compete in flyweight (48–51kg), lightweight (56–60kg), and middleweight (69–75kg) divisions, with 12 boxers in each weight.

Taylor, aged 23, is a double world champion, three times European champion and last year was voted the best female boxer in the world by the sport’s governing body, the AIBA. She has lost only lost once in 61 fights, with 39 consecutive victories in the past three years. Her great ambition was to compete at the Olympics. China and Russia in particular can now be expected to throw more energy into their women’s boxing programs, but Taylor still has a good chance of taking a medal in London.

Boxing was the only sport in the games without female participation. Last month, a Canadian supreme court judge rebuked the IOC for its bias towards male athletes which made yesterday's decision inevitable. London will be the first Olympic Games where men and women compete in all the sports on the programme. Women's boxing made a brief appearance on the Olympic schedule in 1904.

With the news that rugby and golf, for both men and women, are to be included in the 2016 games, Ireland's hopes of Olympic success in the future have brightened.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Taylor. “This is a dream come true, not only for me, but for female boxers throughout the world who have worked so hard to gain Olympic status. Our sport has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, and this decision has added a whole new dimension to the sport. ”

The Olympic Council of Ireland's president Pat Hickey welcomed the decision. Mr Hickey, who is also president of the European Olympic Committees, had lobbied for the sport’s inclusion. “The great thing is the decision is in stone,” he said. “The good luck was that that court case in Canada was a stinging rebuke to the IOC. I know it was Katie’s dream to compete in the Olympics, and now it is certain that women’s boxing will be in London.”

There is a small downside for Irish hopes of boxing medals. So that the total number of male and female boxers can remain at the current quota of 286 athletes, one of the men's weight categories must go.

Likleiest candidate is the 48kg light flyweight division in which Paddy Barnes won a bronze medal last sumer. Barnes may now be forced to move up to the 51kg flyweight class, which is more competitive.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sean Lavan from Kiltimagh

Sean Lavan was a man of many talents, both athletic and academic. An Olympian, he represented Ireland in the 440 yards event, and he played Gaelic football for Mayo. He taught for a while before studying medicine. He later qualified as a surgeon and lecturer in anatomy.

Born in Kiltimagh at the end of the 19th century, he attended Ballyglass National School. He won the King's scholarship and trained as a national teacher in Waterford. He taught for a while in Cloongulane National School, near Swinford. He became interested in handball at that time, and became quite proficient in the game, beating the Irish Champion on one occasion, and earning the familiar name "Baller" Lavan. As a handballer, he could use both hands equally well.

While playing for Mayo during the All Ireland semi-final of 1921, he adopted the " toe to hand" method of running with the ball, and scored what he thought was the winning point, only to have it disallowed. The "toe to hand" or "solo run" would later become a fundamental skill in Gaelic football.

When a wrist injury forced Sean out of football, he turned his hand to running and won his first race, barefooted, in Castlebar. Other successes quickly followed. He established many records, and went on to represent his country in the 1924 Olympics.

In the field of medicine, he excelled. He was awarded the O' Farrell Medal for surgery. He became lecturer in anatomy in UCD., and subsequently surgeon in Temple St. Hospital and police surgeon. Sean Lavan was born on 21 December 1989 and died in Dublin 5 August 1973.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Belfast boxer John Caldwell has died at the age of 71 after a long battle against cancer. As an 18-year-old, Caldwell won a bronze medal in the flyweight division at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.

Five years later in 1961, he clinched the world bantamweight title after beating Frenchman Aphonse Halimi. Caldwell lost the title a year later against Eder Jofre in Sao Paolo Brazil and then was edged out in after an epic battle with Freddie Gilroy, another Belfast and Irish Olympics great .

Caldwell's victory over Halimi had made him the first Irish world boxing champion since Rinty Monaghan in 1948. Despite the two losses, Caldwell came back to win Commonwealth and British titles in 1964 before retiring from the sport a year later.

Caldwell was regarded as one of the most skilful boxers ever to have come out of Ireland, as well as one of the bravest. He was exceptionally unlucky to have lost his Olympic semi-final in 1956 at a Games where three other Irish boxers, including Freddie Gilroy, claimed medals.

Caldwell boxed with the Immaculata Club in Belfast.