Friday, December 23, 2011

Consistency Key for Irish Sailors

After two medal-race performances and one near miss at the  ISAF Championships in Perth,  five sailors from clubs in Belfast, Cork and Dublin booked their places at London 2012.
Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern made it in the 49er skiff class, Peter O’Leary and David Burrows in the Star keelboat, and Annalise Murphy  in the Laser Radial.
Ireland’s only sailing medal came at the 1980 Moscow Olympics when 62 countries decided to boycott the Games. Since then, Ireland hasn't had a top-eight finish.
David O'Brien, in an excellent Irish Times article, points out that consistency must be the key if the Irish crews are to make the podium in Weymouth. 
Two bad races apiece for the Star crew and Annalise Murphy cost them medals in Perth. "’s not only about having brilliant races, it’s also about avoiding bad ones, and in terms of difficulty, it’s the hardest nut to crack," writes O'Brien.
In her last two World Cup regattas, Murphy has finished 15 times in the top 10 and has won 10 races. Her win rate at the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta on the Olympic course in Weymouth was matched only by Britain’s Ben Ainslie. Inconsistency prevented her from taking first place in both events.
In Perth, Murphy won four races, more than any other sailor in her fleet; her average position, excluding discard, was seventh. If she had scored seventh in her two worst races, she would have won the regatta by five points. Instead a couple of bad results kept her sixth overall in a 102-boat fleet  -  still a personal best.
For the relatively new Star crew,  there has been bronze  at the European Championships, fourth  at the Olympic test event and silver at the Bacardi Cup. On the downside, a 33rd and a 24th in Perth kept them out of the medal race. In the 41-boat Perth fleet, consistency paid off -  only one of the top three overall won an individual race but the top three rarely dropped out of the top 10.
With only six regattas left until the Olympics, the Irish crews resume their campaigns in January, with the Star and the Laser Radial based in Miami and the 49er in Europe.
The big challenge for them all is making the transition from Olympic qualifiers to medal prospects. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dervock's Kennedy McArthur Remembered

From the BBC
Kennedy Kane McArthur  was greeted him with a torchlight procession when he returned to his home town of Dervock, Co Antrim, after winning the marathon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm.
So it is only fitting that Dervock is included on the London 2012 Olympic torch relay route through Northern Ireland on the centenary year of that victory.
McArthur's life story reads like that of a comic book hero such as Alf Tupper.
He enjoyed chips for breakfast and smoking a pipe after his triumphs.
The former postman caught the running bug while  delivering letters as a young man in Co Antrim.
But it was only when he emigrated to South Africa, the country he represented in the games, that he started taking athletics seriousl. Ballymoney museum manager Keith Beattie explains:
"Kennedy Kane McArthur went over to South Africa as a young man, but there are plenty of accounts of him running during his post round and delivering the letters as fast as he could.
He would race the narrow gauge railway engine as it went by."
McArthur was  unconventional compared to modern athletes - a bulky individual who still had the  ability to run long distances.
"He ran six marathons in his career from 1908 to 1912 and he won them all which is a phenomenal record. There is talk that at the Durban Marathon in 1910 where he finished 15 to 20 minutes ahead of his nearest rival,  he was seen leaving the stadium smoking a big pipe of South African tobacco."
At the Olympic marathon in  Sweden, one athlete died in the sweltering temperatures and McArthur is believed to have been spurred on by a cry from home in the closing stages.

In those days there would have been refreshment stops, with a cup of tea or a glass of champagne rather than the energy drinks of today.
As McArthur ran towards the finishing line someone threw a garland around his neck, nearly knocking him to the ground.
"He was so tired and was struggling to reach the line, but the legend has it that someone shouted from the crowd 'Come on Antrim come on ye boy ye' and he found the last bit of strength to finish. The crowd carried him in their arms afterwards."
McArthur's athletics career ended a year after his Olympic victory when he injured himself in a freak accident while on patrol as a police officer.
In 2012,  Ballymoney Museum will brings his medal and trophies back to Northern Ireland from South Africa for a special  exhibition.
McArthur stadium in Potchefstroom where he settled is named after him."When he died in 1960, his widow presented his medals and trophies to the museum in Potchefstroom and they have agreed to let us borrow them next year.
"The Olympic gold medal is missing, no-one is quite sure where it is, but we will be displaying his Olympic blazer and the running number from his shirt.
"We have been talking to his relatives and they have a book that was presented to him in 1912 when he returned to Ballymoney and they want to come here next year to bring that across."

Dervock is planning to hold a centenary marathon in McArthur's memory next year with Stockholm following suit.
Mr Beattie said the flames and trains which helped spark this marathon messenger's passion for running would also be recalled in his home village.
"The exhibition we are planning will run from April to September and we have been generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund," he added.
"They are also helping us with another project which will be a play about McArthur's life which will coincide with the centenary.
"When he arrived back here by train after winning the Olympic gold there was a large crowd waiting for him at Ballymoney station and our plan is to reenact that at the station.
"He was put into a carriage and the people of the town unharnessed the horses and pulled him themselves to the town hall for a reception.
"When he arrived at Dervock there was a crowd of people waiting and a torchlight procession and we hope to reenact that as well."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Three Cyclists Qualify for London 2012

Ireland has qualified three riders for the London Olympics road race next year.
Thanks to the  achievements of Daniel Martin, Nicolas Roche and Philip Deignan, Ireland ends the season with a world ranking of 13 - enough to book a place at London 2012.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Three Boxers Qualify for London

John Joe Nevin from Cavan who reached the bantamweight semi-finals at the AIBA World Boxing Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, has qualified for London 2012. Also booking their places were middleweight Darren O'Neill from Kilkenny and 19-year-old flyweight Michael Conlon from Belfast, who both went out in the last eight.
Deirdre Ryan doubled over.

Others with London 2012 qualifying marks include:  high jumper Deirdre Ryan, who finished 6th at the World Championships in Daegu, Korea, with a new Irish record of 1.95.
Race walkers Robert Heffernan, 2nd in the 50km  at Naumberg Germany last month in 3 hours 49 minutes 30 seconds and Brendan Boyce in 3:57.58 are also inside the A standard marks.
So too are both Fionnuala Britton 9:37.60 and Stephanie O’Reilly 9:42.91 in the women's 3000m steeplechase, Ciaran O Lionard in the 1500m with 3:34.46, Alistair Cragg 5000m with 13:03.53,  Olive Loughnane  with a time of 1 hr 31 mins 55 secs for the 20km walk and Paul Hession with 20.51 for 200m. That makes nine athletes in total. 
Inside the B standard are marathon runners Mark Keneally 2 hrs 17  mins 22 secs  and Sean Connolly 2 hrs 17 mins 23 secs; sprinter Jason Smyth 10.22 for 100m, 400m runner Joanne Cuddihy  51.82,  1500m runner Ciara Mageean  4:07.47 and pole vaulter Tori Pena  4.40.  That's a further six.
There's also a strong possibility that at least one relay team will qualify - the top 16 in the rankings for both men and women's 4x100m and 4x400m will make it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Olympic football notes

Two Northern Irish footballers who played for GB teams at the Olympics.

Robert Patrick “Bertie” Fulton (6 November 1906 – 5 May 1979) was an amateur footballer from Larne, Co Antrim,  who played as a left back.
Bertie Fulton
Fulton played club football in both Ireland and England for Larne, Belfast Celtic, London Caledonians and Dundalk.

Fulton earned 21 caps for Ireland between 1928 and 1938; he also earned 21 caps for the Ireland Amateur team between 1925 and 1938. Fulton, then aged 29,  also represented Great Britain at the 1936 Summer Olympics.
He played in both games, a 2-0 victory over China, and a 5-4 defeat by Poland (some sources crediting him with one of the goals). He could surely have won more representative honours had he not been restricted from featuring in more mid-week matches due to his teaching duties.

Hugh Forde (born 31 January 1936) is a Northern Irish former amateur footballer who played as a left half, representing Great Britain at the 1960 Summer Olympics. He played club football for Distillery, Ards and Glenavon, and is the younger brother of Tommy Forde. From Belfast. 

The King of the Marathoners

From an article by David Goulden, Leitrim Observer 22 July 2011, with thanks to George Hook. 

Jimmy McNiff/Duffy (born May 1, 1890, Sligo to James and Mary Duffy from Innishmagrath, Drumkeerin Co Leitrim; died April 23, 1915, outside Ypres, Belgium) eventually ran for Canada, his adopted country, and was the winner of the 1914 Boston Marathon.
Although born in Ireland, Duffy had grown up in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he ran with Edinburgh Harriers and trained as a  tinsmith and stonecutter. While in Scotland, he won the 1909 Scottish junior cross-country title and set a Scottish 5-mile record of 25 mins 52 secs. He also represented Scotland three times at the international cross-country championships. 
In 1911 he emigrated to Canada, lured by the active professional running scene in that country. He settled in Toronto, working as a porter at a large department store and joining the Central Young Men's Christian Association. 
In 1911, he came  second in the  Ward Marathon, a 20-mile race out and back along the Lake Shore Road in Toronto, which earned him a place on the Canadian team at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm
Duffy placed fifth in the marathon behind Kennedy McCarthy from Dervock Co Antrim in a time of 2 hrs 42 mins 18 secs.  In October 1912 he won both the Ward Marathon and the Hamilton Herald Marathon in Ontario, setting a  course record of 1 hr 46 mins 15 secs  that stood for 46 years. 
With Tommy Thomson as trainer, Duffy stayed in Hamilton and went on to win seven consecutive marathons, including the 1913  Yonkers Marathon and the Ward Marathon for a second year.  On April 20, 1914, Duffy won the Boston Marathon in 2:25:1, beating fellew Canadian Edouard Fabre by 15 seconds. His first request after his victory was for a cigarette and after his post-race medical examination, he asked for a bottle of beer.
After Boston,  Duffy turned professional, but ran only one professional race, which he lost to Fabre  before enlisting in the Canadian Army at the outbreak of World War I. He joined the  91st Argyle Regiment and was subsequently transferred to the 16th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, arriving in Belgium late in 1914.
He was killed, aged 25, on April 23, 1915 when hit by a piece of  German shrapnel near Ypres, Belgium. He is buried in Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, Plot 1, Row F. His name is inscribed on the Menin Gates in Ypres, along with that of 54.896 other fallen soldiers.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Olympic Fencer Dies

From the Irish Times
Harry Thuillier, who has died aged 88, was a former broadcaster and fencing star and represented Ireland in the individual foil events at the Olympic Games in 1952 and 1960.
He was the originator and presenter of the first dedicated sports programme on Raidió Éireann. A children’s programme, Junior Sports Magazine , first went on air in 1955 and mainly covered rugby, hockey and athletics. Up to then sports coverage was confined to match commentaries and separate GAA and soccer results programmes.
Junior Sports Magazine , which was broadcast on Saturday afternoons, paved the way for the “adult” Sports Stadium on Friday evenings, which covered all codes. Sports Stadium in turn laid the foundation for today’s extensive RTÉ sports coverage.
Jimmy Magee began his career as a broadcaster on Junior Sports Magazine; other contributors included Jim Tunney (later a Fianna Fáil TD) and Irish Times journalist Peter Byrne.
Magee this week described his colleague as innovative and full of life. He was “a lovely broadcaster with a friendly voice, a people’s man”.
Recalling his experience as an Olympian, Thuillier said: “To compete in the Games is really an education, one which I wish a few more Irish athletes could enjoy. I do believe we need to learn the lesson of the will to win: that’s a lesson which is the outstanding part of the education one gets at the Games.”
Born in Dublin in 1922, he was one of six children of Joseph Thuillier and his wife Mary (née Daly). He was educated at St Patrick’s national school, Drumcondra, and St Vincent’s secondary school, Glasnevin.
He and his siblings were members of the Achilles fencing club and his competitive record was impressive – 14 national foil titles, the sabre title twice and two epee championships.
He also was Irish table tennis champion from 1944 to 1950.
One of his outstanding fencing bouts was in 1954 when he crossed swords with the Swede Baron Rehbinder, Helsinki Olympics finalist, at the Irish open championship in Cork.
“It was touch and go the whole time,” he recalled. “One moment I found myself full of hope and level at 2-2, the next down 4-2. I made it 4-3. Then it was a question of whether I could beat the Baron – and the clock – to level the score . . . Finally, I tried a lunge and penetrated his guard – with only 10 seconds to spare.
“After that, it was cat and mouse, as we fought for the hit that would decide the championship. Suddenly, he lunged at me and, I think, was surprised when instead of retiring, I held my ground. Countering, I just caught him on the elbow – and the crowd shattered a really tense silence.”
In his 20s he spent three years in England learning the basics of the leather tanning business. But having returned to Ireland in 1950, by the mid-1950s he was the advertising salesman for the Irish Catholic.
Eventually he went into business for himself, producing and presenting sponsored programmes on RTÉ radio.
Programmes with which he was associated include Come Fly With Me , in which he interviewed passengers on Aer Lingus flights, Tayto Quiz and Murrays’ Musical Memories . He also presented Ireland’s Top Ten .
In 1959 Junior Sports Magazine was replaced with the Dubtex Sports Special, sponsored by the clothing company, which he also presented.
On July 6th, 1962, he was a guest on the first ever Late, Late Show, along with Ken Gray and George D Hodnett, both of this newspaper, and the resident panel of Danny Cummins, Verona Mullen and Prof Liam Ó Briain.
In 1979 he helped found the first Lions club with an exclusive sporting membership, serving the Sandymount-Irishtown-Ringsend area of Dublin. He was a former chairman of the Fencing Federation of Ireland.
Predeceased by his son Harry jnr in 1997, he is survived by his wife Frankie (Frances McDermott), and sons Nikki and Ian.

Harry Thuillier: born September 13th, 1922; died April 26th, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

Veteran Olympic Swimmers

Special guests at Swim Ireland's inaugural awards  were  Paddy Kavanagh and  Ernest ‘Square’ McCartney  Ireland’s oldest living Olympians for swimming.  The two men, now in their late eighties have remained friends to this day - well after their swimming careers ended in the 1950s.