Monday, September 16, 2013

Talk on James Hughes, International Athlete

Waterford County Museum presents  a talk by Donal Power  on his grandfather James Hughes, an Irish international cross-country runner from 1908 to 1916, on Wednesday September 18 (8pm) at the Town Theatre, Priory Street, Dungarvan.
Hughes (1884 – 1961) lived at the time when  organised sport was in its infancy. His youth coincided with the Olympic Games of 1908 and 1912 when the first running champions were setting their records. He found fame in England, fought as a soldier in World War ,  suffered an abrupt end to his athletic career,  and then returned to Abbeyside, Dungarvam where he owned ‘Christy’s Shop" at the Scouts' den.  
Donal Power, a well known Abbeyside personality, through his music and recordings,  currently lives in Carrigaline with his wife and family.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Jim Fahey - the Limerick kangeroo

Thanks  to Tom Blackburn for this. 
Jim Fahey, world champion of the three jumps, was born in Galbally, Co.Limerick in 1880. He lived with his aunt on a farm, an ordinary life until, at the age of 18; he jumped, without shoes, against the renowned champion, Chandler, in Cork and won. His performance was recorded as 37 ft 4 ins. This was the beginning of an athletic career which was to lead him to break the world record at Calumet Park, Chicago and become an Olympic champion. That day he cleared 40 ft 3 ins in three jumps.

After his initial success in Cork, Jim competed as a standing jumper whenever possible and usually won. Jumping from a stationary position and thus transforming concentrated power into action is a natural Celtic gift at which he excelled. It is said that he didn’t formally train in those days, or worry in any way about his diet... he just went along to meetings where the three standing jumps were on the programme and simply jumped further than anyone else.

At the Olympic Games in 1906 in Athens Jim broke the world record for 3 standing broad jumps and won the crown for the single broad jump. He also represented Ireland by taking part in the games in Stockholm, Rome and Paris.

In 1908 Jim moved to Chicago where he continued his athletic success. He was granted membership of the Illinois club and competed for several years without being beaten. Another peak of his career came when he broke the world record in 1923. In addition to his performances as a jumper he was a lifelong supporter of the G.A.A. and was involved with the organisation of Gaelic games in Chicago. He personally welcomed and hosted the Tipperary Hurlers when they played and won in Chicago in 1926.

In spite of his relocation to Chicago, Jim returned home many times and it is said that his heart always remained in Galbally. He married a woman from North Tipperary and they had one son who became a priest. In addition to his sporting legacy, Jim inspired great affection and respect, and was known as a good family man and friend.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Irish Women's Athletics and the Olympic Games

Just discovered that an article I wrote last year on the history of women's athletics in Ireland for History Ireland is online. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cummin Clancy 1948 Olympian Dies

Cummin Clancy ( (9 November 1922 – 15 February 2013) who threw the discus for Ireland at the 1948 Olympic Games in London has died, aged 90. 
Cummin Clancy, then aged 26,  from Ougherterard in Co Galway  was a well-established athlete locally by the time the London Games came around.
Clancy's talent as a discus thrower  was discovered by former Irish discus champion Ned Tobin. After moving to Dublin and joining the Garda Síochána, Clancy joined the Donore Harriers club and was soon to become Irish champion  and record holder. In 1948 he was again Irish champion and, two weeks before the Olympic Games, he added the British AAA championships to his list of wins. 
But although he was  the best in these islands and world ranked fourth or fifth in the world he didn't come close to a medal in London.
In Wembley Stadium,  Clancy’s best throw in the qualifying round was only 40.73 metres, almost four metres short of the distance he needed to make the final.
Yet on that trip to London, his life would change forever. He and 400m runner Jimmy Reardon  were approached by the legendary American track coach Jumbo Elliott and offered a scholarship at Villanova University. The following year Clancy followed Reardon's footsteps and enrolled at Villanova continuing an association between the university and Ireland that was to encompass such great athletes as Ronnie Delany, Eamonn Coghlan and Sonia O'Sullivan.  In 1952, Clancy improved his Irish record to 49.35m but he was never again to compete at the Olympics. 
Villanova was located next door to Rosemont College, then a women-only university, where young Maureen O’Grady, the daughter of Irish immigrants, was studying.
The pair married and after graduating, Clancy remained in the USA working first for General Motors and then moving to New York and founding a successful insurance brokerage company. In 1967, they built a house in Glann, Oughterard, returning almost every year with their growing family.