Nuggets of pure Olympic gold

Historian Dr Tom Hunt came up with a few gems from Ireland’s lesser known Olympic triumphs and disasters

Pool Sharks

“Ireland competed in Water polo in both the 1924 and 1928 Olympic Games. They were beaten 4-2 by the Czechoslovakian team in 1924 and hammered 11-1 by Belgium four years later.

“The 1924 team featured Noel Purcell, not the famous Dublin actor, but a player who won a gold medal with Great Britain in 1920. He also enjoyed a distinguished rugby career and is the only man to have been capped for Ireland to have on an Olympic gold medal. The 1924 selection was captained by Dr Jim Beckett. You may have heard of his nephew, Samuel.”

Shooting hoops

“Ireland had a team in the 1948 Games which were held in London. This side are one of the hidden pieces of Irish Olympic history. They played five matches and lost all five. It was an all Army team with the exception of Harry Boland, whose uncle of the same name operated alongside Michael Collins in the War of Independence.

“The most high profile player on the team was Bill Jackson, a legendary Roscommon footballer who won All-Ireland SFC titles in 1943 and 1944.”

Berlin boycott

“We didn’t go to Berlin in 1936. The main reason hadn’t anything to do with Hitler and the Nazi movement, the chief cause was a row with the International Olympic Committee with the IOC attempting to change the recognition of the country from Ireland to the Irish Free State.

“The biggest casualty in all of this was Pat O’Callaghan who was deprived of chance of winning a third successive hammer title.”

Not a case of history repeating

“Natalya Coyle and Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe wouldn’t be our first competitors in modern pentathlon. In Moscow for the 1980 Games, Mark and Jerome Hartigan along with Sackville Curry represented Ireland.

“At the time it was a five-day event, nowadays it is just one day. In the showjumping warm up Curry jumped a practice fence in the wrong direction and they received 200 penalty points and destroyed their chances.”

A Horsey story

“In 1960 one of the Irish competitors in three-day eventing was a man named Eddie Harty who rode in the Grand National at Aintree earlier in the year. Harty went onto ride the winner, Highland Wedding, in 1969. He is the only Olympian to have ridden Grand National winner.”

Football first

“The first competitors to represent Ireland, as Ireland, in the Olympics were the soccer team. That was in May 1924 at Stade Cologne. Ireland beat Bulgaria 1-0 with Paddy Duncan of the St James’s Gate club scoring the goal. However they were eliminated in the quarter-final 2-1 by Holland after extra time. Five Athlone Town players featured for Ireland in that game.”

A family affair

“Cathy MacAleavy and Annalise Murphy will become the first mother and daughter combination to represent Ireland at an Olympic Games. Cathy competed in Seoul in 1988 in the 470 class with Annalise competing in the Laser Radial in Weymouth next week. Cathy’s husband Con was team manager in Seoul and holds the Round Ireland speed record.

When Cathy competed with Aisling Byrne in Korea they became the first women to represent Ireland in sailing at an Olympics.”

Keeping it in the family…

“Irish Athletics Team Manager Patsy McGonagle isn’t the first of his clan to feature at an Olympic Games in London. His father played for the Irish soccer team in the 1948 Games.”

Bike strike

“Seven cyclists representing the National Cycling Association were not recognised by the International Cycling federation and were not allowed to compete in the Munich Games.

“However the seven were in Germany and infiltrated the road race as a protest against their exclusion from international competition. One of them briefly led the race.”

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