And so with the 2016 Rio Olympics entering its final couple of days before the Olympic torch is, quite literally, passed over to Tokyo, I thought it would be a good idea to conclude my recent fascination with the extraordinary “Irish Whales”. Having already discussed John Flanagan, Matt McGrath and Martin Sheridan in greater detail, I will be focusing on the lesser-known members of the group. Before that, however, one burning question needs to be addressed first; how did the “Irish Whales” come to be known by their moniker?
Martin Sheridan is the most successful Irish-born athlete in Olympic history, having won five golds, three silvers and one bronze medal during a period of four years. Considered the greatest all-round athlete of the first decade of the 20th century, Co. Mayo’s Martin Sheridan is the topic of today’s “great Irish sportspeople abroad” series.
Continuing with the theme of the Olympic Games, today’s “Great Irish sportspeople abroad” will focus on another of the extraordinary “Irish Whales”, Matt McGrath. McGrath was the successor to John Flanagan, the subject of yesterday’s post, as the world’s leading hammer thrower. A fellow Munster man, McGrath remained in the top ten in the sport until the age of 50. A three-time Olympic medallist, McGrath was perhaps the most colourful and influential of the “Irish Whales”.
Pub quiz question: who was Ireland’s first-ever Olympic medallist? The answer, more often than not, is Dr Pat O’Callaghan, who won the hammer throw at the 1928 Amsterdam Games. While it is true O’Callaghan was our country’s first Olympic medallist, he was not the first Irishman to win an Olympic medal.* That honour belongs to another, Limerick’s John Flanagan, who competed under the banner of the United States of America, and is the subject of today’s “Great Irish sportspeople abroad”.
With the Rugby World Cup well underway, I thought it would be appropriate to write about the man who captained the first-ever New Zealand test side to have the moniker “All Blacks” as part of my burgeoning ‘great Irish sportspeople abroad’ series. His name was Dave Gallaher and he was born in Co. Donegal. Although he only played six test matches for them, Gallaher is a true legend of the game and revered in New Zealand to this day.
As a history student, I’ve always been interested in the impact Irish people have had around the world. Whether as a large community, building New York into the city it is today, or as individuals, climbing up to prominent positions in foreign armies or political offices, the Irish have left an indelible mark in nations far afield.
This habit of leaving lasting legacies in foreign fields is not exclusive to politics or as navvies. Unsurprisingly, as a nation that loves it so much, sport is another aspect where an Irish influence can be seen abroad, not just in Manchester or Liverpool, but places on the other side of the globe, such as New Zealand or South America.
As such I thought this would make for an interesting series of posts; Irish people that have achieved lasting sporting legacies in foreign nations.
Today’s post will focus on Patrick McCarthy, who aided in the foundation of one of South America’s largest and most famous football clubs.