By IABA Press Officer Bernard O’Neill
Ireland’s Olympians in boxing and sport were celebrated at the GAA Museum today at the opening of a new exhibition “Ireland’s Olympians” which celebrates the nation’s Olympic medalists, with a special emphasis on medal winners from 1924 when Ireland first competed as an independent nation.
Pat Ryan, IABA President, and Olympic champion Michael Carruth attended today’s exhibition. Both men outlined the significant contribution boxing has made to Irish Olympic sport since Ireland first entered the Olympics as an independent nation in 1924.
Given its historical connection with athletics, and with the Rio Games less than 100 days away, it was fitting that the GAA Museum in Croke Park showcases and celebrates the sportsmen and sportswomen who have represented Ireland and achieved success at Olympic level, providing us with iconic moments and countless memories.
The exhibition, which is supported by the Olympic Council of Ireland, features medals and memorabilia from many of Ireland’s 26 Olympic medalists, including the first medal won by Ireland post-independence. This was won by Jack B. Yeats at the 1924 Paris Games and was awarded in the Arts & Literature Category for his painting “The Liffey Swim”.
The silver medal is on loan for the duration of exhibition from the National Gallery of Ireland.
Given Ireland’s boxing success at the Olympics, it is no surprise that items from the various boxers dominate the exhibition, including the first boxing medal won by John McNally in Helsinki in 1952 to Michael Carruth’s boxing gold medal won in 1992. The most recent boxing medals from London 2012 are included, most notably the gold medal won by Katie Taylor.
Like many other Irish-born athletes, Limerick’s John Flanagan competed for the United States and won gold in the hammer throw in 1900, 1904 and 1908. Flanagan went on to train a future Olympic hammer champion and double gold-medalist, Dr. Pat O’Callaghan.
An array of trophies won by Flanagan in the early 20th century are featured, as is the gold medal won by Tom Kiely of Tipperary in 1904 for the all-round championship – the forerunner of the modern decathlon. Like many athletes of that era, Kiely won many All-Ireland athletic championships held under the auspices of the GAA.
The exhibition also includes Ronnie Delany’s tracksuit top from 1956, John Treacy’s silver medal for the marathon in 1984 and the silver medal won by Cobh’s Sonia O’Sullivan at Sydney 2000. Ireland’s sailing success at the 1980 Moscow Olympics – the country’s first and, to date, only medal for an Olympic sailing event – is remembered with the silver medal won by David Wilkins and James Wilkinson.
Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Aogán Ó Fearghail said: “We are delighted, in conjunction with the Olympic Council of Ireland, to unveil this very special exhibition in the GAA Museum.
“It could hardly be more timely given the busy summer of sport that lies ahead and I am very pleased that the GAA Museum can add this latest offering to the long list of exhibitions it has hosted in recent times.
“The links between the GAA and Athletics – evident in our name – go back a long way and the overlap in those who have competed in our games and a host of Olympic sports, is significant.
“Similarly, I know I speak on behalf of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael as a whole when I wish our competing athletes every success in Brazil and while wishing Pat Hickey and the IOC every success, I would also like to acknowledge their co-operation and assistance in making this exhibition possible.”
OCI President Pat Hickey said: “The OCI and the GAA have had a long and proud association stretching back to J.J. Keane, a former Chairman of the GAA Athletics Council, the founding President of the OCI and, in 1922, Ireland’s first International Olympic Committee member.
“The GAA’s outstanding “Ireland’s Olympians” exhibition is a fitting tribute to our shared sporting tradition. It is great to see so many of Ireland’s medal-winners helping to promote the Olympic Movement in Ireland by loaning their memorabilia.
“As Team Ireland prepares to send what could be our biggest ever delegation to Rio 2016, I hope that this exhibition will really inspire fans of the Olympic Games and Irish sport to get behind our athletes this summer.”
Ireland’s Olympians is now open at the GAA Museum, Croke Park and runs until Spring 2017.