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Irish Boxing mourns the passing of Ireland’s first Olympic medal winner

The Irish Boxing family, is this evening mourning the passing of Belfast’s John NcNally, Ireland’s first Olympic medallist

McNally, who contested as a bantamweight, was just 20 when he made it to the final of the 1952 Olympic Games, in Helsinki and picked up a silver medal. The boxer overcame Filipino, Italian, and South Korean opposition in the preliminaries, quarter final and semi final but was ultimately beaten by home favourite Pentti Hamalainen in the decider via a split decision.

Of his bout, McNally said: “It was the last day of the Games and the host nation had not yet won a gold medal, so there was a lot of weight on the Finn’s shoulders to deliver. It came down to the three judges and the British judge gave it to me, while the American and the Austrian gave it to Hamalainen. I was devastated and in floods of tears because I was convinced that I had won the gold medal,”

McNally went on to contest the European Championships in Warsaw the following year and came away with bronze. Before he turned professional he represented Europe against the US in the Golden Gloves and was the victor over three American Golden Gloves champions. He was inducted into the Irish Boxing Hall of Fame in 2008.

McNally’s unprecedented podium finish at Helsinki marked the beginning of an extraordinary 70 years of achievement for Irish boxers at Olympic games. Boxing, as Ireland’s most successful Olympic sport, has claimed 18 of the country’s 35 medals.

The IABA’s Chief Executive, Fergal Carruth, said: “John was an absolute gentleman and will be fondly remembered by many in the Irish boxing family. A standout, naturally gifted boxer, John paved the way for all of Irish boxing’s Olympic success, winning our first ever medal (silver) in 1952. IABA hall of fame inductee John McNally was the first of a very select group of 18 Irish Olympic boxing medallists when he was beaten by the narrowest of margins by the home country Finnish fighter in the gold medal contest in Helsinki. His success as a boxer will be forever remembered by all who love boxing in Ireland.”

We here at would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to the McNally family.

Courtesy of IABA.

Jonny Stapleton contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sports for a living for over 20 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: