seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Iris Kellett, Show Jumper & Equestrian

Iris Kellett, international show jumper and equestrian, is born in Dublin on January 8, 1926.

Kellett is the only child of Harry and Dora Kellet. She is raised at Mespil Road, Dublin, where her father runs a riding school on the site of a former British Army cavalry stables, which he had purchased in 1924. Harry Kellett works as veterinary surgeon in the British Army, and passes his skills and ethos on the proper care of horses on to his daughter.

Kellett attends St. Margaret’s School, Mespil Road, and comes home each day to teach and help out at the stables. The Mespil Road stables are of such importance to her that she refuses an offer to study veterinary science at Trinity College, Dublin in order to fully commit herself to the school.

Kellett’s first appearance in equestrian competition is at the age of nine, when she wins ‘Best Girl Rider’ at the 1935 Dublin Horse Show and from then on she becomes a regular fixture in competition. She and her great horse Rusty compete as members of the first Irish all civilian Nations Cup team in 1947, and win the Princess Elizabeth Cup for the European Ladies Championship, at White City in 1949 and 1951. She proves the equal of top male riders, and is a fitting ambassador for the growing involvement of women in competitive show jumping.

A fall from a horse in 1952, resulting in a shattered ankle complicated by a bout of tetanus, puts a halt to Kellett’s show jumping career. It is almost ten years before she is back on top form, competing again for the Irish team in the Nations Cup during the 1960s and winning the European Ladies Championship, on Morning Light, at the Dublin Horse Show in 1969.

In 1969 Kellett retires from international competition to devote herself to teaching, training and breeding horses. In 1972 she sells the riding school on Mespil Road and moves to Kill in County Kildare. Here she goes on to train some of the greatest names in Irish show-jumping including Eddie Macken, Paul Darragh and Jack Doyle.

Kellett dies on March 11, 2011, leaving behind countless friends and a legacy as a competitor, teacher, and breeder that is unparalleled.

(From: “Iris Kellett Show Jumping Legend & Exhibition, Irish Horse Gateway (www.irishhorsegateway.ie), June 17, 2013, courtesy of RDS Archives)


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Birth of Gaelic Footballer Mick O’Connell

Michael “Mick” O’Connell, retired Gaelic footballer, is born on Valentia Island, County Kerry, on January 4, 1937. His league and championship career with the Kerry senior team spans nineteen seasons from 1956 to 1974. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

O’Connell is raised in a family that has no real link to Gaelic football. His father is a fisherman who also works on the family’s small farm on the island. From an early age O’Connell shows his footballing talent and “inimitable signs of excellence.” He excels at the game in his youth and also at Cahersiveen CBS.

O’Connell begins his club football career with neighbouring Waterville. When a football club, Valentia Young Islanders, is founded on Valentia Island, as per GAA rules he switches allegiance to his local parish team. He wins three Kerry Senior Football Championship medals with the South Kerry divisional side.

O’Connell’s career with Kerry begins in 1955 when he lines out in the Munster Minor Championship. Kerry loses the replayed Munster final to Tipperary.

O’Connell quickly joins the Kerry senior football team, making his debut in 1956 against Tipperary in the Munster Championship. He later lines out in the Munster final against Cork, but loses out in a replay. In 1958 he wins the first of eight consecutive Munster Senior Football Championship titles, however, Kerry suffers a shocking defeat by Derry in the All-Ireland semi-final. In 1959 he is captain when Kerry wins the National Football League. He later guides his native-county to another Munster title, however, he has to retire due to injury in Kerry’s All-Ireland victory over Galway.

Following a second National League victory in 1961, O’Connell captures his second All-Ireland medal in 1962 when Kerry defeats Roscommon in the final. A third National League victory quickly follows at the start of 1963. After two All-Ireland defeats by Galway in 1964 and 1965 Kerry surrenders their provincial crown to Cork in 1966 and 1967. He wins a ninth Munster title in 1968, however, Kerry loses out to Down in the All-Ireland final. This defeat is followed by a great year of success in 1969 as he adds a fourth National League medal to his collection before winning a tenth Munster title. He later wins a third All-Ireland medal following a victory over Offaly.

In 1970 O’Connell enters the third decade of his inter-county football career, winning an eleventh Munster title in the process. A fourth All-Ireland medal quickly follows after a victory over Meath in the first 80-minute All-Ireland final. He claims two more National league medals in 1971 and 1972, before winning his twelfth and final provincial medal in 1972. That year Offaly later defeats Kerry in O’Connell’s last All-Ireland final appearance. In spite of this loss he is still presented with an GAA GPA All Star award. He retires from inter-county football in 1973.

In 1972 O’Connell marries his wife Rosaleen. They have three children, Máire, Mícheál and Diarmuid. Mícheál marries Emma, daughter of then President of Ireland Mary McAleese in December 2009.

In retirement from playing O’Connell publishes his autobiography, A Kerry Footballer, in 1974. Ten years later in 1984, the GAA’s centenary year, his reputation as one of the all-time greats is recognised when he is named in the midfield position on the GAA Football Team of the Century. In 2000 he is also named on the associations Football Team of the Millennium.


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Birth of Olympic Medalist Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith, married name Michelle Smith de Bruin, lawyer and retired Irish swimmer who wins four medals at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, is born in Rathcoole, County Dublin on December 16, 1969. As a result of the medals captured in Atlanta, she becomes the most successful Olympian in Ireland and the country’s first woman to capture a gold medal.

Smith begins swimming competitively at age thirteen. Though she develops into one of Ireland’s premier junior swimmers, she realizes that without more advanced facilities and training techniques, she will never be able to compete at the international level. She goes to the United States to attend school and swim at the University of Houston, where she graduates with a degree in communications. Her times steadily improve and she makes the Irish Olympic teams for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea and the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. At both of those Games, however, she is eliminated in the preliminary rounds.

In 1994 Smith moves to the Netherlands with her coach and future husband, Erik de Bruin, to prepare for the 1996 Games. The next year she emerges as an elite athlete, winning the 200-metre butterfly and the 200-metre individual medley at the 1995 European Aquatics Championships. She continues to improve in 1996, taking 19 seconds off her best time in the 400-metre freestyle. In response to questions about her sudden turnaround, she credits more sophisticated training techniques and a single-minded focus on swimming. She also points out that she is probably the most tested athlete in Irish history and that she had never tested positive for banned substances.

Prior to the Atlanta Games, Ireland had won only five Olympic gold medals, and no medal — gold, silver, or bronze — had been won by Irish women. In one week, however, Smith rewrites the Irish record books. The 26-year-old swimmer wins the gold in three events — the 200-metre individual medley, the 400-metre individual medley, and the 400-metre freestyle — and captures the bronze medal in the 200-metre butterfly. Her triumph, however, is somewhat tarnished by unsubstantiated rumours that she had used performance-enhancing drugs. Some observers question her dramatic improvements in time and point to her marriage to de Bruin, a Dutch discus thrower who had been suspended from international competition for steroid use. Smith passes all the pre- and post-Olympic drug tests, however.

Smith’s success continues at the 1997 European Aquatic Championships, where she wins gold medals in the 200-metre butterfly and the 200-metre individual medley. In 1998, however, she receives a four-year ban for tampering with a urine sample during a drug test. She maintains her innocence, but her appeal of the ban before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) fails. She is 28 at the time, and the ban effectively ends her competitive swimming career. She is not stripped of her Olympic medals, as she has never tested positive for any banned substances.

Smith’s experiences at the CAS has an effect beyond her swimming career. It is there that she develops an interest in the law. After officially announcing her retirement from swimming in 1999, she returns to university, graduating from University College Dublin with a degree in law. In July 2005 she is conferred with the degree of Barrister at Law of King’s Inns, Dublin. While a student at the King’s Inns she wins the highly prestigious internal Brian Walsh Moot Court competition. Her book, Transnational Litigation: Jurisdiction and Procedure is published in 2008 by Thomson Round Hall.

In 1996, Smith releases her autobiography, Gold, co-written with Cathal Dervan. She lives in Kells, County Kilkenny with her husband and their two children.


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Birth of Professional Footballer Paul McGrath

Paul McGrath, former professional footballer for St. Patrick’s Athletic F.C., Manchester United F.C., Aston Villa F.C., Derby County F.C., and the Republic of Ireland national football team, is born in Greenford, Middlesex on December 4, 1959.

McGrath is born to an Irish mother and a Nigerian father. His father disappears soon after his conception. His mother, Betty McGrath, is terrified that her father will find out she had become pregnant outside marriage and in an interracial relationship. She travels in secret to London to have her child, who is considered illegitimate, and gives him up for fostering when he is four weeks old. When he is five years old, the family he had been fostered by comes to Betty saying they cannot control him. Betty places him into an orphanage.

McGrath begins as a schoolboy with Pearse Rovers and plays junior football for Dalkey United. While at the latter, he attracts the attention of Manchester United scout Billy Behan. Before becoming a full-time professional with League of Ireland club St. Patrick’s Athletic in 1981, he briefly works as an apprentice metal worker and a security guard in Dublin.

McGrath makes his debut in a League of Ireland Cup clash with the Shamrock Rovers F.C. in August at Richmond Park. He ultimately excels at St. Patrick’s, earning the nickname “The Black Pearl of Inchicore” and receiving the PFAI Players’ Player of the Year Award in his first and only season, scoring four goals in 31 total appearances.

In 1982, McGrath moves to Manchester United, then managed by Ron Atkinson. He misses out on a place in the FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. the following year. He is named man of the match for the 1985 FA Cup Final, which United wins 1–0 against Everton F.C. In his early years at Manchester United, he is frequently used as a midfielder, changing to defender while still at Old Trafford.

In 1985–86, it appears that McGrath is on course to pick up a league title medal after United wins their first 10 league games of the season, but injuries to key players including Bryan Robson soon take their toll on the side and they eventually finish fourth in the table, 12 points behind champions Liverpool F.C. Despite a dismal start to the 1986–87 season and a managerial change, McGrath remains a regular member of the first team. United finishes second behind Liverpool in the league a year later.

By the 1988–89 season, McGrath is struggling with knee injuries and is becoming a less regular member of the first team. His relationship with manager Alex Ferguson is becoming strained, as McGrath’s alcohol addiction and physical problems lead to United offering him a retirement package of £100,000. He refuses and Ferguson begins to inform clubs of his availability. Aston Villa’s offer is accepted and McGrath signs on August 3, 1989 for a fee of £400,000.

While at Aston Villa, McGrath plays some of the best football of his career, despite recurrent knee problems. Villa comes close to winning the title in his first season, finishing second to Liverpool. In the inaugural season of the Premier League (1992-93), Aston Villa again finishes as runners-up, behind Manchester United. As a sign of the regard he is now held in by his fellow professionals, McGrath wins the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award at the end of the season. He wins his first trophy with Villa, defeating Manchester United in the 1993–94 Football League Cup. In 1996 he wins a second League Cup for Villa. By the end of his Villa career he has chalked up 323 appearances for the club.

McGrath departs Aston Villa in the autumn of 1996, leaving a legacy as one of the greatest players in the club’s history. He is sold to Derby County for £200,000 and helps the newly promoted Rams finish 12th in its first Premier League season. He then drops down a division to sign for Sheffield United F.C. in the summer of 1997. He plays his final game as a professional for Sheffield United against Ipswich Town F.C. on November 9, 1997. He officially retires at the end of the season.

In McGrath’s international career he wins his first full cap against Italy in 1985, last playing 12 years later, against Wales. During that time, he is often regarded as the single most influential player Ireland has in the national team’s glory days.

In McGrath’s international career he is a major part of the breakthrough of Ireland’s national team of the late 1980s and early 1990s. During the early part of Jack Charlton‘s era, he plays as a defensive midfielder, due to the wealth of talent Ireland has in defence. In UEFA Euro 1988, as the national side first qualifies for an international tournament, he is present in the 1–0 group stage win against England.

In 1990, Ireland qualifies for its first FIFA World Cup, eventually reaching the quarter-finals, where they lose to Italy 1-0, with McGrath ever present in the lineups. He captains the team four times in 1992 after the retirement of Mick McCarthy, and ignores a painful shoulder virus to play in the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

In Ireland’s opening game of the 1994 World Cup, a 1–0 win against favourites Italy, in a perfect example of his commitment to the game, McGrath puts up an astonishing defensive performance in spite of excruciating knee problems. Even after his retirement from international football in 1997, he is still regarded today as one of the greatest players ever to put on Ireland’s green shirt.

Upon retiring, McGrath settles in Monageer, County Wexford. In 2004, one year after being taken to court, charged with a breach of the peace, he returns to the football world after five years, moving to Waterford F.C. in Ireland as director of football.

In 2011, McGrath launches a singing career with a cover version of the Gerry Goffin and Carole King song “Goin’ Back.” The recording is followed by the planning of an album of covers by the footballer, with a percentage of the album’s proceeds going to the Acquired Brain Injury Foundation and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Ireland.


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First All-Ireland Medal Auctioned at Sotheby’s

The only remaining medal from the first All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, one of the rarest pieces of Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) memorabilia, goes up for auction at Sotheby’s in London on November 15, 2005.

A winner’s medal from the 1887 All-Ireland Football Final, which was actually played in April 1888 and matched the Limerick Commercials GAA club against Dundalk Young Irelands, is sold for €31,000. The medal is a rare piece of GAA memorabilia and it goes for around three times the original estimate when it goes under the hammer.

The 9ct-gold medal is purchased by the Limerick Leader newspaper which says it will put it on public display in Limerick. The Chairman of the Limerick Leader, John McStay, bids for it by telephone.

The medal had been won by Malachi O’Brien from Ballinvrina, County Limerick, who played for the Limerick Commercials GAA Club. They beat Dundalk Young Irelands by 1-4 to 0-3 in April 1888.

The medal is eventually passed down through the family to Mary Doran who lives in Northampton and who is the daughter of Malachi O’Brien’s great-grandnephew. She says she is delighted it will be going on public display in Limerick.


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Birth of Tipperary Hurler Nicky English

Nicholas J. “Nicky” English, Irish hurler who plays as a full-forward for the Tipperary senior team, is born on October 20, 1962 in the village of Cullen, County Tipperary.

English first plays competitive Gaelic games during his schooling at The Abbey School in Tipperary. He arrives on the inter-county scene at the age of seventeen when he first links up with the Tipperary minor teams as a dual player, before later joining the under-21 sides. He makes his senior debut during the 1982 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship. English goes on to play a key part for almost fifteen years, and wins two All-Ireland medals, five Munster medals and two National Hurling League medals. He is an All-Ireland runner-up on one occasion.

As a member of the Munster inter-provincial team at various times throughout his career, English wins two Railway Cup medals. At club level he wins a set of intermediate and junior championship medals with Lattin-Cullen. He also wins a remarkable five successive Fitzgibbon Cup medals with University College Cork.

English’s career tally of 20 goals and 117 points marks him out as Tipperary’s third highest championship scorer of all-time. Throughout his career he makes 35 championship appearances. He announces his retirement from inter-county hurling following the conclusion of the 1996 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship.

In retirement from playing English becomes involved in team management and coaching. As manager of the Tipperary senior team between 1998 and 2002, he steers the team to All-Ireland, Munster and National League honours. He also takes charge of the University College Dublin team for the Fitzgibbon Cup.

As a hurling analyst in the media, English writes a weekly column in The Irish Times, while he also works as a co-commentator with TV3 and RTÉ Radio 1 during their championship coverage. In May 2014 it is announced that English would be an analyst and co-commentator for Sky Sports new Gaelic games coverage.

English is widely regarded as one of Tipperary’s greatest ever players. During his playing days he wins six All-Star awards as well as the Texaco Hurler of the Year award in 1989. He is repeatedly voted onto teams made up of the sport’s greats, including at left corner-forward and right corner-forward on the respective Tipperary and Fitzgibbon Cup Hurling Teams of the Century. In 2009 he is chosen on a special Munster team of the quarter century, while he is also included as one of the 125 greatest hurlers of all-time.


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The Long Count Fight

In a battle of Irish Americans, the Long Count Fight, or the Battle of the Long Count, a ten-round professional boxing rematch between world heavyweight champion Gene Tunney and former champion Jack Dempsey takes place at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois on September 22, 1927.

“Long Count” is applied to the fight because when Tunney is knocked down in the seventh round the count is delayed due to Dempsey’s failure to go to and remain in a neutral corner. Whether this “long count” actually affects the outcome remains a subject of debate. Tunney ultimately wins the bout in a unanimous decision.

Just 364 days earlier, on September 23, 1926 at Sesquicentennial Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tunney beats Dempsey in a ten-round unanimous decision to claim the world heavyweight title. This first fight between Tunney and Dempsey is moved out of Chicago because Dempsey learned that Al Capone is a big fan of his, and he does not want Capone to be involved in the fight. Capone reportedly bets $50,000 on Dempsey for the rematch, which fuels false rumors of a fix. Dempsey is favored by odds makers in both fights, largely because of public betting which heavily tilts towards Dempsey.

The rematch held at Chicago’s Soldier Field draws a gate of $2,658,660 (approximately $22 million in today’s dollars). It is the first $2 million gate in entertainment history.

Despite the fact that Tunney had won the first fight by a wide margin on the scorecards, the prospect of a second bout creates tremendous public interest. Dempsey is one of the so-called “big five” sports legends of the 1920s and it is widely rumored that he had refused to participate in the military during World War I. He actually had attempted to enlist in the Army, but had been turned down. A jury later exonerates Dempsey of draft evasion. Tunney, who enjoys literature and the arts, is a former member of the United States Marine Corps. His nickname is The Fighting Marine.

The fight takes place under new rules regarding knockdowns: the fallen fighter has ten seconds to rise to his feet under his own power, after his opponent moves to a neutral corner (i.e., one with no trainers). The new rule, which is not yet universal, is asked to be put into use during the fight by the Dempsey camp, who had requested it during negotiations. Dempsey, in the final days of training prior to the rematch, apparently ignores the setting of these new rules. Also, the fight is staged inside a 20-foot ring, which favors the boxer with superior footwork, in this case Tunney. Dempsey likes to crowd his opponents, and normally fights in a 16-foot ring that offers less space to maneuver.

To this day boxing fans argue over whether Dempsey could or should have won the fight. What is not in dispute is that the public’s affection for Dempsey grew in the wake of his two losses to Tunney. “In defeat, he gained more stature,” wrote The Washington Post‘s Shirley Povich. “He was the loser in the battle of the long count, yet the hero.”

Tunney said that he had picked up the referee’s count at “two,” and could have gotten up at any point after that, preferring to wait until “nine” for obvious tactical reasons. Dempsey said, “I have no reason not to believe him. Gene’s a great guy.”

Dempsey later joins the United States Coast Guard, and he and Tunney become good friends who visit each other frequently. Tunney and Dempsey are both members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

In March 2011, the family of Gene Tunney donates the gloves he wore in the fight to the Smithsonian Institution‘s National Museum of American History.


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Birth of Colm O’Rourke, Footballer & Broadcaster

colm-orourkeColm O’Rourke, sports broadcaster, columnist and former Gaelic footballer, is born on August 31, 1957. His league and championship career with the Meath GAA senior team spans twenty years from 1975 to 1995.

O’Rourke is born in Aughavas, County Leitrim, but is raised in Skryne, County Meath after his family moves there in his youth. He plays competitive Gaelic football during his schooling at St. Patrick’s Classical School in Navan. He first appears for the Skryne GFC at underage levels, before winning two county senior championship medals in 1992 and 1993. While studying at University College Dublin he wins a Sigerson Cup medal in 1979.

O’Rourke makes his debut on the inter-county scene when he is picked for the Meath minor team. He later joins the under-21 side but enjoys little success in these grades. He makes his senior debut during the 1975-1976 league. Over the course of the next twenty years he is a regular member of the starting fifteen and wins back-to-back All-Ireland medals in 1987 and 1988. He also wins five Leinster Senior Football Championship medals, three National Football League titles and is named Texaco Footballer of the Year in 1991. He plays his last game for Meath in July 1995.

In retirement from playing O’Rourke combines his teaching career with a new position as a sports broadcaster. His media career begins with RTÉ where he has worked as a studio analyst with the flagship programme The Sunday Game for over twenty-five years. He also writes a weekly column for the Sunday Independent.


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Death of Professional Footballer Johnny Carey

john-joseph-careyJohn Joseph “Johnny” Carey, professional footballer, manager and one of Manchester United F.C.’s great captains, dies in Macclesfield, Cheshire, England on August 22, 1995.

Carey is born in Dublin on February 23, 1919. As a schoolboy, he plays football for Home Farm F.C. As a youth, he also plays Gaelic football and is selected to represent Dublin GAA at minor level before he signs for St. James’s Gate F.C. at the start of the 1936–1937 season.

After just two months of League of Ireland football, he is spotted by Billy Behan, a Dublin-based Manchester United scout. In November 1936 United signs him for a then League of Ireland record fee of £250. He makes his debut as an inside left for United on September 23, 1937 against Southampton F.C. During his first season with United, Carey, together with Harry Baird, Jack Rowley, Tommy Bamford, Tommy Breen and Stan Pearson, help United gain promotion to the First Division.

As a player Carey spends most of his career with Manchester United, where he is team captain from 1946 until he retires as a player in 1953. He also plays as a guest for several other clubs including Cardiff City F.C., Manchester City F.C., Everton F.C., Liverpool F.C. and Middlesbrough F.C.

Carey is also a dual internationalist, playing for and captaining both Ireland teams – the FAI XI and the IFA XI. In 1947 he also captains a Europe XI which plays a Great Britain XI at Hampden Park. In 1949 he is voted the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year and in the same year captains the FAI XI that defeats England 2–0 at Goodison Park, becoming the first non-UK team to beat England at home.

Carey is also the first non-UK player and the first Irishman to captain a winning team in both an FA Cup Final and the First Division. Like his contemporary Con Martin, he is an extremely versatile footballer and plays in nine different positions throughout his career. He even plays in goal for United on one occasion.

(Pictured: Manchester United captain Johnny Carey is carried on the shoulders of his teammates, after they win the FA Cup final of 1948 against Blackpool. Date: April 24, 1948)


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The 1979 Fastnet Race

fastnet-race-memorialNineteen people lose their lives during the 1979 Fastnet Race, which begins on August 11, 1979. The race is the 28th Royal Ocean Racing Club‘s Fastnet Race, a yachting race held generally every two years since 1925 on a 605-mile course from Cowes direct to the Fastnet Rock and then to Plymouth via south of the Isles of Scilly. In 1979, it is the climax of the five-race Admiral’s Cup competition, as it has been since 1957.

A worse-than-expected storm on the third day of the race wreaks havoc on over 303 yachts that started the biennial race resulting in 24 yachts being abandoned, of which five are lost and believed to be sunk due to high winds and severe sea conditions. The nineteen fatalities consist of fifteen yachtsmen and four spectators.

Rescue efforts begin after 6:30 AM on August 14, once the winds drop to severe gale Force 9 on the Beaufort scale. Emergency services, naval forces, and civilian vessels from around the west side of the English Channel are summoned to aid what becomes the largest ever rescue operation in peace-time. This involves some 4,000 people, including the entire Irish Naval Service‘s fleet, lifeboats, commercial boats, tugs, trawlers, tankers and helicopters.

The handicap winner is the yacht Tenacious, designed by Sparkman & Stephens, owned and skippered by Ted Turner. The winner on elapsed time in the race is the 77-foot Condor of Bermuda, skippered by Peter Blake, which gains around 90 minutes on the leader at the Fastnet rock, the Kialoa IV, by chancing a spinnaker. Jim Kilroy of the Kialoa IV has broken his ribs and there is damage to the yacht’s runners. Condor of Bermuda breaks the Fastnet record by nearly eight hours (71h 25m 23s).

The disaster results in a major rethink of racing, risks and prevention.

(Pictured: Memorial to those who died in the 1979 Fastnet Race, Lissarnona, Cape Clear Island, Cork, Ireland)