seamus dubhghaill

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


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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)


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Death of Alex “Hurricane” Higgins, Snooker World Champion

alex-hurricane-higginsAlexander Gordon “Alex” Higgins, Northern Irish professional snooker player, who is remembered as one of the most iconic figures in the game, dies in Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 24, 2010. He is nicknamed “Hurricane Higgins” because of his fast play.

Higgins is born in Belfast on March 18, 1949.  He starts playing snooker at the age of eleven, often in the Jampot club in his native Sandy Row area of south Belfast and later in the YMCA in the nearby city centre. At age fourteen and weighing seven and a half stone (47.6 kg), he leaves for England and a career as a jockey. However, he never makes the grade because, in his youth, he drinks a lot of Guinness and eats a lot of chocolate, making him too heavy to ride competitively. He returns to Belfast and by 1965, at the age of sixteen, he has compiled his first maximum break. In 1968 he wins the All-Ireland and Northern Ireland Amateur Championships.

Higgins turns professional at the age of 22, winning the World Snooker Championship at his first attempt in 1972, against John Spencer winning 37–32. Higgins is then the youngest ever winner of the title, a record retained until Stephen Hendry‘s 1990 victory at the age of 21. In April 1976, Higgins reaches the final again and faces Ray Reardon. Higgins leads 11–9, but Reardon makes four centuries and seven breaks over 60 to pull away and win the title for the fifth time with the score of 27–16. Higgins is also the runner-up to Cliff Thorburn in 1980, losing 18–16, after being 9–5 up. Higgins wins the world title for a second time in 1982 after beating Reardon 18–15 (with a 135 total clearance in the final frame). It was an emotional as well as professional victory for him. Higgins would have been ranked No. 1 in the world rankings for the 1982-1983 season had he not forfeited ranking points following disciplinary action.

Throughout his career, Higgins wins 20 other titles, one of the most notable being the 1983 UK Championship. In the final he trails Steve Davis 0–7 before producing a famous comeback to win 16–15. He also wins the Masters twice, in 1978 and in 1981, beating Cliff Thorburn and Terry Griffiths in the finals respectively. Another notable victory is his final professional triumph in the 1989 Irish Masters at the age of 40 when he defeats a young Stephen Hendry, which becomes known as “The Hurricane’s Last Hurrah.”

Higgins comes to be known as the “People’s Champion” because of his popularity, and is often credited with having brought the game of snooker to a wider audience, contributing to its peak in popularity in the 1980s. He has a reputation as an unpredictable and difficult character. He is a heavy smoker, struggles with drinking and gambling, and admits to using cocaine and marijuana.

First diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998, Higgins is found dead in bed in his flat on July 24, 2010. The cause of death is a combination of malnutrition, pneumonia, and a bronchial condition. Higgins’ funeral service is held in Belfast on August 2, 2010. He is cremated and his ashes are interred in Carnmoney Cemetery in Newtownabbey, County Antrim.


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Clare O’Leary Climbs Mount Everest

clare-o-learyClare O’Leary, Irish gastroenterologist, mountain climber and adventurer, becomes the first Irishwoman to successfully climb Mount Everest on May 18, 2004. She is accompanied by veteran mountaineer, Pat Falvey, who also sets a record by becoming the first Irishman to climb Everest from both sides.

O’Leary is born in 1972. She develops an interest in medicine, and cancer in particular, when her uncle dies from lung cancer during her childhood. After graduating from University College Cork, she spends over ten years training and working at the Cork University Hospital.

O’Leary makes her name in mountaineering in 2004, when she becomes the first Irish woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, having failed on her first attempt in 2003 due to gastroenteritis. She climbs as a member of the Wyeth Irish Everest Expedition, led by Falvey. She also becomes the first Irish woman to ascend the Himalayan peak Ama Dablam and to climb the Seven Summits — the highest mountains on each continent. In 2008, she joins the Beyond Endurance expedition led by Falvey to the South Pole, making her the first woman to successfully ski to the South Pole.

In 2012, O’Leary and Mike O’Shea set out on an ongoing series of expeditions that they call the Ice Project. Their aim is to cross all of the world’s largest ice caps. Some of these expeditions include crossings of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, the Greenland ice sheet, and Lake Baikal. In 2014, they attempt to ski to the North Pole after their first attempt in 2012 is cancelled due to a logistics problem, hoping to be the first Irish people to reach the North Pole. This attempt also has to be abandoned after they are injured in a sled accident.

In 2013, the railway path between Bandon and Innishannon in County Cork is named the Dr. Clare O’Leary Walk to commemorate her achievements. In November 2018, she is awarded an honorary doctorate by National University of Ireland Galway.

O’Leary lives in Clonmel, and is in a relationship with O’Shea. She currently works as a consultant gastroenterologist and general physician at South Tipperary General Hospital. She is also a patron of the Cork University Hospital Charity.


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Birth of Bob Tisdall, Olympic Gold Medalist

bob-tisdallRobert (“Bob”) Morton Newburgh Tisdall, gold medalist in the 400 metres hurdles at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, is born on May 16, 1907 in Nuwara Eliya, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

Born to a family of Irish landed gentry, he lives on his father’s plantation in Ceylon until the age of five, when they return to the family home in Nenagh, County Tipperary. Following prep school at Mourne Grange, he goes on to Shrewsbury School, where he wins the Public Schools 402 metres, and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he wins a record four events – 402 metres and 110 metres hurdles, long jump and shot put – in the annual match against Oxford. This record is only equaled nearly 60 years later.

Tisdall sets South African and Canadian records in the 201 metres low hurdles in 1929, a year later setting Greek records in the same event. While at Cambridge in March 1932, he decides to try for a place on the Irish Olympic squad and, after he runs a record 54.2 seconds for the Irish Championship 402 metres hurdles in June that year, the authorities agree to let him run in his new event at the Los Angeles Olympic Games.

Tisdall had run only six 400 metres hurdles when he wins the gold medal at the 1932 Olympic Games in a world record time of 51.7 seconds, which is not recognised under the rules of the time because he had a hit a hurdle. Later, because of the notoriety of this incident, the rules are changed and the President of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch, presents Tisdall with a Waterford Crystal rose bowl with the image of him knocking over the last hurdle etched into the glass. Though the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) did not recognise the record at the time, they now recognise the mark, giving Tisdall credit for setting the milestone of being the first man under 52 seconds.

Following his victory, Tisdall is invited to a dinner in Los Angeles where he is seated next to Amelia Earhart on one side and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. on the other.

Later in life, Tisdall lives in South Africa, where he runs a gymnasium during the day, which he converts to a night club after dark. He grows coffee in Tanzania, but moves to Nambour, Queensland in 1969 with his wife Peggy, where he farms fruit crops and cattle. He admits to running his last race at the age of 80, though he runs in the Sydney Olympics torch relay at age 93. At that point he is the oldest living recipient of an individual track and field Olympic medal。

At the age of 96 Tisdall falls down a steep set of rock stairs and breaks his shoulder, ribs and ruptures his spleen. He never completely recovers and dies on July 27, 2004. At that time, he is the world’s oldest track and field Olympic Gold medalist. He does not want a funeral because “they are altogether too sad.” His wake is attended by family and a few friends.

In 2002, three statues honouring Olympic champions with links to Nenagh, Matt McGrath, Johnny Hayes and Bob Tisdall, are unveiled in front of the Nenagh Courthouse.


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Birth of Norman Whiteside, Northern Ireland Footballer

norman-whitesideNorman Whiteside, former Northern Ireland international footballer who played in two World Cups, is born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on May 7, 1965. He plays both as a midfielder and as a striker.

Whiteside grows up on Shankill Road, and because of his aggressive, physical playing style he is later nicknamed the “Shankill Skinhead” by Manchester United supporters. The family later moves to 10 Danube Street. He remains relatively unscathed by The Troubles as his Protestant parents keep a firm watch on their children to ensure that they do not stray far from home and that none of them become involved with Ulster loyalism. At around seven years of age he joins the Boys’ Brigade, and quickly shows his natural talent for football, scoring ten goals in a game against boys almost twice his age. He is educated at Cairnmartin High School, and becomes famous in the Shankill area as a footballing prodigy by the age of eleven.

Whiteside is said to have been discovered by Ipswich Town scout Jim Rodgers, who is told by manager Bobby Robson to wait until Whiteside grows older. Instead, it is Manchester United’s 80-year-old Ulster scout Bob Bishop, who previously unearthed Belfast-born George Best and Sammy McIlroy for the club, who first offers him a trial at an English club. He finds that he has been offered schoolboy terms at the club during a school trip to the United States, on which he and his classmates meet President Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office, a rare and extraordinary occasion for children from a disadvantaged background.

Whiteside signs professional forms in 1982 at the age of 17 and quickly becomes a key member of the Manchester United club. He scores 68 goals in 278 league and cup appearances for the club over the next seven years, picking up two FA Cup winners medals in 1983 and 1985, as well as playing in the 1982 FA Youth Cup final, the 1983 League Cup final, and the FA Charity Shield in 1983.

Whiteside remains with United until July 1989, when he is sold to Everton F.C. for £600,000. However intense running sessions run by coach Mick Lyons take their toll on his right knee, and on September 20, 1990 he takes a knock in a practice match, which requires him to have another operation on his right knee. After the return of Howard Kendall as manager in November 1990, he manages to appear in a few reserve team games, but this only delays the inevitable, and he is forced to retire from the game at the age of 26 in June 1991.

Upon retirement, Whiteside studies to become a podiatrist, graduating with a degree from the University of Salford, and serves Northwich Victoria F.C. as their assistant manager/physio from October 1991 until March 1992. He quits the role as he does not enjoy the amount of time spent travelling between games. He instead became an after-dinner speaker and also works for the Professional Footballers’ Association, while taking a postgraduate course at Manchester Metropolitan University. He later takes up private practice as a podiatrist in Manchester. Since 1994, he has also worked at the corporate hospitality department at Old Trafford. In 2003, he releases a book entitled My Memories of Manchester United. With the help of writer Rob Bagchi, he releases his autobiography entitled Determined in August 2007, published by Headline Publishing Group, and with a foreword by actor James Nesbitt.

Whiteside holds records as the youngest player to take part in a World Cup, the youngest player to score in a League Cup and FA Cup final, and the youngest player to score a senior goal for Manchester United. Winning 38 caps for Northern Ireland, he plays at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, and also helps his country to win the last ever British Home Championship in 1983–1984.


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Birth of Pat Taaffe, National Hunt Jockey

pat-taaffePatrick “Pat” Taaffe, Irish National Hunt jockey, is born in Rathcoole, County Dublin on March 12, 1930. He famously rode Arkle to win three Cheltenham Gold Cups between 1964 and 1966.

Taaffe and Arkle, dominate National Hunt racing in the mid-1960s, winning the Irish Grand National, the King George VI Chase, two Hennessy Gold Cups, three Cheltenham Gold Cups and the Whitbread Gold Cup.

Taaffe is also a capable winner without the help of Arkle, winning a fourth Gold Cup with Fort Leney (1968), two Grand Nationals and records six Irish Nationals (1954 on Royal Approach, 1955 on Umm, 1959 on Zonda, 1961 on Fortria, 1964 on Arkle, 1966 on Flyingbolt).

Taaffe also wins the 1970 Grand National in Aintree, Liverpool on the Fred Rimell trained 15-1 shot, Gay Trip, twenty lengths clear of his nearest pursuer. After retiring as a jockey, he goes on to train Captain Christy, the 1974 Gold Cup winner. Although a brilliant horseman, the business side of training does not come naturally to him and his training career never flourishes.

Pat Taaffe dies at the age of 62 on July 7, 1992 in Royal City of Dublin Hospital of a heart condition, having previously undergone only the third heart transplant operation in Ireland (1989).


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Birth of Ollie Campbell, Former Rugby Union Player

seamus-oliver-campbellSeamus Oliver “Ollie” Campbell, former rugby union player, is born in Dublin on March 5, 1954. He plays fly-half for the Ireland national rugby union team from 1976 to 1984. He is most well known for his role in orchestrating Ireland’s Triple Crown victory at the 1982 Five Nations Championship, breaking a drought of over 30 years. He has been described as Ireland’s most complete fly-half since Jack Kyle.

Campbell is educated at Belvedere College, a famous Irish rugby school in Dublin, where he is on the teams that win the Leinster Schools Rugby Senior Cup twice in a row in 1971 and 1972. He plays for Old Belvedere R.F.C. at club level and represents Leinster at provincial level, although prior to the professional era. While playing for Old Belvedere, he travels to the United States in 1978, where he plays in New York City against the Old Maroon Rugby Club.

Campbell wins a total of 22 caps for Ireland from 1976–1984, scoring 217 test points. His international career is more brief than this span suggests, however, as he plays only four full seasons for Ireland from 1980–1984. Of his career totals, he wins 22 caps and scores 182 points in the Five Nations tournament. He tours twice with Ireland, to Australia in 1979 and to South Africa in 1981.

Campbell wins his first cap for Ireland at the age of 21 against Australia in 1976, but does not secure another cap with Ireland until 1979 during Ireland’s 1979 tour to Australia. He sets an Irish record on the 1979 tour to Australia when he scors 60 points, 19 of them in Brisbane which is an Irish record for points in a match against Australia.

The defining moment in Campbell’s career comes in 1982, with Campbell as the architect-in-chief of Ireland’s 1982 Triple Crown victory, Ireland’s first since 1949. Ireland enters the tournament winless in its past eight matches. Campbell starts the 1982 Five Nations by scoring eight points in Ireland’s 20–12 win against Wales, and also playing a major hand in all three of Ireland’s tries. He then scores another eight points in the following match, a 16–15 win against England. In Ireland’s third match, he kicks all of Ireland’s 21 points, including a career best 6 penalties, against Scotland at Lansdowne Road to secure the Triple Crown. He is the leading scorer in the 1982 Five Nations with 46 points.

In the 1983 Five Nations Championship, Campbell leads Ireland to a joint Five Nations Championship shared with France. He is again the tournament’s leading scorer with 52 points, and scores 21 points against England to set an Irish record for most points against England in a Five Nations match. He plays his last match for Ireland in 1984 against Wales.

Campbell is also capped seven times for the British & Irish Lions. He earns three caps in the 1980 Lions tour to South Africa, where he is the Lions’ leading scorer in the last two tests with six and five points respectively. He earns another four caps in the 1983 Lions tour to New Zealand, where he is the Lions’ leading scorer in the four test matches with 15 points. He scores 184 points in total for the Lions.

Campbell retires from rugby in 1986 following two years of struggles with hamstring injuries. In 2007 he is presented with the Newbridge RFC Legend in Rugby Award along with the Irish Rugby Squad which won the 1982 Triple Crown and elected an Honorary Life Member of Newbridge RFC. He has worked in the family clothing business since retirement from rugby in 1984.

Old Belvedere’s sportsground on Anglesea Road in Dublin is renamed Ollie Campbell Park in his honour in 2019.