seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of American-Irish Writer Morgan Llywelyn

morgan-llywelynMorgan Llywelyn, American-Irish historical fantasy, historical fiction, and historical non-fiction writer, is born Sally Snyder in New York City on December 3, 1937. Her fiction has received several awards and has sold more than 40 million copies, and she herself is recipient of the 1999 Exceptional Celtic Woman of the Year Award from Celtic Women International.

In her teens, Llywelyn moves to the Dallas area, where she develops a love of horses. By the age of 16, she is competing in professional horse shows across the United States. By age 18, she models for Neiman Marcus and Arthur Murray. After 15 years of experience as a horse trainer and instructor, she tries out for and narrowly misses making the 1976 United States Olympic Team in Dressage. She is instead shortlisted, missing the cut off score by .05 percent.

With her mother’s encouragement and a successfully published article on horse training, she refocuses her efforts in tracing the Llywelyn family history and eventually makes a career out of writing historical novels that allow the exploration of her Celtic roots. In reference to this career change, Llywelyn has this to say:

“I have a strong strain of Welsh on my mother’s side, which does indeed go back to Llywelyn ap Iorwerth. And Llywelyn the Great! (We have the proven genealogy from the College of Heralds.) She was very proud of her royal Welsh connection. That is why she was so interested in genealogy in the first place, and inspired me to get involved as well … leading in turn to “The Wind from Hastings.” But both my parents were predominantly Irish – my father totally so – and I spent half the years of my childhood here. So I have always been much more interested in Ireland and its history and legends.”

Llywelyn has received several awards for her works. She receives the Novel of the Year Award from the National League of American Pen Women for her novel, The Horse Goddess, as well as the Woman of the Year Award from the Irish-American Heritage Committee for Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish. The latter award is presented to her by Ed Koch, then-mayor of New York City.

Although Llywelyn’s grandparents have their roots in Ireland, it is only after the death of her parents and her husband in 1985 that she relocates to Ireland. Llywelyn now lives outside Dublin and has become an Irish citizen.

In 1990, Llywelyn begins her focus on writing books geared for younger readers. These works start with Brian Boru: Emperor of the Irish, for which she wins an Irish Children’s Book Trust Bisto Award in 1991, and includes other titles, such as Strongbow: The Story of Richard and Aoife, for which she wins a Bisto Award in the Historical Fiction category, 1993 and the Reading Association of Ireland Award, 1993, and Star Dancer which departs from her usual Celtic topic and is centered on her experiences with Dressage. Further works include The Vikings in Ireland, an exploration of when the Norsemen arrived in Ireland and Pirate Queen, a younger reader’s version of the story of Grace O’Malley, told through letters from Granuaile to her beloved son.

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Cork Hurling Team Strike

cork-hurlingHurling in Cork is thrown into chaos after the county’s senior squad goes on strike on November 29, 2002.

When the Cork hurling team paraded before the National League final the previous May with socks down and jerseys hanging out it seemed a petty protest. Any discontent, said the county board officials, would be quickly forgotten come the championship.

Instead it is Cork’s championship that is quickly forgotten, and the protest is merely the start of the deepest crisis ever to hit the state of hurling in the county. The players throw down their hurleys, leaving the split with the county board as a gaping chasm.

Details of the fallout start to appear from the players after their exit from the championship at the hands of Galway. Goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack and the 1999 All-Ireland winning captain Mark Landers begin a series of revelations that come as a shock not just in Cork, but to hurlers all over the country.

The players, who are seeking better conditions, refuse to play or train with the county again until the dispute with the county board is resolved. Central to the crisis is what the players perceive to be the poor treatment from the county board. The players demands include having their own doctor at all Championship and League games, resolving disputes over travel arrangements and providing players with free gymnasium access. There are also complaints about the warnings sent to younger players that joining the Gaelic Players Association will jeopardise their chances of playing with the senior team.

Running parallel to the dispute is the search for a new Cork manager. Bertie Óg Murphy announces that he is stepping down in late September after one year in charge, although he refuses to get drawn into the controversy over the treatment of players.

At the same time, the unrest of the players is compounded by the decision of the Cork selectors not to follow Murphy’s suit. Three of the four selectors, Pat McDonnell, PJ Murphy and John Meyler, remain in place as they are half-way through a two-year term while county champions Blackrock have yet to officially reaffirm county secretary Frank Murphy as their nomination to the selection committee.

The players previously state, however, that they never saw it as their right or function to interfere with the choosing or workings of selectors or managers for hurling in Cork.

The strike is eventually resolved and all the demands are met.

(From “Cork hurling in deep state of crisis” by Ian O’Riordan, The Irish Times, November 30, 2002)


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Death of Michael Cusack, Founder of the GAA

michael-cusackMichael Cusack, teacher and founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association, dies in Dublin on November 25, 1906.

Cusack is born on the eastern fringe of the Burren to Irish speaking parents in Carran, County Clare on September 20, 1847, during the Great Famine. He becomes a national school teacher and in 1874, after teaching in various parts of Ireland, becomes a professor at Blackrock College, then known as the French College. In 1877, he establishes his own civil service academy, Cusack’s Academy, in Dublin which proves successful in preparing pupils for the civil service examinations.

A romantic nationalist, Cusack is also reputed to have been associated with the Fenian movement. He is active in the Gaelic revival, initially as a member of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language which is founded in 1876, and later the Gaelic League who in 1879 breaks away from the Society. Also in 1879, he meets Pat Nally, who is a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and a leading nationalist and athlete. He finds that he and Nally agree on the influence of British landlordism on Irish athletics.

He would recall how both Nally and himself, While walking through Phoenix Park in Dublin and seeing only a handful of people playing sports in the park so depresses Cusack and Nally that they agree it is time to “make an effort to preserve the physical strength of [their] race.” Nally organises a National Athletics Sports meeting in County Mayo in September 1879 which is a success, with Cusack organising a similar event which is open to artisans in Dublin the following April.

On November 1, 1884, Cusack together with Maurice Davin, of Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, calls a meeting in Hayes’ Commercial Hotel, Thurles, County Tipperary, and founds the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). Davin is elected president and Cusack becomes its first secretary. Later, Archbishop Thomas William Croke, Archbishop of Cashel & Emly, Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell become patrons. Cusack also becomes involved in the Irish language movement, founding The Celtic Times, a weekly newspaper which focuses on “native games” and Irish culture.

Michael Cusack dies in Dublin on November 27, 1906 at the age of 59. He is buried in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery.


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Birth of Footballer Ronnie Whelan

ronnie-whelanRonald Andrew Whelan, former Irish association football midfielder and occasional defender, is born in Dublin on September 25, 1961.

Whelan is born into a family of footballers. His father, Ronnie Whelan, Sr., is an Irish international and a key member of the successful St. Patrick’s Athletic F.C. of the late 1950s and early 1960s. His brother, Paul Whelan, plays for Bohemian F.C. and Shamrock Rovers F.C..

Whelan is a skillful and industrious midfield player who, after an unsuccessful trial period for Manchester United F.C., makes his League of Ireland debut for Home Farm F.C. on his 16th birthday at Tolka Park.

Whelan is signed for Liverpool F.C. by Bob Paisley for a bargain £35,000 on September 19, 1979, a few days before his 18th birthday, and makes his debut eighteen months later, on April 3, 1981. He goes on to become an integral part of the dominant Liverpool team of the 1980s. He remains with the club until 1994. In 100 Players Who Shook The Kop, a poll of 110,000 Liverpool fans conducted by the official Liverpool F.C. website, Whelan is in 30th position.

Whelan plays for the Republic of Ireland national football team at one UEFA European Championship (1988) and two FIFA World Cups (1990 and 1994), turning out a total of 53 times for the national side between 1981 and 1995.

Whelan finishes his career at Southend United F.C., where he is also player-manager through the 1996-1997 season. He later manages in Greece and Cyprus, with Panionios G.S.S., Olympiakos Nicosia and Apollon Limassol.

Since retirement Whelan has begun a media career and is a regular contributor to RTÉ Sport in Ireland. He is also Patron of the Myasthenia Gravis Association in Ireland where he is an active fundraiser and works to raise awareness for this rare autoimmune disease.


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Birth of Professional Poker Player Donnacha “The Don” O’Dea

donnacha-odeaDonnacha “The Don” O’Dea, professional poker player, is born on August 30, 1948 in Dublin. In his youth, he is a swimmer and represents Ireland in the 1968 Summer Olympics. He is also the first Irish swimmer to swim 100m in less than one minute. His parents are actors Denis O’Dea and Siobhán McKenna.

O’Dea comes close to winning a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet in 1983 in the $1,000 Limit Hold ’em event, finishing runner-up to Tom McEvoy. He makes the final table of the WSOP Main Event in 1983 where he finishes in sixth place behind McEvoy, the eventual winner. He finishes ninth in 1991 in the event won by Brad Daugherty. He also cashes in the Main Event in 1990 (32nd), 1994 (27th), 1996 (25th), and 2007 (171st).

In 1998, O’Dea wins a WSOP bracelet in Pot Limit Omaha Hold ’em with rebuys event, defeating two-time world champion, Johnny Chan in heads-up play.

O’Dea first appears on the Late Night Poker television programme in series 4, finishing fifth in a heat won by Robin Keston. He returns to the show in series 6, winning his heat and going on to finish fourth in the Grand Final.

In 2004, O’Dea wins the Poker Million tournament, overcoming Dave “The Devilfish” Ulliott in the eventual heads-up confrontation. The following year, he makes the final table again and finishes in fifth place.

O’Dea is the first member of the European Poker Players Hall of Fame. As of 2009, his total live tournament winnings exceed $1,000,000. His 23 cashes as the WSOP account for $471,687 of those winnings.

His son, Eoghan O’Dea, is also a poker player who competes primarily online under the moniker “intruder123.” In December 2008 he follows up a $300,000 online win with a 2nd-place finish in the Poker Million for $260,000. In 2011, he makes a deep run at the Main Event of 2011 World Series of Poker earning his place in the November Nine.


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Peter O’Connor Sets World Long Jump Record

peter-oconnorPeter O’Connor, Irish track and field athlete, sets a long-standing world long jump record of 24′ 11-3/4″ in Dublin on August 5, 1901. He also wins two Olympic medals in the 1906 Intercalated Games.

Born in Millom, Cumberland, England on October 24, 1872, O’Connor grows up in Wicklow, County Wicklow. He joins the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in 1896. In 1899 he wins All-Ireland medals in long jump, high jump and hop, step and jump (triple jump). Over the next ten years he consistently beats British athletes in international competitions. The Amateur Athletic Association of England invites him to represent Britain in the 1900 Summer Olympics but he refused as he only wishes to represent Ireland.

As of June 1900, the world record for the long jump is held by Myer Prinstein of Syracuse University, at 24′ 7-1/4″. In 1900 and 1901, competing with the Irish Amateur Athletic Association (IAAA), a rival association to the GAA, O’Connor sets several unofficial world records in the long jump. He sets an officially recognised world record of 24′ 9″ at the Royal Dublin Society’s grounds in Dublin on May 27, 1901. On August 5, 1901 he jumps 24′ 11-3/4″ in Dublin. This is the first IAAF-recognised long jump world record. It causes a sensation at the time, being only a fraction short of the 25-foot barrier, and remains unbeaten for 20 years, a longevity surpassed only by Jesse Owens‘s 25-year record and Bob Beamon‘s 23-year record. It remains an Irish record for a remarkable 89 years.

In 1906 O’Connor and two other athletes, Con Leahy and John Daly, are entered for the Intercalated Games in Athens by the IAAA and GAA, representing Ireland. However, the rules of the games are changed so that only athletes nominated by National Olympic Committees are eligible. Ireland does not have an Olympic Committee, and the British Olympic Council claims the three. On registering for the Games, O’Connor and his fellow athletes find that they are listed as Great Britain, not Irish, team members.

In the long jump competition, O’Connor finally meets Myer Prinstein of the Irish American Athletic Club who is competing for the U.S. team and whose world record O’Connor had broken five years previously. The only judge for the competition is Matthew Halpin, who is manager of the American team. O’Connor protests, fearing bias, but is overruled. He continues to protest Halpin’s decisions through the remainder of the competition. When the distances are announced at the end of the competition, Prinstein is declared the winner, with O’Connor in Silver Medal position.

At the flag-raising ceremony, in protest of the flying of the Union Flag for his second place, O’Connor scales a flagpole in the middle of the field and waves the Irish flag, while the pole is guarded by Con Leahy.

In the hop, step and jump competition two days later, O’Connor beats his fellow countryman, Con Leahy, to win the Gold Medal. At 34 he is the oldest ever Gold Medal winner in this event. Prinstein, the champion in 1900 and 1904, did not medal.

O’Connor wins no more titles after 1906. He remains involved in athletics all his life. He is a founder member and first Vice-President of Waterford Athletic Club, and attends later Olympics both as judge and spectator. He practises as a solicitor in Waterford and is married with nine children. He dies in Waterford on November 9, 1957.


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Birth of Gaelic Footballer Mikey Sheehy

mikey-sheehyMichael “Mikey” Sheehy, Gaelic football selector and former player, is born in Tralee, County Kerry on July 28, 1954. His league and championship career with the Kerry senior team spans fifteen seasons from 1973 to 1988. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

Sheehy is born into a strong Gaelic football family. His father, Jim Sheehy, had played with the Laune Rangers club in his youth. Sheehy first plays competitive Gaelic football during his schooling at Tralee CBS. He first appears for the Austin Stacks club at underage levels, before winning an All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship medal with the senior team in 1977. He also wins one Munster Senior Club Football Championship medal and five Kerry Senior Football Championship medals.

Sheehy makes his debut on the inter-county scene at the age of sixteen when he is picked on the Kerry minor team. He enjoys two championship seasons with the minors, however, he is a Munster Minor Football Championship runner-up on both occasions. He subsequently joins the Kerry under-21 team, winning two GAA Football Under-20 All-Ireland Championship medals in 1973 and 1975. By this stage he has also joined the Kerry senior team, making his debut during the 1973-1974 league. Over the course of the next fifteen seasons, he wins eight All-Ireland medals, beginning with a lone triumph in 1975, a record-equalling four championships in-a-row from 1978 to 1981 and three championships in-a-row from 1984 to 1986. He also wins eleven Munster medals, three National Football League medals and is named Texaco Footballer of the Year in 1979. He plays his last game for Kerry in July 1987.

After being chosen on the Munster inter-provincial team for the first time in 1976, Sheehy is an automatic choice on the starting fifteen for the following seven years. During that time he wins five Railway Cup medals.

In retirement from playing Sheehy becomes involved in team management and coaching. In 2012 he is appointed as a selector with the Kerry senior team. Since then he has helped steer the team to one All-Ireland title and four successive Munster titles.

Even during his playing days Sheehy comes to be recognised as one of the greatest players of all time. He is named in the right corner-forward position on the Football Team of the Century in 1984. He is one of only two players from the modern era to be named on that team. He switches to the left-corner forward position when he is named on the Football Team of the Millennium in 1999. He also wins seven All-Stars, while his tally of eight All-Ireland medals, albeit one as a non-playing substitute, is also a record which he shares with fellow Kerry players Páidí Ó Sé, Pat Spillane and Denis “Ógie” Moran. His scoring tally of 29-205 is a record which stands for 25 years.