Tipperary sports people featured in new book that spans 200 years of history

Holycross’ John Doyle and long-time Tipperary residents Vincent O’Brien and Pat O’Callaghan are among the sixty figures brought to life in the newly published book Irish Sporting Lives, which will be launched by Royal Irish Academy next Friday, November 11.

A new collection of biographical essays drawn from the Dictionary of Irish Biography, Irish Sporting Lives spans 200 years of history and seeks to illustrate the drama and diversity of the Irish sporting experience. The book is edited by Dictionary of Irish Biography researchers Terry Clavin and Turlough O’Riordan, and it also includes an introductory essay by Professor Paul Rouse of UCD.

An eight-time All-Ireland winner with the Tipperary hurlers, John Doyle (1930–2010) thrilled onlookers with his rampaging charges out of defence. He preferred to go through rather than around opponents and exposed himself to constant punishment, which he bore contemptuously.

Towards the end of his career, the ‘Holycross Hercules’ formed part of a full backline that became known as ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ for its unscrupulous physicality. He was the hurler of the year for 1964 and voted left corner back on the Hurling teams of the Century and of the Millennium. Later in life he spent one term in Seanad Eireann, acted as selector and manager of the Tipperary hurling team, and represented Tipperary on the GAA’s Central Council.

From his base at Ballydoyle, near Rosegreen, legendary horse trainer Vincent O’Brien (1917–2009) revolutionized the bloodstock industry. Having identified the key bloodlines, he relied on the financial backing of the British tycoon Robert Sangster to acquire some of the world’s finest colts.

He sent out a succession of champion racehorses, then syndicated them as stallions for millions. By these means, he brought about a surge in world bloodstock prices and brought Ireland to the pinnacle of thoroughbred breeding. He was voted the greatest national hunt trainer of the 20th century and the greatest flat trainer of the 20th century.

The first athlete to win a gold medal at the Olympics while representing Ireland, Pat O’ Callaghan (1906–91) lived in Clonmel from 1931 until his death. He won gold in the hammer throw at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics and again at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, and for many years held the unofficial world record for the hammer throw.

An outstanding all-round athlete, he also won national titles in the discus, shot put and high jump. Later, he was a selector on the Clonmel Commercials team that won three consecutive Tipperary county championships in Gaelic football from 1965 to 1967 and became a freeman of Clonmel in 1984.

The biographies in Irish Sporting Lives encompass serial winners and glorious losers, heroes and villains, role models and rogues, enduring legends and forgotten or overlooked greats. The main disciplines—Gaelic games, soccer, rugby, athletics, horse racing and boxing—are well represented, but so too are minority sports such as croquet, cricket, tennis and hockey.

Other legendary figures featured in the book include George Best, Jack Charlton, Vere Goold and Dan Donnelly.


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