The standard of athletics sports in Ireland in the latter half of the nineteenth century was phenomenal. A huge proportion of the great athletes in this period came from a small pocket of rich countryside know as the Golden Vale. North Cork, west Tipperary and much of County Limerick may well have produced more world records, more international and Olympic champions than any other rural are in modern times.
The first modern Olympic champion, James Connolly, might well have represented the USA but both his parents came from the Aran Islands. The first brothers to win Olympic athletic medals were Irish; the first time gold, silver and bronze medals in an athletic event were won by men from the same country involved three Irishmen from neighbouring counties; the first athlete to win five Olympic titles was Mayoman Martin Sheridan. It is amazing to think that seven of the first eight Olympic hammer-throwing titles were won by men born in the Golden Vale, or within a hammer-throw of it.
Gold, Silver and Green is a book about sport but also about the politics of sport. Dealing with the first quarter century or so of the modern Olympic Games, the book examines how Irish participants fought not only sporting battles but often significant political ones too, given the fact that Ireland did not have independent nation status. The famous efforts of decathlon champion Tom Kiely to represent 'Tipperary and Ireland' in 1904, and of world long-jump record holder Peter O'Connor to climb a flagpole armed with an Irish flag are given ample coverage in the work. The GAA's attitude to the Olympic Games is also explored.
Kevin McCarthy is a Senior Inspector with Department of Education and Science
Further details at:https://www.corkuniversitypress.com/Gold,_Silver_and_Green:_The_Irish_Olympic_Journey_1896_1924_/304/