As a nation we love sport. The Olympics is a sporting event that captures the imagination and like myself as a young child the dream for many is to go to the Olympics. Unfortunately I never made it to the Olympics but here are some Olympic Irish moments. They are few and far between but I think that makes them even more special to the Irish people.
In 1956 my Dad was 17 years old. He remembers a great sporting moment which is still very vivid for him 59 years later. With the time difference between Australia and Ireland, he remembers getting up very early and listening to the crackling radio. Despite the noisy broadcast he could hear the full relay of the race, Ronnie Delaney in the 1500m Olympic Final. To listen to a race is a very different experience to watching it on television. Delaney beat the great John Tandy (Australia) in a new Olympic Record of 3.41.02, winning Ireland’s first track gold in the Olympics. Delaney went to Villanova University and became one of the greatest indoor milers in the history of US and World Athletics.
I was 14 when John Tracey ran the marathon in the 1984 Olympics. It is one of my most memorable distinct sporting moments. I remember staying up into the early hours of the night on my own to see John Tracey cross the line in second on the box of a TV. I was very proud to be Irish that night.
In 1992 I was in Barcelona for the Olympics. Not playing unfortunately ! A bunch of hockey buddies went over to watch the field hockey tournament. One of the gang lived in Barcelona in a two bedroomed apartment. Ten of us crammed into this apartment and each day we headed out to Terassa (the playing fields for the hockey). Probably the best sporting event that I have ever been at.
This was all before internet and mobile phones, communications were very limited back in 1992. As a result Michael Carruth’s gold medal found us through the grapevine and the excitement at home was lost on us in Barcelona.
In 2000 I was expecting my first child, had retired from hockey having won the Irish Senior Cup with Harlequins in May. I watched it on a massive 40 inch screen. Sonia O’Sullivan had the hopes of a nation on her shoulders. She ran a fantastic race coming second to Zabo.
I hear you say, what about Katie Taylor’s gold medal. I was at home having rushed from somewhere (I can’t remember from where), ran in, jumped on the couch in between a few kids, the flatscreen TV bringing us to the ring side, and watched in anticipation as the nation waited, hoping, praying Katie’s dreams would all come true. She had a great fight but we all had to wait those few extra moments at the end, waiting to see whose arm would be raised. We all know what happened next !