They Did WHAT? You Won't Believe Some Of These Sporting Feats

They Did WHAT? You Won't Believe Some Of These Sporting Feats

This week’s VodafoneXCast is all about sport.

Host Greg O’Shea is joined by Ciarán Fitzgerald from the Sailing Club at NUI Galway, Ali Donoghue from the Ladies’ Basketball Club at DCU, and Ruth Comerford from the Athletics Club at UCD.

Greg’s guests go in depth about the intricacies of their sports, while also discussing topics like the impact of women in sports and representation. Ireland have had some great success in these areas over the years and it's great to hear the three guests speak with so much passion and love for their respective sport!

We’re a small country, but we’ve seen great success in the world of sport. We all remember Ronan O’Gara’s drop goal to win the Grand Slam in 2009, or Robbie Brady’s goal against Italy in 2016 – but our sporting pedigree runs a lot deeper than that.

We’ve concocted a list of some of  Ireland's greatest sporting feats you mightn’t have heard of below – some of them might really surprise you!

JOHN PIUS BOLAND – First ever Olympic gold medallist in tennis

Ireland have won 9 gold medals at the Olympics since gaining independence, but back at the very first games in Athens in 1896, Irish athletes represented Great Britain. John Pius Boland, an Irish politician, travelled to Greece to take part in the tennis tournaments and took back gold in both the singles and doubles. During the medal ceremony, he made sure that the Olympic officials raised an Irish flag instead of a Union Jack.


CLIFTON WROTTESLEY – 4th place in the Men’s Skeleton at the ’02 Winter Games

Ireland has not seen much success at the Winter Olympics, but our best ever result came in a fairly mad sport. At the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, Dubliner Clifton Wrottesley came home in fourth place in the men’s skeleton. It looks pretty terrifying from this clip of the gold medal run.

JAMES KEHOE – World Tug of War champion

We were incredibly proud to learn that Ireland has had a world champion at the World Games in the tug of war. James Kehoe from Wexford has taken 9 medals at the World Games, as well as multiple European and national titles. He was also nominated for ‘Greatest Athlete of All Time’ at the World Games for his achievements.


LETITIA MARION HAMILTON - 1948 Olympic Bronze Medallist in... Painting

That's right, painting used to be an Olympic sport. What makes it even more bizarre was that we were actually quite decent at it.

Jack B Yeats and Oliver St John Gogarty won silver and bronze respectively at the 1924 Olympics in the field, and in 1948, Letitia Marion Hamilton won bronze in the last ever Painting event at the Olympics for her piece Meath Hunt Point-to-Point Races.

Bring it back, we say!

EDDIE IRVINE – F1 World Championship runner-up

Ireland had a surprising amount of success in Formula One in the late 90s, with the Jordan team coming third in the teams’ world championship in 1999. That same year, Eddie Irvine finished a close second in the drivers’ championship, winning four races for Ferrari and finishing just two points off world champion Mika Hakkinen.


JOAN HORAN – Ireland’s first ever Paralympic gold medallist

Ireland won their first Paralympic gold medal at the 1960 games in Rome, when wheelchair-bound Joan Horan took home first place in the women’s archery 25m freestyle event. In classic Irish fashion, the entire team received an audience with Pope John XIII and stopped off at Lourdes on the journey home.

DAMIAN BROWNE – Rowed solo across the Atlantic

Damian Browne was part of the Leinster squad that won the 2012 Heineken Cup, but after the conclusion of his rugby career he embarked on a completely different voyage. In 2017, he successfully rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean, rowing 4,800km from the Canary Islands to Antigua.

ANNE O'BRIEN - Six-time Italian League-winning footballer

Arguably Ireland's most decorated women's footballer in history, Anne O'Brien of Inchicore was spotted by French club Stade de Reims at the age of 17 whilst they were touring in Dublin. There, O'Brien won three French league titles before further success followed in Italy.


She won six league titles whilst playing for the likes of Lazio, Modena and Napoli, and even managed the Lazio women's side in the early 2000s

PATRICK O’CONNELL – La Liga winner in 1935

Irishman Patrick O’Connell played for Manchester United during his playing career, but he saw more success as a manger. He moved to Spain and took charge of three different teams, winning the Spanish league title with Real Betis in 1934-35. He was also manager of Barcelona for a spell, and is remembered fondly at the club.

KELLY GALLAGHER - First athlete from Northern Ireland to compete in the Winter Paralympics 

Kelly Gallagher became the first athlete from Northern Ireland to compete at the Winter Paralympics at the Sochi Games in 2014.

That was only the beginning, as the alpine skier won Britain's first ever Winter Paralympic gold with a winning performance in the visually-impaired Super-G competition.

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Eoin Harrington

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