Ireland On The Sporting Map
Though less celebrated, Ireland’s place in the sporting world is still an integral part of the country’s outsized contribution to western culture and civilization.
The Emerald Isle has a modest but noteworthy record at the Olympics: 9 gold, 10 silver and 12 bronze medals.
Swimmer Michelle Smith is her nation’s most decorated Olympian, taking three gold and a bronze at the 1996 games in Atlanta.
But it’s the boxing category where Ireland punches above its weight. More than half the country’s medals were earned in fisticuffs competitions.
Katie Taylor, arguably the world’s best pound-for-pound female boxer, won gold in the lightweight at the 2012 London Olympics. Michael Carruth, her male counterpart in the welterweight, grabbed gold twenty years earlier in Barcelona.
Eight Ireland-born ringmasters made it to the International Boxing Hall of Fame: Dempsey, McLarnin, McGuigan, McCauliffe, Braddock, Morrissey, Donnelly and Coburn.
Not listed as of date is Steve Collins, the most successful of the Gaelic boxers. The “Celtic Warrior” landed middleweight titles on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1980’s-90’s.
Burnishing the shamrock on the golf course, players Rory Mcllroy, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke became international household names over the last ten years.
Mcllroy leads the Irish pack at the Majors, winning the British Open and PGA in 2014, the PGA in 2012 and the U.S. Open in 2011.
Cycling his way to a Triple Crown victory in 1987, Dublin County’s Stephen Roche is only one of two cyclists to ever win the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and World road race championship.
Joey Dunlop of Northern Ireland reached glory on a different set of two wheels, placing first place 26 times at the TT Races, the world’s most prestigious motorcycle racing event.
On the soccer pitch, legendary dribbler George Best is unquestionably the island’s greatest footballer. Listed among the top soccer players of his generation and of all time, the flamboyant Belfast native clinched the 1968 European Cup with Manchester United and was named European Footballer of the Year.
Hibernia’s winningest national team is its rugby union squad, which has won thirteen Six Nations competitions and shared eight. Their last shining moment was a grand slam in 2018.
Former captain Brian O’Driscoll holds the career record for 26 tries scored at the historic annual tournament and is regarded as one of rugby’s greatest athletes.
One of Eire’s most reputable sporting pursuits is also one of its most lucrative. County Tipperary’s Coolmore Stud is the world’s largest race horse breeder.
Through its American branch in Kentucky, Coolmore paid $13.8 Mil for the rights to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
That investment is paying back handsomely for the old country considering the race track champ has commanded a princely sum of $200,000 per stand.
SOCCER August 29, 2009 Christiano Ronaldo makes his debut with Real Madrid. He stayed with the European powerhouse club until 2018, making 292 league appearances and scoring 311 goals. One of the greatest on the world soccer stage, the Portuguese striker who also captains his national team started his top flight career in 2003 with Manchester United, winning the FA Cup in just his first year.
TENNIS August 30, 1999 The 119th Edition of the US Open kicks off at the USTA National Tennis Center in New York City. 18-year old Serena Williams won her first grand slam singles title after defeating #1 ranked Martina Hingis at the final. On the men’s side, Andre Agassi claimed the singles championship after outlasting fellow American Todd Martin in 5 hard-fought sets.
BASKETBALL August 26, 1989 NBA star James Harden is born in Los Angeles, California. The future guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets led his Artesia High School team to a 33-1 record and the state title. Playing at Arizona State for just two seasons, Harden joined the NBA in 2009 and was recipient of multiple awards & recognitions, including 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player.
BASEBALL August 25, 1979 The California Angels trounce the Toronto Blue Jays 24-2, scoring 8 runs in just the first inning. David Frost was the winning pitcher, hurling from the mound in all 9 innings. The Angels went on to wrap the season with a win/loss record of 88-74 and finish first in the American League West. But they would lose to the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 at the AL Championship Series.