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.
BASEBALL April 2, 2010 Former MLB pitcher Mike Cuellar dies at the age of 72. A 2x World Series champion and 4x All-Star, Cuellar started off with the Cincinnati Reds in 1959 and played for 5 teams, spending the most years with the Baltimore Orioles. He won the AL Cy Young award in his first season with the dynastic Orioles and was their starting pitcher at the 1969 World Series against the NY Mets. Cuellar closed his career with an ERA of 3.14 and 1,632 strikeouts.
BASKETBALL April 2, 2000 At the 19th Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship, the Connecticut Huskies defeat the Tennessee Volunteers 71-52. Led by their famed coach Geno Auriemma, the Huskies claimed their second national title. They would win another 9 championships and become the nation’s most successful women’s basketball program to date. The Connecticut ladies dispatched Penn State at the Semi-finals before taking on Tennessee for the crown.
GOLF April 8, 1990 Nick Faldo wins the 54th annual Masters Tournament held in Augusta, Georgia. Shooting a 278 (-10) and tying Raymond Floyd in the final round after the latter bogeyed on the 16th hole, Faldo emerged victorious in the playoff showdown. It was his second consecutive win at the Masters and third of what would be six career majors. Born in Herdforshire, England, Faldo turned pro in 1976 and has won more majors than any other modern European golfer.
OLYMPICS April 12, 1980 The U.S. Olympic committee announces their boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. A total of 66 countries chose not to attend the games due to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Nevertheless, 80 other nations did agree to send their athletes to the first Olympics that were held in a communist country. Four years later, the Russians and their East European allies would follow-up with a boycott of the Los Angeles games.