Cummin Clancy, Galway’s First Olympian RIP

Cummin Clancy, Galway’s First Olympian RIP

Galway’s first Olympic athlete has passed away aged 90 in the US. Cummin Clancy represented Ireland in the discus in the 1948 Olympics. Its probably not well known amongst current generations of athletes so I thought I’d post some details here. He was honoured at the Galway Sports Star Awards in 2009. 

Following is from an Irish Times article from last year. May he rest in peace.



Most of the Irish team went to the London Olympics just for the hell of it. The war was over, the world was changing and here they were, being handed a chance to go and see London on someone else’s shilling. Cummin Clancy was a little different. The 26-year-old discus thrower from Oughterard, Co Galway was already well-established and his Irish record in the event would stand for 19 years. He had won the British AAA Championships in 1948, just a fortnight before the Games. The Olympics were more than just a jolly to him.

“I would have been the best in the British Isles,” he says. “I would have been around fourth or fifth in the world in the discus at one point. But I didn’t really come close to a medal in London.”

In Wembley Stadium, with 85,000 people in the stands, he walked out and took his place as the first person from Co Galway ever to represent Ireland at the Olympics. And then it all went wrong. Clancy’s best throw only came to 40.73 metres, almost a full 4 metres short of the distance needed to make it to the final. His one shot at the Olympics fizzled out almost as soon as it had begun.

And yet Cummin Clancy’s life changed forever on that trip to London. More than that, Irish athletics changed forever. While there, he and 400-metre runner Jimmy Reardon were approached by an American coach who asked if they’d like to come and compete for his university on an athletics scholarship. The coach was Jumbo Elliott, the university was Villanova, and Clancy and

Reardon became the first Irish athletes to join up, beating a path that was followed down the decades by waves of recruits from Ronnie Delaney to Eamon Coghlan to Sonia O’Sullivan.

Villanova was located right next door to Rosemont College, then a women-only university, where young Maureen O’Grady, the daughter of Irish immigrants, was studying. This summer, they’ll be married 58 years. “He told me that he was going back to Ireland,” she says, “but as time went on, things changed. He got a good job with GM. We came up to New York and Cummin set up his own insurance agency, which was very successful.

“We were married eight years and had five children before my first visit to Ireland. We took the three older children, who were six, five and three at the time. We didn’t go the next year ,but we’ve been back every year since, until this past year when it was a bit much for Cummin.”

The Clancys live in Garden City, New York, but built a house in Glann, Oughterard in 1967.

Although Clancy, who turns 90 in November, never went to another Olympics, the sporting gene was passed along. His eldest son, Seán, played a couple of seasons in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins and his great-nephew Matthew won an All Ireland football title with Galway in 2001.

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