Limerick’s Olympic heroes, the Leahy brothers, honoured in their homeplace

Donal O'Regan

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Donal O'Regan

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donal.oregan@limerickleader.ie

Limerick’s Olympic heroes, the Leahy brothers, honoured in their homeplace

Minister for State Patrick O’Donovan was one of a large number of attendees at the plaque unveiling ceremony to Con and Pat Leahy 

COUNTY Limerick’s legendary Leahy brothers have been honoured with a plaque at their homeplace in Creggane, near Charleville.

Pat and Con Leahy became the first brothers to win Olympic athletics medals. The Leahys were also the first family to win Olympic medals in all three jumping events. They swept all before them at the beginning of the 20th century.

Ronnie Long, Mr Athletics in Limerick, unveiled the plaque in front of a crowd of around 150 on Saturday. He was joined by Minister for State Patrick O’Donovan, Cathaoirleach Mike Donegan, Cllrs Brigid Teefy, Ger Mitchell, PJ Carey and descendants of the Leahys – Eamon, Tim and Jim Leahy from Abbeyfeale.

The sporting world was well represented with county hurlers David Reidy and Darragh Fitzgibbon; former hurler Clem Smith; athletes Damien Madigan, Michael McMahon, Dave Stack, Gareth Barry, and former Irish soccer international Dominic Foley. 

The idea for erecting a plaque came from Charleville’s Kevin McSweeney, who was supported by Fort East’s Mike Madigan.

“When I came to Charleville we got the club going and their names came up frequently at meetings. I said it was terrible that these people haven’t been honoured. As luck would have it the Foleys of the brass and reed band in Charlevile bought the site where the Leahy’s house was. They were most obliging and gave us permission to put up the plaque.  They never touched the old original limestone piers that the Leahys passed in and out through 120 years ago. The plaque is in between them,” said Kevin, who thanked Mike Madigan and all the committee, Charleville library for their research, and Ronnie Long for unveiling it.

The Foleys played the national anthem and Damien Madigan rose the flag. The tricolour is important as the Leahys protested in 1906 at the British flag being raised after their Olympic success. They ran around the stadium proudly waving the flag.

Cllr Mike Donegan said it was a time when politics and sport combined.

“It is important to honour these two Limerick men who represented county and country on an international stage,” said Cllr Donegan, who made representations on behalf of the committee for €5,000 in GMA funding. It was supported by fellow councillors. 

“This fund allows us to fund small but important projects that may not qualify for the bigger grants. It is important to acknowledge their achievements. If this generation passed on it could be forgotten about,” said Cllr Donegan.

Minister O’Donovan said it was a fantastic community event for the people in Creggane and surrounding areas.

“It was a celebration of the huge contribution that the Leahy brothers, from this tight knit community made to the world of athletics. It was a fitting and tasteful commemoration, and even though it is a long time since their Olympic appearances and their fantastic athletic accomplishments, it was wonderful to see the neighbours from the place where they were reared, come out and see our national flag hoisted over a plaque in their honour, while our national anthem was played.

“That was something that they could only have dreamt of in the early days of the twentieth century, and as the Government minister in their native county I was proud to be there,” said Minister O’Donovan.