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The book focuses on the Irish and Irish diasporal involvement in the Olympic Games. It discusses in detail the sporting involvement but, even more so, the political and national battles which accompanied the Irish Olympic journey prior to independence. It challenges our traditional perceptions of sporting nationalism and places the Irish story in a quite unique international context, showing how decisions made in London, Lausanne and New York had a profound impact on the Irish sporting, and national, destiny. This book is the product of six years of research across Ireland, London, New York and Switzerland. It seeks to shed light on the half-known story of Irish involvement in the Olympic Games prior to independence. The research has unearthed a huge amount of information, most of it previously unpublished. Few people will have known that hurling and Gaelic football formed part of an Olympic Games, or that Ireland competed as a separate nation in events like bicycle polo and hockey long before independence.
The author traces the story of Irish and Irish American Olympic involvement from its accidental beginnings in 1896 through to the very significant political issues which dominated Irish sports, and our Olympic aspirations in the early 20th century. He has traced the role played by the Olympic Games in the evolution of a national identity in Ireland, and in the emergence of Irish America as a major sporting and political force in the USA. Political figures from Arthur Griffith, Roger Casement and John Devoy are all entwined in the Irish Olympic story. The work highlights the divisions and complexities within Irish sport, as well as the significant influence of the British Olympic Association as a barrier to Irish recognition at the Games. It charts the political intrigue behind the scenes in London and Lausanne as Ireland sought Olympic recognition after the 1921 Treaty. Most of all, this work highlights the magnificent achievements of the sportsmen, and one woman, who originated in the main from rural Ireland and won substantial Olympic success in throwing and jumping events, the Marathon, tennis, and other events.
Kevin McCarthy is Senior Inspector with Department of Education and Science and is the author of Footsteps in Time (CJ Fallon 1997), Concise History (CJ Fallon 1998), Cappoquin: A Walk through History (2000, with Melanie O'Sullivan)