The death has been announced of Ireland’s London 1948 Olympian, Galway’s Cummin Clancy at the age of 90 in Garden City, New York.
Born in the village of Glann within a stone’s throw distance of Oughterard and the nearby Great Corrib lakeshores, discus thrower, Clancy joined the Garda Siochana, and on being stationed in Dublin became a member of Donore Harriers. An Irish record soon followed in 1948 and just a fortnight before the London Olympics began, he was selected to represent Ireland..
He did not alas come close to a medal at Wembley ,his 40.73m – some 4 metres short of the qualifying standard – not being good enough to reach the final. It was however to be a never to be forgotten experience for another reason, as Clancy plus 400m team mate Jimmy Reardon and miler John Joe Barry were invited to attend Villanova University, thus beginning the US scholarship trail made so famous later by such as Ronnie Delany, Eamon Coghlan and Sonia O’Sullivan to name but three. The coach responsible for that invite was of course the great Jumbo Elliott.
The excellent “Oughterard Heritage” tells us a little more about Cummin Clancy, his background and his subsequent life in the ‘Big Apple’.
“He was born on the 9th November 1922, educated at Glann National School and then trained as a Garda.
Garda Ned Tobin, based in Galway noticed Cummin’s ability as an athlete when he competed at Ross, Cornamona and Seaneaglish sports to name a few in the forties. Ned was impressed at his sheer strength, skill and natural ability as a discus thrower.
He was 26 years of age when he was chosen one of 73 Olympians (68 men and 5 women) to represent Ireland in London”.
In Wembley Stadium with 85,000 in the stands he walked out and took his place as the first person from County Galway to represent Ireland at the Olympics. And then it all went wrong, Cummin’s best throw came to 40.73 metres almost a full 4metres short of the distance needed to make it to the final. His one shot at the Olympics fizzled out as soon as it had begun.
He graduated as a Bachelor of Science and Economics and went on to establish the well-known, much respected insurance brokerage firm of Clancy & Clancy in Garden City, New York in 1956, a firm which developed into a multi-million dollar enterprise.
Oughterard Heritage again : ”Villanova was located right next door to Rosemount College, then a women-only university, where young Maureen O Grady, the daughter of Irish immigrants was studying.
Maureen said in an interview with ‘The Irish Times Magazine’ : “He told me that he was going back to Ireland 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 have been back every year since, until this past year when it was a bit too much for Cummin.”
Cummin never forgot his roots. They built a house in Glann in 1967. Although Cummin, who was 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 the St. Louis Cardinals after graduating from Amherst College whilst his grandson Duncan has played collegiate lacrosse for Rutgers University. Nephew Kevin, son of Paddy and Mary played minor and senior football for Galway and Matthew, son of Kevin and Betty, won All Ireland football titles in U21 and Senior with Galway in 2001”
Pat Hickey, President of the Olympic Council of Ireland said “On behalf of the Olympic Movement in Ireland, I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to Cummin’s wife Maureen and the Clancy family on the passing of this Irish champion and Olympian.
“I had the great pleasure of meeting Maura, Sean and Kevin, members of Cummin’s family, at the reunion in Farmleigh, Dublin last year of members of the 1948 Irish Olympic team. Cummin will be sadly missed by all.”