Shane Bracken of Swinford AC (right) tracks Sean Tobin of Clonmel AC, Tipperary (left) and Luke Houser (centre) of University of Washington during the historic mile record attempt staged at Croke Park as part of the GAA’s Tailteann Games commemoration yesterday. Photo: John Sheridan | Sportsfile

Mayo athlete helps GAA commemorate centenary of Ireland’s Olympic participation

The GAA made a presentation at Croke Park yesterday (Sunday) to celebrate its athletics past and to commemorate a century of Ireland’s Olympic Games involvement.

Representatives of the Olympic Federation of Ireland, Olympians and Paralympians were guests of honour at the Galway-Waterford camogie quarterfinal and Limerick-Cork hurling All-Ireland semi-final.

The event marked 100 years since the first official Team Ireland competed at an Olympics in Paris in 1924 – a team that featured Gaelic football stars Larry Stanley of Kildare in the high jump and Mayo sprinter Seán Lavan, the man who invented the solo run.

The godfather of Ireland’s Olympic participation was Limerick native J.J. Keane, a member of the GAA’s Central Council, chair of the GAA Athletics Committee from 1906 to 1922 and a double football All-Ireland winner with his adopted club Geraldines in Dublin. He was also Ireland’s first ever representative on the International Olympic Committee.

The summer of 1924 also featured the staging of the Tailteann Games by the Irish Free State, a Celtic Olympiad for the Irish diaspora which was largely based at Croke Park and held in 1924, 1928 and 1932.

As well as a presentation to the OFI, the GAA facilitated the staging of a novel mile run on the pitch – an event that has not been held at Croke Park since 1966, when the late Kerry Olympian and Gaelic games journalist Tom O’Riordan set a time of 4.12.1 for running a mile over five laps of the pitch in a Tailteann Games athletics event.

The field of runners assembled to tackle the record on Sunday featured Mayo's Shane Bracken, a member of Swinford AC.

Uachtarán CLG Jarlath Burns said: “We are the Gaelic Athletic Association and as such we are enormously proud of the rich history and heritage that exists in the athletics exploits of our members.

“From our first president and internally renowned athlete Maurice Davin through to the outstanding role model, new European champion and camogie player Ciara Mageean, there is a link between Gaelic games and athletics that is worth celebrating.

“This occasion affords us the opportunity to not only commemorate our athletics past, but also remember the achievement that was the Tailteann Games, the involvement of GAA members in previous Olympics, and especially wish the 2024 Team Ireland bon voyage and adh mór ahead of their departure for Paris this week.”

The announcement of Sunday's event last week came on the day that the GAA also remembered the achievement of GAA member Tom Kiely from Ballyneale in Tipperary, regarded as the greatest athlete of his generation who was crowned all-round champion in the 1904 Games in St. Louis.


On the Croke Park turf yesterday, American Luke Houser from Seattle, the NCAA Mile champion, justified his favourite tag when he surged through on the last of the five laps to win in a time of 4.10.39.

Irish runners completed the podium, with Shane Bracken (4.10.88) and Seán Tobin (4.11.79) of Clonmel AC, Tipperary, hot on Houser's heels.

All three were inside the previous record, which had stood since Tom O’Riordan's 1966 run.

A slow pace in the opening lap was blamed for a failure to break the four-minute mile barrier, but the action was well received by the packed stadium and proved a novel and fitting way of bringing the Tailteann Games history of Croke Park to life.

GAA director general Tom Ryan presented Olympic Federation of Ireland CEO Peter Sherrard with an artwork commissioned from painter and former Dublin hurling captain David Sweeney from Ballyboden St. Enda's. He is a grandson of Jack Sweeney, who coached Ronnie Delaney to his gold medal for Ireland in the mile at the Melbourne Olympics of 1956. Also in attendance were elite Irish athletes Mark English from Donegal and new European champion Phil Healy from Cork.