A rare photograph of one of the greatest Irish athletes from the pre-modern Olympic era, will be officially handed over to the GAA Museum in Croke Park today.
T.J. O’Mahony, aka The Rosscarbery Steam Engine, was from west Cork and was GAA Irish Champion in the quarter-mile (400 metres) in 1885, 1887 and 1888 and Irish Amateur Athletics Association (IAAA) champion in 1886, according to Athletics Ireland.
A recording breaking track runner, he defeated fine athletes at Madison Square Garden in New York during a GAA’s ‘Gaelic Invasion...’ tour of the USA in 1888.
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Previewing the U.S. contests, the Boston Sunday Globe commented: “T J O’Mahony is another Cork county boy who has shown his heels to Clarence Smith [US half mile champion]. He comes from the land whence came Jeremiah O’Donovan, who adds Rossa to his name to indicate his town. O’Mahony lives at Rosscarbery, county Cork. He defeated Smith for a quarter mile at Limerick in 55 3/5 seconds, but he has done several seconds better on another occasion. It may be added the course at Limerick was heavy and slow.”
After retiring from athletics, he became a journalist. He died of cardiac failure aged 50 in 1914 in Smithfield in Dublin.
“In the 1880s, an economically challenging time in Ireland, for ‘The Rosscarbery Steam Engine’ to achieve what he did was remarkable. He is an example to our young people that Irish athletes from even the smallest towns and villages can take on and beat the world’s best,” said renowned Irish sports commentator Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh.