By Peter Gleeson
By Peter Gleeson The final touches are now being put to a sculpture to honour three Olympic champions with Nenagh roots.
The three life-sized bronze statues of Johnny Hayes, Matt McGrath and Bob Tisdall will be unveiled at Banba Square, Nenagh, in a major ceremony on Saturday, September 21 next.
The late Johnny Hayes, a son of Michael and Ellen Hayes of Silver Street, Nenagh, won the marathon at the London Olympics in 1908.
The late Matt McGrath, who won the 16lb hammer event at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912, was son of Timothy and Anne McGrath of Curraghmore in the Arra Hills.
Bob Tisdall, still hale and hearty at 95, won the 400 metres hurdles at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932. He spent much of his boyhood growing up in Nenagh and Dromineer. His mother was Meta (nee Morton) a native of
Summerhill, Nenagh. Bob now lives in Australia.
The unveiling ceremony in the grounds of Nenagh Courthouse marks the culmination of years of hard work by a local group, the Tipperary Olympic Gold Memorial Committee, which was specially established to bring the project to fruition.
Personalities from the world of sport and relatives of the three athletes will join with sponsors and other guests from at home and abroad for the unveiling of the statuettes at 12 noon.
Among the project patrons are the 1956 Olympic 1,500 metres gold medal winner, Ronnie Delany; 1983 5,000 metres World Champion, Eamon Couglan, Olympic silver 5,000 meters medallist, Sonia O’ Sullivan and Olympic gold
medal boxing champion Michael Carruth.
The Chairperson of the Committee, Maire Hoctor said that close relatives of all three gold medallists will participate in the unveiling. She said she was delighted with the positive response of the public to the project.
The late Johnny Hayes will be represented at the unveiling by Michael Hartnett and his cousins Joanne Russo and Mary-Ellen Russo-Jasinski. They are grandchildren of Ellen Hayes, a sister of Johnny’s father, Michael, who emigrated from Silver Street, Nenagh, to New York.
Matt McGrath will be represented by his namesake and nephew, Matt McGrath of Saint John’s Terrace, Nenagh, and his wife, Mary, and his sister Mary (Bunty) Kelly who
lives in Limerick.
Bob Tisdall, still hale and hearty at the age of 95, will be represented by his two daughers, Sally-Ann Dougans who is coming from South Africa and Nina Tisdall who is travelling from Queensland, accompanied by her close frined Ron Erbacher. Other relations of Bob’s, members of the Hooker family of Dromineer, will also attend.
The Secretary of the committee, Ger Ryan, said he and the other members were delighted to have achieved their aim of building a monument in memory of the three great athletes. He said there had been a tremendous response from the public, but urged further support. “Contributions are still welcome...we hope to have reached our target by unveiling day.”