Monday 14 October 2019

From Kevin Moran to Tadhg Kennelly - Ten Irish stars who excelled in more than one sport

Kevin Moran (left), Shane Supple (centre) and Tadhg Kennelly (right).
Kevin Moran (left), Shane Supple (centre) and Tadhg Kennelly (right).

Tony Considine

As Olympic sprint legend Usain Bolt edges closer to signing a professional football contract, we've taken a look at 10 Irish sportspeople who excelled in more than one sport.

Tony Ward

Best known for his battle against Ollie Campbell for the out-half spot, Ward won 19 caps and scored 113 points for Ireland between 1978 and 1987. He was European Player of the Year for 1978/79, the same year he orchestrated Munster’s famous victory against the All-Blacks. He later played for Leinster and was capped by the British and Irish Lions.  

Ward also had two stints playing in the League of Ireland, first with Shamrock Rovers from 1973 to 1975 before winning an FAI Cup with Limerick in the 1981/82 season.

Shane Supple

Supple was touted as Ireland’s long term successor to Shay Given when he made the breakthrough at Ipswich Town as an 18 years old in 2005. Yet, four years later he was back in Dublin after requesting his contract be cancelled as he had "fallen out of love with the game". On his return home, he linked up with his old GAA club, St. Brigid's, where his performances on the way to a Dublin Senior Football title in 2010 were enough to earn him a call up to the inter-county panel.

Unfortunately, Supple found himself behind the greatest GAA goalkeeper ever in Stephen Cluxton and despite making the squad for the Dublin’s All-Ireland wins in 2011 and 2013, he never made a Championship appearance. Supple has since returned to soccer where has been Bohs’ number 1 for the last three seasons, with his form enough to earn a call up to the Ireland squad earlier this year.     

Kevin Moran

Moran made his name as a teak-tough centre half back with Heffo’s Army, winning All-Ireland Football medals in 1976 and 1977. However, it’s a little known fact that he was in the Bohemians League of Ireland-winning squad in 1975, although as an 18 year old, he only managed one appearance.

His prowess in that code led to him signing for Manchester United in February 1978, which kicked off a career that would bring him two FA Cup winners medals and 71 Ireland caps. Incredibly, while a Man United player, Moran returned to the Dublin team for their 1978 All-Ireland run to the final and even made a last appearance two years later against Meath.

Conor McGregor

Undoubtedly the most high profile Irish sports star operating today, "The Notorious" made his name in mixed martial arts, where he became the first fighter to hold UFC belts at two weight levels simultaneously. McGregor then managed to talk himself into a professional boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather where his tenth round defeat was more than compensated for by the reported $100m he made from tickets and pay-per-view buys.    

Katie Taylor

One of Ireland’s most popular sportspeople, Taylor dominated amateur boxing for a decade with the peak her London Olympic gold in 2012. Since turning pro, the Bray native has added a world title to her glittering roll of honour with her latest defence against Cindy Serrano ending in victory. Taylor is also an accomplished footballer and was capped by Ireland at senior level on eleven occasions between 2006 and 2009, scoring twice.

Jim Stynes

When Jim Stynes won the All Ireland Minor Championship with Dublin in 1984, he was tipped to become a leading light in Dublin GAA. Instead, it was in Aussie Rules where he became a legend with Melbourne Football Club, breaking the AFL record by playing 244 consecutive games. Stynes won a Brownlow Medal, the highest individual honor in the sport in 1991 and was honoured with a state funeral in Melbourne after his untimely death in 2012.  His younger brother Brian also played for Melbourne before returning to Dublin and winning a senior All-Ireland in 1995.

Tadhg Kennelly

The most successful of the Irish players to move to Australian Rules in terms of trophies, Kennelly actually spent a few months as a soccer player with Blackburn Rovers before moving to Sydney to play Australian Rules. After becoming the first Irishman to win an AFL Premiership in 2005, Kennelly returned to Ireland four years later in a successful attempt to emulate his father and win an All-Ireland with Kerry. He remains the only player to have won the top honour in both codes.

Eric Miller

Miller won a Dublin U21 championship medal with Ballyboden St Enda's before switching codes to rugby the following year, joining Leicester Tigers in the English Premiership. He went on to play for Ulster and Leinster while winning 48 Ireland caps and was selected for the Lions tour of South Africa in 1997. After retiring from rugby in January 2006, Miller returned to play gaelic football for Ballyboden St. Enda's and made it as far as representing the Dubs in a challenge match against Louth later that year.

Mick Galwey

'Gaillimh' as he was known to his Ireland team-mates, played senior inter-county football for Kerry from 1986 to 1989, the highlight being an All-Ireland title in his first season. After turning his focus to rugby, he went on to make 130 appearances for Munster and win 41 caps for Ireland. The big lock also won four All-Ireland Leagues with Shannon in the late 90’s making him the only player ever to win an All-Ireland title in both gaelic football and rugby.

Dick Spring

Footage of the ex-Labour leader and Tánaiste playing rugby for Ireland in the 1979 Five Nations was often shown during his political career. What’s lesser known is that Spring also played senior football for his native Kerry in the 1975 National League, following in the footsteps of his father, Dan, who won two All-Ireland titles with the Kingdom in 1939 and 1940.     

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