Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Tom Kiely of Ballyneale

In the following I will include brief extracts and also a short synopsis from a contribution by Michael Navin in Romantic Slievenamon:
The World's Champion All-Round Athlete 
"Kiely and the Davins always represent to me the ideal type of the Gael and the sportsman. On the athletic field they could beat the best the world could send against them. In hurling or football or handball they were performers well above the ordinary. They could whistle and sing, they could play the fiddle, and they could dance as light and airy as any fairy that ever trod the slopes of Slievenamon" (Patrick Purcell). 
Thomas F.Kiely of Ballyneale, Carrick-on-Suir—still referred to in his native locality as "The Champion". A title well deserved, for his athletic achievements at home and abroad, he proved himself to be Ireland's greatest ever all round athlete. Prompted, no doubt, by the deeds and fame of his great and immediate predecessors and neighbours, the famous Davin brothers of nearby Deerpark, he was a willing pupil and needed no urging. 
In the All-Ireland championships of 1892, held at Jones's Road (now Croke Park), he won seven of the titles. The victories were in the hurdles race, the shot putting, hammer throwing, putting the weights (7 lbs and 28 lbs), long jump and hop step and jump-in the latter event he cleared a distance of 49 feet 7 inches—a few inches short of the world's record. 
On 21st July 1904, at the world's fair in St. Louis on the mighty Mississippi river, he achieved first place with 6086 points—by coming first in the hurdles, first in the hammer, first in the 56 lbs throw and first in the 880 yards walk. He was second in the long jump and third in the shot and pole jump. 
On 23rd June 1906, in the American all round championship decided at Boston, Tom was again victorious, achieving 6274 points, as against 5064 points for his nearest rival, John Bridemus. 
Tom Kiely's last year of competition was in 1908 when on 16th August at Dungarvan he took part in an exhibition of weight throwing with Irish-American athlete, Martin Sheridan. He died in 1951 and is laid to rest in Ballyneale churchyard in the shadow of his beloved Slievenamon.

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