Monday 13 May 2013

Pat Davin of Deerpark

Pat Davin was a renowned all-round sportsman and athlete, born at Deerpark, Carrick-on-Suir in 1857, to a farming family who also conducted a river transport business. He was the youngest and most outstanding of three famous athletic brothers. He broke the world high jump record on the 5th July, 1880 in Carrick-on-Suir with a leap of over 6'2" and in 1881 he won the British AAA titles in both high jump and long jump at Monasterevan in 1883. He was the first man to jump over 6 ft. in a high jump, and at one stage held six world records (including the 100 yards in 10 seconds, the 120 yard hurdles in 16 seconds, the high jump at 6 feet two and three quarter inches for long jump off grass). Apart from his involvement with athletics, he took part in many other sports including rowing and cricket, both of which were popular in the Carrick-on-Suir area at the time. Along with his brother Maurice, he was a founder member of Carrick-on-Suir athletic and cricket club and drew up the clubs first set of rules.

In September 1888, Pat Davin travelled to the United States with a group of 45 hurlers and athletes on a trip sponsored by the newly founded GAA which became known as the "American Invasion". In Boston, he defeated the champion of America in 120 yards hurdles and also took part in several hurling games during the tour. The hurley which he used on the tour to America is inscribed with the names of many of the cities Davin visited. On further examination, the hurley shows it was fashioned not from ash but from a hardwood, probably oak. Davin played cricket at an earlier stage of his life and when it came to hurling, it seems that he used a harder wood, more suitable for a cricket bat, to fashion his hurley. Nevertheless,in a long puck competition, he used this rather unsuitable hurley and the large and heavy 10 ounce sliotar of the time to good effect, pucking almost 85 yards.

Pat Davin's athletic achievements have never attracted the renown they deserved, partly because he never achieved the prestige of an Olympic medal for the simple reason that he was a man before his time and the games did not exist when he was in his prime. Also he has tended to be overshadowed by his brother Maurice who attracted much more notoriety not only because he was a great athlete in his day but also because he was the first President of the GAA. Nevertheless, Pat Davin could lay justified claim to being Ireland's best ever athlete. He brought much honour to Carrick-on-Suir and Ireland at a time when national prestige was at a low level and he did much to raise public interest in sport which undoubtedly contributed to the successful formation of the GAA.

The hurley and sliotar that Pat Davin used on the "American Invasion" are now given pride of place as part of the Davin showcase collection at Lár na Pairce, the National Visitors Centre for Gaelic games in Thurles.

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