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Four ‘lost legends’ feature in North Mayo exhibition


Mike Finnerty

FOUR remarkable Mayo men who achieved sporting success and fame in the early 20th century far from their native land are to feature in an exhibition at the North Mayo Heritage Centre.
The exhibition, entitled ‘Lost Legends, Mayo’s Enigmatic Sports Stars’ is being opened this Friday evening at 5.30pm by renowned historian Paul Rouse, Associate Professor of History at University College Dublin, and the author of ‘Sport in Ireland, A History’ and ‘The Hurlers’ a history of the first All-Ireland Hurling Final.
The four men who feature in the exhibition are: Jimmy Donnelly (born 1899), a native of Ballina, was a soccer player who went on to coach internationally; Jimmy Walsh (born 1887) from Killala, a Major League baseball champion and World Series winner; Pat Tunney (born 1872), Killasser, a professional rugby player, probably the first Connacht man to play professional rugby; and Jimmy Murphy (born 1894), San Francisco, a Grand Prix and motor racing champion.
Unfortunately, the exploits of all four sportsmen have been largely forgotten, except by a few dedicated fans of their chosen sports.
So this North Mayo Heritage exhibition aims to bring their stories back to life, revealing their north Mayo roots and recalling their incredible sporting achievements.
For example, Jim Donnelly, of Clare St, Ballina, played for Blackburn Rovers and a number of other clubs before becoming a football coach in London. His career took him abroad and he was appointed Austrian national coach in 1938.
He also had stints as a manager or coach at Fenerbahce in Turkey, Inter Milan in Italy and elsewhere.
Then there’s Jimmy Walsh, a two-time winner of the World Series with NY Yankees and Boston Red Sox. He was picked on Connie Mack’s ‘All Time Irish Greats’ team and was one of the last Irish-born players in MLB, bringing to a close a period of extraordinary Irish dominance in the game.
Pat Tunney, a miner at Croxdale Colliery in Co Durham, is believed to be Connacht’s first ever pro rugby player. He played union for Durham City RFC then Rugby League with Salford RFC. Pat also played in the first-ever Rugby League international fixture.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Murphy’s mother emigrated from Crossmolina to California while his dad was from Wexford.
Jimmy had a dazzling career in Speedway and motor racing, including making a winning debut at the Hollywood Speedway in Los Angeles. He won the Indy 500, the European Grand Prix and was twice the American drivers’ champion. Jimmy died in a racing accident in 1924.
The North Mayo Heritage Centre is dedicated to preserving and promoting the rich heritage of the region. As part of their annual cultural programme for 2019 they have researched and curated a number of exhibitions which are displayed in the centre with FREE admission.
Further details can be obtained by calling the centre on 096 31809.
Admission is free and you don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy it!
This exhibition will run until Friday, November 3 and a number of talks and workshops will take place while the exhibition is in place.



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