Clancy's passing brings to mind stories of old
I was reminded of this tale on Monday, on hearing the news that fellow Irish Olympian and discus record holder Cummin Clancy had died, and told by the sports editor to “check that it’s true” – perhaps an inadvertent advisory against history repeating itself.
Clancy lived to the ripe old age of 90, at his adopted home in Garden City, New York, originally from the village of Glann, near Oughterard in Galway. His connection with Barry, and also former Olympic 400-metre runner Jimmy Reardon, is unique, in that together this trio began the long and now famous American scholarship trial, becoming the first Irish athletes to attend Villanova University.
Sealed the deal
Barry recalls the details of this in his book, how the three of them were in London for the 1948 Olympics, and while himself and Reardon may have sparked the idea, it was Clancy who perhaps sealed the deal: “George Guida, a member of the USA 440 squad and a student at Villanova, Reardon and myself were talking one evening after a snack in the dining-hall, and the conversation led into the meaning of an athletic scholarship in American universities.
“It was Reardon who put the question to him: ‘George, you’re telling me if you could run or jump well enough, you’d get a scholarship to an American university, which would include full tuition, full board, books, etc?’
“‘In my opinion’,” George continued, ‘both of you would easily qualify, from what I know, and from what you told me about yourselves. The very fact that you are both here representing your country, you must be the best Ireland has to offer at this moment. Villanova is very short of middle-distance runners at the moment, and nothing would go down better than to have a few Irish boys on the squad.’
“Just then Cummin Clancy, the discus-thrower, came over. Cummin was a magnificent specimen, 6ft 2ins in height, 46-inch chest, 32-inch waist and as good looking as Jack Doyle.
“Jimmy asked George, ‘How about Cummin here?’ “George took one look at Cummin (he already knew a little about him) and said, ‘Why, Jumbo Elliott would make him into a world-beater’”.
Unfortunately, Jumbo didn’t quite succeed: Barry admitted as much: “Cummin lacked co-ordination, and never perfected his spin in the throwing circle, although he did win the American Collegiate Championship with a throw of 172 feet – no mean feat.”
Now, Clancy’s passing leaves Reardon as the only surviving member of this historic trio – and wait until you hear his story.