TRIBUTES PAID

Tipperary's Olympic history maker Jimmy Reardon passes away at 93

Niamh Dillon

Reporter:

Niamh Dillon

Email:

niamh.dillon@tipperarylive.ie

Tipperary's Olympic history maker Jimmy Reardon passes away at 93

Jimmy Reardon pictured at an event in 2010

One of the country's most influential athletes Jimmy Reardon has passed away at the age of 93.

History making Reardon, who famously captained the Irish track team at the Olympic Games in London in 1948, has been remembered as an influential and trail blazing figure in Irish sport. 

Jimmy Reardon was born on October 25, 1925 at Parteen Villa, Birdhill, Co. Tipperary however while still a child his family moved to Co. Louth and later Dublin where the young man quickly carved out a name for himself on both the athletics field and rugby pitch.

After school he joined the Irish Naval Service and served on the famous Muirchu patrolling the Irish sea.

In 1947 he was the first Irishman to win an AAA title, taking the 440 yards in 48.3 seconds.

At just 22 years of age he set sail for London along with 82 fellow Irish athletes for the 1948 Olympic games, which were also the first after a forced 12 year break because of World War II. These games were also the first to be shown on television in Britain.

In the first round Reardon won his 400m heat in 48.4, coming in second in the quarter final at 48.3. He narrowly missed out on a place in the final after an impressive display in the previous race however he did compete in the 4 x 400m relay with Charles Denroche, Reggie Myles and Paul Dolan.

Just a few months after London, Reardon left Ireland with his wife Kathleen for the US to take up a track and field scholarship at Villanova University in Philadelphia, becoming the first ever Irish athlete to do so and paving the way for hundreds of future generations of Irish sports stars.

In 1954, he graduated from Villanova with a degree in economics and remained in the US, opening a successful car dealership and repair garage.

His sporting legacy in Philadelphia also extended to rugby after Reardon helped introduce the sport to his adopted hometown. In 1959 he started the Villanova Rugby Football Club and just two years later he became the first president of the Philadelphia Rugby Football Club.

He remained in the US until the 1980’s before returning to Dublin.

In 1997 he was honoured at the Tipperary Sports Awards when he was inducted into the Knockagow Hall of Fame.

In 2012, the 11 surviving members of the 1948 Irish Olympic team were honoured at a special medal-giving ceremony in Dublin.

Among those to pay tribute to the late ‘Captain’, as he was often referred to by many of his friends, was the Olympic Federation of Ireland and President Michael D. Higgins.

A statement by President Higgins on the death of Jimmy Reardon read:

“It is with sadness that I have learned of the death of Jimmy Reardon, Olympian and sporting pioneer.

Not only was Jimmy Reardon one of 83 Irish representatives at the first post-War Olympics in London in 1948, he was also the first Irish athlete to attend Villanova University on an athletics scholarship, beginning an ‘Irish Pipeline’ of promising athletes that travelled to the United States to develop their talents.

Achieving personal bests that would still be hard to beat today, Jimmy Reardon blazed a trail for Irish athletes, and for that not only athletes, their families and supporters, but the Irish people owe him a debt of gratitude.

Mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, as President of Ireland, I express my deepest sympathies to his family, friends and former colleagues.”

James Patrick “The Captain” Reardon late of Rathgar, Dublin 6 . Peacefully, in his 94th year, in the tender care of the staff (over the last 13 years) at Leopardstown Park Hospital, Dublin 18.

Beloved husband of the late Kathleen and loving father of Deborah, Katherine, James and Robert. Sadly missed by his daughters, sons, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, extended family and friends. May he rest in peace.

Funeral Mass on Monday morning, June 24 at 11am in the Chapel of Repose at Leopardstown Park Hospital, followed by burial in Deans Grange Cemetery.

All enquiries to Carnegies Funeral Directors, Monkstown, Ph: 01 2808882.