The Olympic Games, Montreal ~ The Irish Olympic Team departed Dublin on 5thJuly 1976 to compete at the XXI Olympic Games in Montreal. Twelve days later Garda Frank Moore, who had travelled as a substitute, had the distinction and honour of carrying the Tricolour and leading the Irish Team into the Olympic Stadium. Prior to 1976 Ireland’s previous rowing representatives at an Olympic Games included an VIII at the London Games in 1948 and Sean Drea at Munich in 1972. Interestingly, 1976 marked the year when women’s rowing was introduced as an Olympic sport.
The Garda elite coxed IV, racing under the Irish colours, competed in the Bord Bainne sponsored Karlisch boat, won the Petite Final and finished seventh in the world. The Gold Medal was won by Russia, with the East Germans winning the Silver and West Germany, who we beat at Duisburg, winning the Bronze. To help defray the costs an appeal was launched, where every member of An Garda Síochána was asked to make a contribution towards supporting the Garda Crew at the Olympic Games. The phenomenal amount of £3,399.25 was raised. Willie Ryan recalls racing the semifinal:
We led early in the race, caught a small crab at 500 metres and dropped back a little. Approaching the 1,750 mark we were in third position with clear water over West Germany in fourth. We pushed for the line, which in hindsight broke our rhythm and we caught a massive crab that turned the boat sideways and almost brought us to a full stop. Unfortunately, the German crew cruised by us. We finished fourth and missed out in a place in the Grand Final. An indication of the standard of the race was that even after our mishap we still finished inside the old World Record time.
Mick Ryan writing in the Metropolitan Regatta race programme gave an account of the Olympic Games:
Life in the Village itself gave the impression of how the world should be run. There was little outside interference and an atmosphere of friendship and comradeship built up between the athletes from the different nations. Everyone became a friend with whom you could share your jokes and troubles. However, trouble was building up on the outside world and some politicians insisted on interfering with this great sporting event and saw it as a good way of getting publicity. So the doors of our friendly world were knocked down and many of our comrades who had spent years in training for this event had to return home without competing in their respective events. Who knows what sporting history might have been made had these athletes been allowed to stay and compete in the games. On our second day in Montreal we were taken by specially guarded coach to the Olympic basin which was already buzzing with activity … The course was the same high standard we had come to expect from the Canadians. The competition as we expected was fierce. We performed as best we could. We missed the medals narrowly.
Andy McDonough raced in the Irish coxless IV with Martin Feeley, Ian Kennedy and Jaye Renehan. They finished fourth in their heat and despite their best efforts were fifth in the repechage (6.29) and eliminated from the event. Ireland’s Sean Drea narrowly missed out on a medal when he finished fourth in the Grand Final.
The following is an extract from Captain’s Report (Bill Somers) for the Annual General Meeting:
In Montreal the four had a difficult draw, but rowed a magnificent, but extremely hard race to qualify from their heat on Sunday. In the semifinal they lifted their performance and lead the top nations of the World for most of the course, but lady luck deserted us and they were caught by a split second on the line by the West Germans. When one considers that the first four crews broke the World Record for coxed fours, and the Russians got the Gold and West Germany the Bronze, it puts our crew’s performance in the top World bracket and one can only ponder what might have been had they reached the Grand Final. Despite the set back they won the Petite Final with a convincing power packed row. One point that has not been stressed enough is the fact that this crew was trained in Ireland and coached by Pat Grace and Brendan Duane in consultation with Jim Railton, and to these people we must be very grateful for the time, expertise and dedication they have shown, particularly to Pat and Brendan. To cox Liam Redmond, to Mick Ryan, Jim Muldoon, Willie Ryan and Christy O’Brien, I say a very sincere thank you and also to Andy McDonough and Frank Moore our Flag Bearer to the Olympic Team and Peadar Casey the Team Manager.
Olympic Coxed IV
Bow Christy O’Brien (3) Jim Muldoon
(2) Willie Ryan Str. Mick Ryan
Cox Liam Redmond
Coaches Brendan Duane and Pat Grace
Petite Final – Montreal