Tipperary Olympians - Conor McCullough

Conor McCullough was born on 22 MAR, 1961 at Bettystown, Co. Meath – and is the oldest of three children. His parents had a farm at Sheephouse, Co. Meath and when Conor was a year-and-a-half old the family moved to a house at the farm.

Conor McCullough was born on 22 MAR, 1961 at Bettystown, Co. Meath – and is the oldest of three children. His parents had a farm at Sheephouse, Co. Meath and when Conor was a year-and-a-half old the family moved to a house at the farm.

Sheephouse is just two miles from Drogheda, Co. Louth and one mile from Oldbridge, Co. Meath [site of the historic Battle of the Boyne which took place in 1690]. Conor went to primary school at first the Sisters of Charity and then the Christian Brothers - both in Drogheda - and went to secondary school at Cistercian College, Roscrea. Two of his uncles, Joe McCullough [1940-‘41] and Sam McCoullough [1942-‘45] had previously gone to Cistercian College, Roscrea so Conor went there too, and like his uncle Joe he played rugby for the school.

Athletics coach Pat Creagh, and Fr. Kevin Daly both saw his potential as a hammer thrower and he won the senior hammer title at the Irish Schools’ Athletics Championships in 1979. Pat Creagh, a native of Rathdowney, Co. Laois who died in 2001, was for over thirty years an athletics coach at the school and many Irish schools’ hammer titles went to Cistercian College, Roscrea – some of those who won in more recent years include Gavin Duffy [Galway – Irish rugby player], Micheál Grace [Oola, Co. Limerick], Barry McCann [Galway], Conor Phelan [Offaly] and Peter Tierney [Galway].

After Roscrea, Conor McCullough attended Multyfarnham Agricultural College in Co. Westmeath for two years. With the advice of Irish Olympian, Philip Conway he then headed for Kent State University, Ohio and later to Boston University. While in Boston he was a recipient of the Eastern College Athletic Conference ‘Award of Valour’ which he received in his final year [1986] for his dedication to sport, studies and other very honourable activities on campus. Conor McCullough qualified for the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984 where his best hammer throw was 65.56m, and he also competed in the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988 where his best throw was 68.66m - he did not get in to the hammer final at either Olympics. I

t had been feared he would not compete again when in 1987 he was attacked in a night-club at Santa Monica, California where he worked in the evenings as a bouncer to supplement the family income he received in his job as an occupational therapist. He had deep knife wounds in his back and also had his right eye stabbed – he overcame his injuries however and won his place in to the Irish Olympic team for the Seoul Olympics the following year.

His hammer coach in America was Harold Connolly who was a school teacher in Santa Monica and had won the hammer gold medal at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia and was also the world record holder from 1956 - 1965. Harold Connolly who was born in America had Irish heritage on both sides; on his father’s side the Connolly’s became noted politicians in America, and on his mother’s side the Corbett’s were more known for their boxing. Conor McCullough has won a total of 3 Irish hammer titles [1988, 1990, 1991], and his best hammer throw is 74.16m [243’ 3¾”] which he threw on 24 JUL, 1988 at the Irish Track & Field Championships – and is still an Irish championship record.

He has two sons Conor and Brian, who were both born in America but have dual Irish-American citizenship. His eldest son Conor [b. 31 JAN, 1991] is already throwing the hammer further than his father, with a best throw to date of 75.09m which he threw at the athletics meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland on 17 JUL, 2012. Earlier this summer he had declared for Ireland so this distance is now the Irish U23 hammer record. He is coached by his father, and at the 2010 World Junior Championships in the hammer Conor won the gold medal, and two years earlier at the 2008 World Junior Championships he came second - competing for America. Like his father, Conor Jnr now competes for the Dublin athletic club Crusaders AC and won the hammer title at the Irish Track & Field Championships in both 2011 and 2012.

Conor McCullough is the only student from Cistercian College Roscrea to have competed in the Olympics – and hopefully his son will be competing for Ireland at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.