Tailteann Magic Sees Records Tumble

June 23, 2024

By Perri Williams 

The Tailteann Games are the oldest games recorded in Ireland and are alleged to have started around 1600 BC. These ancient games were traditionally held in July and were revived back in 1924 by the Irish Free State and then once again abandoned. The games, which were held yesterday in Santry, are a modern successor of ancient games, which if the dates are true, predate even the ancient Olympic Games. Yesterday, they were contested by the intermediate boys and girls where the top two were rewarded with places on the Irish Team for the SIAB international.

Prior to yesterday’s Tailteann Games, only one championship record had been broken since 2020. Within the first hour of the commencement of yesterday’s proceedings, four track and field records were wiped from the record books. As the day progressed, three more individual and two relay team records were also surpassed – culminating in a total of nine championship records being set during the course of the day. What was remarkable about yesterday’s performances was the resulting ranking of these Irish athletes in both the European and World ranking lists.

The first record to tumble was at the hands of Cavan man Thomas Williams. The Colaiste Dun na Ri, Kingscourt student obliterated the existing record of 67.94m set back in 1977 by Declan Hegarty with every one of his five throws, keeping the technical officials busier than usual. Williams’ final throw of 77.31m sealed the new championship record, on what surely must be classed as the performance of the day. Since his first competition on the 9th of March this year, Williams has exceeded seventy meters at every meet. Yesterday’s throw saw Williams move to number one in the World for the u18 Hammer, with four of his throws ranking in the top ten u18 in the world this year. The European u18 Championships will see special Irish interest in this event.

Shortly after Williams had excited the home crowd, it was the turn of another thrower and fellow Cavan native Enya Silkenna to rewrite the record books. Silkenna, competing for St Louis Dundalk, twice took down the existing record of Irish International heptathlete Kate O’Connor, a record which O’Connor set in 2017. Similar to Williams, it was her final throw of 49.34m that established the new mark. Silkenna is currently ranked 13th in the world (and 7th in Europe) with her personal record of 51.88, which was set at the Leinster Championships in Tullamore last weekend. She has already qualified for the European u18 Javelin and Heptathlon.

While Silkenna was keeping the technical officers busy with her record-breaking performances, right beside her, Galway’s Conor Penny was creating quite a challenge for the technical officers with his high jump performances. Penney cleared 2.07m on his second attempt to surpass the existing record of 2.06 set by Kilkenny’s Adrian O’Dwyer back in the year 2000. A few minutes later, Penney cleared 2.09 also on his second attempt, moving him to second best in the European u18 performances this season.

Just after the technical officers had finished verifying Penney’s first record-breaking attempt, they were called to the other end of the track, where Carlow’s Jamie Hyland had cleared 4.51 in the pole vault on his first attempt. Hyland was on fire throughout the competition, clearing all previous heights on his first efforts. His 4.51m now overwrites the 4.50m set by Neil Young back in 1993.

The first track record to fall was in the boys 3,000m walk, where Galway’s Matthew Newell (Coláiste Bháile Chláir) took two seconds off his own record that he set last year. Newell has been a consistent performer in racewalking competitions this year with his time yesterday moving him into seventh best in Europe, one place behind Mayo’s Seamus Clarke. Like Williams, Silkenna, and Penney, Newell has already qualified for the European u18 Championships this summer.

Forty-five minutes later, Sophie Maher (St Flannans, Ennis) ran a superb Steeplechase. Taking the lead from the gun, Maher made perfect clearances on each jump. Initially challenged by Louth’s Dearbhla Allen, by the mid-point, Maher had moved well clear of Allen, to take a strong commanding lead. It was the perfect execution of the notoriously difficult water jump on each round that set Maher apart from the other competitors. She now takes over the record position with her 4.58, from Wicklow’s Roisin Treacy, who ran 5.04 back in 2018.

Daniel Downey (Portlaoise) has been used to winning 800m races since he first competed at national championships four years ago. Yesterday, Downey had to contend with a stronger force in the form of Bobby Moore of Woodbrook College. Moore ran 1.53.60 to surpass Louis O’Loughlin’s 2008 record of 1.53.61 by just one hundredth of a second. It was only in the final 100m that Moore made his stamp on the race, as he pulled further and further ahead of Downey and the rest of the field.

Towards the end of the day, there was an extraordinary sequence of events as the relay races began to unfold. Firstly, the Ulster boys 4x100m relay team took down the existing nine-year-old record, this was immediately followed by the Leinster boys when they broke the eight-year-old 4x400m record. Two relay records took a hit, after a seven-year hiatus in improved relay performances.

Currently, the oldest record still remaining of any age in the Irish Schools record books is that of the 1974 Senior boys 5000m of 14.17, set by John Treacy. The Tailteann Games is for the intermediate age group only and within this context, the oldest remaining record is now that of Carol Megan who recorded a time of 4.26.6 back in 1978. Through the years, there have been many attempts to break this – for now, Carol Megan still stands in the history books of Irish schools’ athletics. 2025 is another year.

Image: Perri Williams 

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