Remembering John James Keane and his impact on Irish sports

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John James Keane was born April 14, 1871 in Anglesboro, County Limerick, near the Galtee Mountains.

After moving to Dublin, Keane helped establish the Gerldines in 1896. He won two consecutive County Dublin championships in Gaelic football in 1898 and 1899.

In 1898 he made his inter-county debut for Dublin. Over the next five seasons, he won three All Irelands Championships and three Leinster Championships.

As a track athlete he won the Irish title in the 120m hurdles in 1901 before becoming one of Ireland’s most effective sports administrators at the turn of the 20th century.

He was chairman of the GAA Athletics Council from 1901 to 1922. In 1923, Keane founded the Irish Olympic Council becoming its first chairman with the support of Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins. He was also elected to the International Olympic Committee on the proposal of the IOC President, Baron Pierre de Coubertin.

It’s also worth mentioning that Keane was instrumental in getting Northern Ireland to compete with the Republic when talks got heated and faltering. Keane personally intervened and negotiated deals with Northern Irish officials to agree to the terms. He remained a member of the IOC until 1951.

Keane also founded the National Athletics and Cycling Association of Ireland (NACAI) in 1922, the forerunner of the Cycling Association of Ireland today. He was also the director of the highly successful Tailteann games in 1924 and 1928. In 1932 he was appointed by the government to take charge of all of the Tailteann games.

John James Keane died on April 1, 1956. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery between Eoin O’Duffy and Michael Collins. A man who was extremely respected in his now largely forgotten time.

I wrote this article because it would have been her birthday on April 14th. John James Keane was my maternal great-great-uncle. May he rest in peace!

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