Tony Byrne, Ireland flag bearer at the 1056 Olympics

Tony Byrne, Ireland’s flag bearer at the 1956 Olympics

Paddy Barnes will follow in the footsteps of the legends of Irish boxing when he leads out Team Ireland for what is anticipated to be a spectacular opening ceremony for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio in August

The three-time Irish Olympian, as announced by Pat Hickey, President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, has been selected as Ireland’s flag bearer for the 31st Olympiad.

Barnes, the 7th Irish boxer to lead out an Irish team at the greatest show on earth, revealed that he got yet another unanimous verdict.

“It’s as important to me as winning a medal. For me it’s a great, great honour. I couldn’t believe it when Pat [Hickey] rang me. They had a meeting and the decision was unanimous,” said the Holy Family BC man.

Matt Flanagan – 1900-1973 – of Kildare was the first boxer to be selected as Irish flag bearer at Amsterdam 1928, four years after Ireland entered the Olympics as an independent nation for the first time at Paris 1924.

A Garda, Flanagan was a dominant force in the Irish Elite cruiser and heavy classes from 1925 to 1932. He also won an ABA title in England and a Golden Gloves belt in the USA.

Francie Barrett carries the Irish flag at the 1996 Games

Francie Barrett carries the Irish flag at the 1996 Games

The man from the Thoroughbred County was beaten by Argentina’s eventual gold medallist Arturo Rodriguez in the last 16 in Amsterdam, where Pat O’Callaghan secured an historic gold in the hammer throw, Ireland’s first Olympic medal in sport. (Ireland won Olympic medals, silver and bronze, in painting and literature at the 1924 Games).

O’Callaghan also won gold at the 1932 Games and is the only Irish athlete besides Barnes to medal at successive Olympiads, Barnes winning bronze at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

Drogheda’s Tony “Socks” Byrne – 1930-2013 – led out Team Ireland for the 1956 Games in Melbourne, Ireland’s most successful Olympics – besides London 2012 – with five medals secured, four by boxers.

Byrne settled for bronze after going out to Germany’s Harry Kurschat in the last-four. Kurschat dropped a decision to Dick McTaggart of Great Britain in the final. A few months after claiming gold, McTaggart was beaten by Byrne in an England versus Ireland international in London.

Four Irish boxers, Fred Tiedt (silver), John Caldwell (bronze), Freddie Gilroy (bronze) and Byrne (bronze), finished in podium positions in Melbourne where the great Ronnie Delaney left the rest of the world in his slipstream to secure 1500m gold.

Byrne said in an interview years after the 1956 Games that he managed to keep the Irish flag he carried and the tricolour takes pride of place in his home.

Jim McCourt, a bronze medallist at the 1964 Games, was next up. The Belfast legend, a European Elite medallist and Commonwealth champion, shouldered the flag for the 1968 Games in Mexico City, but Ireland failed to medal in any sport.

Another Belfast man, Wayne McCullough led out Team Ireland for the 1988 Games in Seoul. The “Pocket Rocket”, competing a light-fly, beat Fred Muteweta of Uganda in his first bout but lost to Scott Olson of Canada in the last 16. Four years later he won silver at Barcelona 1992 and Michael Carruth secured a first Olympic gold for Irish boxing.


Katie Taylor leads out Team Ireland at London 2012

Katie Taylor leads out Team Ireland at London 2012

Galway light-welter Francie Barrett was Irish flag bearer for the 1996 Games in Atlanta, where Michelle Smith grabbed the headlines. Barrett eliminated Brazil’s Zely Fereira dos Santos at the 26th Olympiad but lost to Tunisia’s Fathi Missaoui in the last 16. Missaoui won bronze.

Katie Taylor – the only Irish boxer to never lose an Olympic bout although it could be technically argued that Andy Lee (2004) and John Joe Joyce (2008) were never beaten at the Olympics either as they were eliminated on countbacks which was just a way of arriving at a decision after a tie – led out Team Ireland at London 2012.

The Bray lightweight, the fourth women to carry the flag for Ireland, won gold in the 60kg class and John Joe Nevin silver. Barnes and Michael Conlan took home bronze and Cian O’Connor in the Equestrian event.

The haul matched the return of one gold, one silver and three bronze from Melbourne 1956. Ireland’s boxers secured eight of that total from both Olympics.


Ireland’s flag bearers at the Olympics (Ireland did not enter the 1936 Games in Berlin)

2012 Katie Taylor (Boxing)
2008 Ciara Peelo (Sailing)
2004 Niall Griffin (Equestrianism)
2000 Sonia O’Sullivan (Athletics)
1996 Francie Barrett (Boxing)
1992 Michelle Smith (Swimming)
1988 Wayne McCullough (Boxing)
1984 Gerry Mullins (Equestrianism)
1980 Ken Ryan (Team manager)
1976 Frank Moore (Rowing)
1972 Ronnie McMahon (Equestrianism)
1968 Jim McCourt (Boxing)
1964 John Lawlor (Athletics)
1960 Ron Delany (Athletics)
1956 Tony Byrne (Boxing)
1956 Kevin Barry (Equestrianism)
1952 Paddy Carroll (Team Official)
1948 Paddy Carroll (Team Official)
1932 Pat O’Callaghan (Athletics)
1928 Matt Flanagan (Boxing)
1924 John O’Grady (Athletics)