Famous Sporting Families, near and far

The appearance of the Williams’ sisters, Venus and Serena, in today’s Singles Women’s Title match at Wimbledon got me thinking about successful sporting families. The feeling of seeing one child reach the pinnacle of a sporting discipline must be a wonderful emotion in its own right, but to witness two- or more- children scale the heights of sporting greatness is surely a feeling which few parents will have the pleasure of experiencing. Some will argue over whether ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’ plays a more important role in developing sporting prowess, and the many examples of children following their parents into a successful sporting career suggests an element of both (of course, it must help to have as a parent an expert coach for life in any sporting discipline, never mind what is naturally inherited.)On an international level, a number of sporting families spring to mind. The Manning brothers, Eli and Peyton, have both experienced the joy of leading their respective teams to Super Bowl glory whilst occupying the pivotal position of Quarterbacks; the Laudrup, Toure, Neville, Ferdinand and Charlton brothers are just some siblings who reached the top level in football, whilst the Schumacher brothers in motor racing and the Curry and Spinks brothers in boxing all reached the highest stage.
Locally, there’s the Kyles, with Jack regarded by consensus as being the greatest Irish rugby player ever and his sister, Maeve, representing Ireland at the 1956 Olympics in both the 100m and 200m sprints; In gaelic games, the O’Se brothers in Kerry, Bradley brothers in Derry and Cavanagh brothers in Tyrone are but three examples of sporting brothers at the top of their game, whilst the Humphreys, David and Ian, have both represented Ulster in rugby. Then there are, of course, the Blanchflower brothers, Danny and Jackie, and in more modern times the Hunts, Noel and Stephen, carrying the flag for successful Irish soccer siblings, though the place of Joe and Willie Sherrard in Irish footballing folklore is secured as the first brothers to score on international duty for Ireland.
In terms of children following in the footsteps of their successful sporting parents, there’s Muhammed Ali and daughter Laila, Roy Jones Senior and Junior, the Wright-Phillips boys and many more. Fans of college football in the States will instantly recognise the name of Joe Paterno, the legendary coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions for more than 40 years. I can recall an interview with JoePa in which he stated that in his time he’d coached more than 20 sets of fathers and sons in his team.
Those are just some examples, and whilst researching this topic on the web I came across these informative sites which may interest readers (boxing families and sporting brothers.) Feel free to add any more below, particularly on the local scene.
I’ll part with one final reference to a strong GAA family, the Armstrongs. Antrim Gaels will instantly recognise the name of Kevin Armstrong, the county’s famed duel star and recipient of an All-Time All-Star Award. Armstrong played in the famous 1943 All-Ireland Hurling final for Antrim, as well as being a member of the last county side to win the Ulster Senior Football Championship in 1951. His son, Donal, succeeded in following in his father’s footsteps and represented the county at both codes at senior level, playing in the 1989 All-Ireland Hurling final.
Saffron gaels will know that one of the most promising prospects in the county today is one Michael Armstrong, son of Donal and grandson of Kevin. It’ll come as no surprise that the third generation of Armstrongs in Antrim has excelled at both codes, and was one of the main reasons why St. Mary’s CBGS were able to return to Macrory Cup competition this year and reach the semi-final stages, having scored the only goal in the school’s MacLarnon Cup triumph the year before. The triumphant team coach on that occasion? Yes, you’ve guessed it, his father Donal.

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