50th Annivarsary of JJ Keane's death

March 30, 2006

Born: JJ Keane, Angleboro, Co. Limerick, 14 April 1871

Died: Portobello Nursing Home, South Richmond Street, Dublin
Easter Sunday 1 April 1956

Buried: Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin 4th April 1956 (Grave Number DG69)

Olympic Membership
JJ Keane was elected to Membership for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on the proposal of the President of the IOC, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. As a result, JJ Keane became the first Member for Ireland of the International Olympic Committee and the IOC’s 112th Member. The date of JJ Keane’s election to the IOC was the 8 June 1922 and the place and occasion the 20th Session of the IOC, Paris 7 – 10th June 1922.

Olympic Council of Ireland
The Olympic Council of Ireland, then known as the Irish Olympic Council, came into existence sometime in late April, early May 1923. As no documentation is now available the exact date is unknown. What is known is that JJ Keane was its founder and first President and Andrew C. Harty its first Hon. Secretary. Keane remained as OCI President until 10 October 1931 when he was succeeded by General Eoin Duffy. Andy Harty died suddenly of a heart attach on 23 Aug 1926 and was succeeded by Patrick Glennon as acting Hon. Secretary for a year. Capt. John F. Chisholm succeeded him on a permanent basis in 1927.

JJ Keane continues as the Member for Ireland on the International Olympic Committee until 1951. JJ Keane was succeeded by Lord Killanin as the IOCs 227th Member. JJ Keane attended every Olympic Games from 1920 to 1948 i.e. Antwerp 1920, Paris 1924, Amsterdam 1928, Los Angeles 1932, Berlin 1936 and London 1948. He attended the 1920 Antwerp Games in personal capacity but as an IOC Member he attended the Paris, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Berlin and London Games and all the various meetings associated with these Olympic Games. At the Paris, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Berlin Games he also attended the International Amateur Athletic Federation’s meetings as the Irish representative to the IAAAF. His final attendance at the IAAF meetings during the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936 was in a personal capacity. His last Olympic Games attended as an IOC Member was in London in July/August 1948.

JJ Keane resigned by letter from the Olympic Council of Ireland on 27 March 1939 – the Olympic Organisation he had founded in 1923 and of which he was the first and founding President.

In 1922 JJ Keane founded the National Athletic & Cycling Association of Ireland (NACAI). This took place at the end of June 1922. No exact date is available but the other athletics body, the Irish Amateur Athletic Association, went out of existence on the 27 June 1922 and had come to an agreement with JJ Keane, at the time, President of the Athletic Council of the GAA, to merge with the Athletic Council of the GAA and form a new all Ireland athletics body to be called the NACAI. JJ Keane and Dr. RJ Rowlette the former President of the IAAA, now became the Vice-President of this new controlling body for athletics and cycling throughout Ireland. The NACAI was admitted to membership of the IAAD as the official member for Ireland in early 1924 and JJ Keane became Ireland’s representative of the IAAF Council. The NACAI remained as a member of the IAAF until 1935 when against the strong and public advice of JJ Keane and others, the NACAI voted to refuse to accept a rule change regarding the jurisdiction of members of the IAAF. This meant the end of JJ Keane’s official involvement in international athletics. At though he remained in contact with the President of the IAAF J. Sigfrid Edstrom of Sweden, a future President of the International Olympic Committee and an IOC Member alongside JJ Keane at this time.

THE TAILTEANN GAMES OF 1924, 1928 & 1932
In 1922 JJ Keane was appointed to the Executive Board of Aonach Tailteann (The Tailteann Festival). From this Executive he was appointed as Director of athletics for the upcoming Games. The athletics Section, as indeed the entire Aonach Tailteann, were highly successful. At the 1928 Games, Keane again organised and administered the Athletics Section and again this section was even more successful then in 1924.

In 1931 JJ Keane was appointed by the Irish Government as the Director of the entire Aonach Tailteann. Aonach Tailteann was, from the beginning, an Irish Government and State sponsored and financed enterprise. The Games of 1924 and 1928 were directed by a Government Cabinet Minister, JJ Walsh, Minister for Posts & Telegraphs and for a sports official to be put in charge of the entire Tailteann Games was a considerable distinction. Unfortunately, the Games were not successful due to a number of circumstances outside of JJ Keane’s control. At the same time Ireland’s participation at the Los Angeles Olympic Games were highly successful and at the IAAF and IOC meetings, held during the Los Angeles Games, JJ Keane’s contacts and friendships built up over ten years of international sporting activity both at Olympic and IAAF meetings. Keane was able to keep Ireland recognised as an All Ireland entity thereby maintaining the position for Ireland that he had achieved for both the Olympic Counicl of Ireland and the NACAI in 1922 and 1923.

Due to internal conflicts in both OCI and the NACAI, JJ Keane’s direct involvement in Irish Olympic and Athletic affaires ended in the mid 1930’s. BY 1935 Ireland’s Olympic and Athletic affairs at international level changes radically effecting the country’s sporting status and position with serious sporting consequences and disadvantages, domestically and internationally for Irish Athletics and participation in the Olympic Games for 1936 in Berlin and London in 1948. JJ Keane was however to retain his membership of the IOC up to 1951. A membership that was not in the gift of any domestic sporting body in Ireland. In his role of International Olympic Committee Member for Ireland, he attended the Olympic Games of 1948 in London and attended its meetings and functions during the Games. He retired as an IOC member in 1951 as was reported due to ill heath. In the year of his IOC retirement JJ Keane was eighty years of age and had been involved in Olympic Affairs for 31 years and Irish Sports for more than sixty years.

In his youth JJ Keane was an outstanding footballer and National Athletics Champion.

1898 He won the All Ireland Senior Football Championship with the Geraldine’s GFC representing Dublin. JJ Keane and two others, Matt Rea and Dan O’Callaghan had founded the Geraldine’s GFC in 1896.

1899 Again won the All Ireland Senior Football Championships with the Geraldine’s GFC representing DublinThe 1898 All Ireland Football Final was played in Tipperary Town in Feb 1900 against Waterford represented by Erin’s Hope. Result: Dublin 2-6 Waterford 0-2.The 1899 All Ireland Final was played in April 1901 at Jones’ Road now Croke park, against Cork represented by Fermoy.Result: Dublin 1-10 Cork 0-6.

1900 In 1900 JJ Keane won the GAA Irish 120 yds Hurdles Championship. The place of this Championships race is not known as the 120 yds Hurdles Championships was “farmed out” to a sports meeting somewhere around the country. No central Irish GAA Championships were held in 1900 due to the ill heath of the Secretary of the GAA, Frank Dinneen.

John James Keane was one of the most significant sporting administrators of the first half of the 20th Century and also one of Ireland’s outstanding athletes and Gaelic footballers. His achievements such as his founding the Olympic Council of Ireland and the National Athletic and Cycling Association of Ireland, must be seen and recognised as memorial to him. Together with these two achievements must be added his outstanding success in organising the Athletics Section of both the 1924 and 1928 Tailteann Games and his Membership for the International Committee as the Member for Ireland. Anyone of these achievements should have made his name well known throughout sporting Ireland. To achieve not one but five highly significant contributions should have made his name a household name. Sadly, to all intents and purposes, the name of JJ Keane is hardly known, even in sporting circles today. As the 50th Anniversary of his death occurs on Saturday 1 April 2006 his life and achievements should be remembered in some tangible way.

Cyril White
20 March 2006

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