Famous Sporting Sons of Kiltimagh
Kiltimagh, County Mayo, Ireland
Gene Tunney, Undefeated World Heavyweight Champion
Both of Gene Tunney's parents came from Kiltimagh.
Gene's boxing career began in New York's West Side but took off while serving in the US Marine Corps during the first World War.
- He won the Light Heavyweight Championship of the American Expeditionary Forces in Paris, 1919
- In 1922 he won the US Lightweight title but, having lost it to Harry Greb, the only boxer to defeat him, regained it from Greb in 1923
- He defeated Jack Dempsey in 1926 in 10 rounds in Philadelphia and became World Champion
- World Champion again in Chicago in 1927
- He retired in 1928 after successfully defending his title against New Zealand's Tom Heeney.
Gene Tunney remains the only undefeated Heavyweight Champion in history. Tunney raised the status of boxing and afterwards became a successful business executive and freelance writer. His article on boxing 'A Man must Fight' 1922, is a classic of its genre.
Tunney is survived by his wife Polly and four sons.
Sean Lavan, Teacher, Surgeon, Footballer, Athlete 1898 - 1973
Sean Lavan won his first medal for boxing while training to be a teacher in de la Salle College Waterford in 1919. Later, while teaching in Cloongullane National School, near Swinford, he taught handball after school.
Between 1918-24 he played football for Kiltimagh and Mayo and was the first to use the 'Solo run' or 'hand to toe' technique, now an integral part of the game. When a wrist injury prevented his playing football he strayed into running. He was a natural runner and won his first competition in Castlebar, running in his bare feet. He was an instant and spectacular success and between 1924-8 won every competition in the country and established records, at least one of which, the Inter Varsity Points record, still stands. Sean represented Ireland in the 1924 Olympics in Paris, captained the 1928 team in Amsterdam and was medical officer to the 1956 team.
During all this time he was attending UCD where he won the O'Ferrall medal for surgery in 1929 and his second career took off. He went on to become Lecturer in Anatomy and later Surgeon in Temple St. Hospital and Police Surgeon. He also found time to write articles for Caman and in 1932 Sean addressed the INTO Conference when he argued for sport's potential to bring peace to this island.
Altogether, Sean Lavan earned over 120 medals which were exhibited in Kiltimagh in 1997. His life and career reflects his extraordinary natural ability and apparently effortless mastery of many diverse areas.
Sean Lavan died in 1973 and is survived by his son and two daughters.