The Irish Olympic Diaspora

Medals from the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

By Olivia O’Mahony, Editorial Assistant
October / November 2016

Ireland had a reasonable showing at the 2016 Summer Olympics with two silver medals, including the country’s first for rowing (see right). But what about the Irish diaspora? How did the descendants of emigrants fare in the Rio games? And what would Ireland’s team score have looked like if the diaspora competed as a country?

Here are the most obviously Irish medalists from around the world, based on surname. Team sports have been excluded.

U.S. swimmer Ryan Murphy.

U.S. swimmer Ryan Murphy.


  • Cycling

KRISTIN ARMSTRONG, U.S. From Boise, ID, she is a three-time Olympian, with golds in ‘08 and ‘12.

CONNOR FIELDS, U.S. BMX-rider Fields is originally from Plano, Texas.

JASON KENNY, U.K. Manchester-born Kenny is the joint-holder of the highest amount of gold medals won by any British athlete – six.

  • Rowing

KIM BRENNAN, Aus. Born in Melbourne, Brennan took up rowing in 2005 after a leg injury ended her professional hurdling career.

EMILY REGAN, U.S. Regan, who was born in Buffalo, New York, is a three-time gold medalist at the World Rowing Championships.

  • Swimming

CONOR DWYER, U.S. From Winnetka, IL, Dwyer came first in the 4x200m men’s freestyle relay and third in the 200m free this year.

RYAN MURPHY, U.S. Born in Chicago, Murphy swept this year’s backstroke events by earning three gold medals and breaking two world records.

TOM SHIELDS, U.S. Shields, who swims for the University of California, holds the American record in three different butterfly-stroke events.

EMMA MCKEON, Aus. McKeon, from New South Wales, won four medals in total at this year’s Olympic games: one gold, two silver, and one bronze.


  • Equestrian

MCLAIN WARD, U.S. Now 40, Ward is still the youngest person to win the USEF Show Jumping Derby and the equitation medal finals in the same year, which he did at age 14.

  • Swimming

LIA NEAL, U.S. Freestyler Neal, from New York, currently swims for Stanford University.

SIOBHAN-MARIE O’CONNOR, U.K. Bath-born O’Connor is 2016’s most decorated English athlete at the Commonwealth Games with six medals.

TAYLOR MCKEON, Aus. A native of Queensland, breaststroker McKeon also holds a gold medal from the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

  • Sailing


Harbor Yacht Club member Ryan began sailing at the age of 13 on his grandfather’s yacht.

  • Rowing

CONLIN MCCABE, Can. Born in Ontario, McCabe rowed for the University of Washington for four years, helping the Huskies win three national championships.

JENNIFER CLEARY, Aus. Cleary, from Geelong, has been rowing since 2005. Her team placed fourth at the 2014 World Rowing Championships.


  • Athletics

CLAYTON MURPHY, U.S. Specializing in distance running, Murphy ran collegiately for the university of Akron and signed as a Nike representative in June 2016.

  • Diving

MADDISON KEENEY, Aus. Keeney is studying physics at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.

  • Beach Volleyball

KERRY WALSH JENNINGS, U.S. Coming in third place this year has made California-born Walsh the most decorated beach volleyball player in the world.


11 Gold • 9 Silver • 5 Bronze

Ranked as a team, the diaspora would have placed 7th, just beating out the French, who had 10 golds.


Ireland’s Paralympic team performed better than national team did, with four gold, four silver, and three bronze medals. The gold medalists in question were runners Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop, running in the men’s 100m T13 and 1500m T37 events respectively, Eoghan Clifford, cycling in the men’s time trial C3, and Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal, cycling together in the women’s 1km time trial B. ♦

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