Tom Brady – Tracton Athletics Legend
One of the founder members of Tracton AC and one of the country’s best known athletics administrators, Tom Brady, was presented with the inaugural Hall of Fame award by Club Chairperson, Breda Good O’Donovan at the Tracton Athletic Club social in Roberts Cove last month. This was indeed a fitting tribute to a man who has done more than most to foster a love of athletics, in Tracton and indeed further afield.
Tom Brady was born in Knocknamanagh in 1928. He is the younger of the two sons of Elizabeth and William Brady and received his education at Knocknamanagh Old School. After leaving school at the age of 12, Tom moved the short distance to Boardee to work on the farm owned by his three maiden aunts. This was a very different Ireland to the one in which we live today. Many rural houses had no running water and the rural electrification scheme was still a few years off. People grew or raised most of their own food, gathered their own fuel and worked hard throughout the year to the rhythm of the seasons. But there was still time for leisure pursuits and for many the local GAA club provided both a great outlet and a source of great entertainment.
Tom and his older brother Billy were always keen sportsmen. Tom was active as a hurler from 1943 to 1971. He first played minor hurling with Carrigaline in 1943 before moving to Tracton in 1946. He was a member of the 1950 Tracton team, which won the South East Final and the 1957 team, which won the County Junior Final. He was a regular on the Carrigdhoun Divisional side from 1949 to 1962 and he also played football for Carrigdhoun. But his first love was athletics.
Tom first became involved in athletics at the encouragement of Jack Barry of Ballymartle. He joined Rising Sun A.C in 1949 and won his first county championship in the high jump in Donoughmore in 1951. At the end of 1953 he was one of the founder members of the Tracton Athletic and Cycling Club, which was established at a public meeting held at the old Knocknamagh School. The inaugural officers were: President – David Blaney Barry, Chairman – Walter Ashcroft, Vice Chairman – James O’Reilly, Secretary – Tom Brady, Treasurer – Batty Neill, Assistant Treasurer – Sean Ryan, Committee: Sean Cotter, Sean O’Neill, Donal Ashcroft, William O’Neill, John Castleton, James O’Flynn, Timothy O’Flynn, Timothy Lynch, Daniel Murphy, Donal Dempsey, Brendan Barry and Tadhg O’Callaghan.
Before the club was formed the area had produced many noted athletes down through the years, including Johnny Prendergast and Johnny Brien from Fountainstown, cyclists Austin Kiely and David V. Barry. The first Tracton athlete to wear the red and green jersey was Tom’s brother Bill Brady, who competed in a cross-country event in October 1953. Competing now for Tracton AC, Tom had many successes in the high and triple jump, but it was in the 56lb throwing event that Tom specialised. He won his first County title in 1956 and he had wins in Blarney and Skibbereen in the same year and actually won his last County title in 1985, an incredible 29 years after winning his first. However, it was back in 1967 that he had his greatest achievement at an event in Dublin, when he finished second to Gerry O’Connell of Crusheen with a throw of 26 feet 10 inches. Gerry O’Connell later broke the national record for the 56lbs distance.
Having competed under the shadow of the great weight throwers of that era such as Donal Prenderville, Tom Moran and Tom Jones, Tom never won an Irish title until he competed in the Veteran Series. His last win was in 1982 in Belfield, with a throw of 7 metres 10, defeating T.K. Dwyer of Thurles at the age of 54.
As well as competing for Tracton AC, Tom became a keen administrator at local and national level. He served as Chairman of the Cork County Board for seven years, he was President of the Munster Council for five years and served as Secretary for twelve years. He was also Vice President of the National Association for a number of years. On the more local level Tom served as Chairman of the Community Hall Committee and was on the committee to restore St. Patrick’s Church in Nohoval.
As well as being a hardworking and enthusiastic community worker, Tom was also a busy family man. He married Mary Saunders from Carrigaline in 1960 and the couple went on to have eight children; Billy, Betsy, Catherine, Tom, Jerry, Mary, David and Ellen. All of the Brady children were involved in sport, especially track and field and his daughter Mary’s memories are that every weekend her father would fill his Chrysler estate with up to ten children and drive all over the country to various events. As the years passed, many of Tom’s grandchildren joined Tracton AC and as the club enters its seventh decade in existence, his great grandchildren, are now the fourth generation of Bradys to become members of the club.
Since reaching his mid eighties Tom as taken a step back from his involvement in the club but remains one of the honorary Presidents. Up to four or five years ago Tom used to act as MC for many local events, including the Tracton Annual Sport, so people throughout the area will be very familiar with his voice!
Still a huge sports enthusiast, Tom had the pleasure of attending Riverstick Sports last year and watched his two great grandsons win medals. With many family members living nearby and extremely good neighbours, the Bradys are enjoying a well deserved retirement and I am sure that Carrigdhoun readers will join us in wishing them only the very best for the future.
Thank You to Mary Egan for her assistance in curating this piece.