• irishfamilydetective

THE IRISH WHIP - DANNO O'MAHONEY

Updated: Sep 26, 2019


Danno O'Mahoney, 'The Whip'

Introduction

Danno O'Mahoney became one of the most famous Irish sportsmen in the world, when in the July 1935, he dethroned Ed Don George to become unified World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion at Braves Field Baseball Park, Boston.

Danno was one of eight children born to Daniel and Susan (nee O'Driscoll). He arrived into the world on 27 September 1912 in Dereenlomane, Ballydehob, West Cork and was reared along with his six brothers and one sister on the family farm. Like many young Irish boys and girls he left school aged thirteen and worked on the farm.

Figure 1: Birth Registration of Daniel O'Mahony, 27 September 1912.

His physical prowess was apparent as a teenager. Michael MacCarthy recalled in a story told on the 10 March 1938, that Danno, aged eighteen, ‘laid out a bull by kicking him in the jaw’.[1]

Figure 2: Duchas Folkore story by Michael MacCarthy[2]

Two years later, when aged twenty, he won the 56lb throwing completion at the Cork County Championship held in Macroom on the 23 July 1933 and his brother Flor came second.[2]

Figure 3: Results of the 56lb Throwing Championships.

Danno – from soldier to pro wrestler

Following their mother Susan’s death in 1933, Danno and Flor joined the Irish Army, where once again they were prolific in their sporting endeavours. Six months into his army career, Danno was discovered by wrestling promoter Jack McGrath. He was signed by McGrath and travelled across the Irish Sea to London where following some training, he had a number of minor bouts.[3] On the 8 December 1934, Danno sailed on the S.S. Bremen from Southampton, arriving six days later in New York. According to the passenger list, his passage was paid by 'Mr. J.C. McGrath, 17 Blanche St., Worcester'.

Figure 4: Passenger List of SS Bremen, December 1934.

A few weeks later, a new year emerged, and 1935 was to become a pivotal year in Danno’s life. On the 2 January 1935, he signed a five year, pro-Wrestling contract rumoured to be worth $100,000 with Paul Bowser.[4] Two days later, Danno made his wrestling debut in Boston Gardens against Ernie Dusek.[5] The audience were treated to a spectacular evening, when Danno showed he was a ‘fine broth of a boy’. He flattened Dusek twice when ‘using a distinctive hold, the Irish Whip’ the card ended in a ‘Wild Jam’ when Danno hit cops and Dusek’s brother Rudy.[6]

Figure 5: Headlines following Danno's first bout.

Danno – World Champion

Following Danno’s first win in America, he continued to raise his profile in the wrestling world. In June 1935 he defeated Jim Londos to become the NYSAC World Heavyweight Champion. A month later the scene was set for one of the biggest bout’s in Danno’s wrestling career. On the 30 July 1935, Danno O’Mahoney, with 62 victories in the previous seven months, was scheduled to fight Ed Don George at Braves Field, Boston ‘on a winner-take-all basis in a match’ that would unify the heavyweight wrestling crown.[7] 45,000 fans witnessed Danno ‘tossing Ed George out of the ring after an hour and 30 minutes of earnest grappling.’[8]

Figure 6: Ed George congratulates O'Mahoney after their match [9]

Triumphant return to Ireland

Danno, his manager Jack McGrath and his wife Esther, returned to Ireland in July 1936. Upon his arrival in Cobh, he was welcomed by thousands of admirers. From there, he travelled to his home town of Ballydehob, where 'about a mile from his home he was met by a large crowd and by 30 men on horseback'.[10]

Figure 7: Pathe video of Danno O'Mahoney's return to Ireland, 1936.

Retirement and Legacy

Danno returned to America in 1936 and continued wrestling for a number of years. However, it was a fellow Irishman that finally put an end to his career. Steve Casey from Sneem, Co. Kerry emerged the victor on five occasions and in 1941, Danno finally retired, moving to Santa Monica and opening a pub named O'Mahoney's Irish Whip. Danno frequently returned to Ireland and in 1950, his return to Ireland became permanent.

Figure 8: Passenger List for the M.V, Britannic.

Danno O'Mahoney left 2029 Main Street, Santa Monica, California and boarded the M.V. Britannic setting sail from New York on the 21 September 1950, destination Cobh, Ireland. Tragedy struck six weeks later when on the night of 2 November 1950, Danno was involved in an automobile accident in Portlaoise, County Laois. He was brought to the County Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries on the 3 November. He had broken both legs, fractured ribs and suffered internal injuries.

Figure 9: Coroner's inquest to the accident that claimed Danno O'Mahoney's life. [11]

His funeral was held in Ballydehob on the 6 November and he was buried in Cosheen Cemetery, Schull. Danno was just thirty-eight years old. On 31 August 2001, a life size statue of Danno was unveiled in Ballydehob by one of Ireland's greatest bowlers, Mick Barry. His words at the unveiling serve as a reminder of the enormity of the inspiration that Danno conveyed. Mick Barry 'and his brothers would often rise early to listen to the wireless to get the result of Danno’s performances in the ring and his continuous run of victories was an incentive to any aspiring young sportsmen to scale the heights of success.'[12]

Figure 10: Danno O'Mahoney's bronze statue, Ballydehob, West Cork

[1] https://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4921584/4882005/5119977Cork Examiner, 24 July 1933

[2] Cork Examiner, 24 July 1933

[3] Tom Dooley, ‘The Royal Munster Fusiliers’ in History Ireland, vol.6, no. 1 (Spring, 1998), p. 36.

[4] http://josefoshea.blogspot.com/2015/02/danno-omahony-almost-undisputed.html

[5] The Lowell Sun, 4 January 1935

[6] The Lowell Sun, 5 January 1935

[7] The Berkshire Evening Eagle, 30 July 1935

[8] The Salt Lake Tribune, 31 July 1935

[9] https://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/6323271651/in/photostream/

[10] Evening Herald, 27 July 1936

[11] Cork Examiner, 6 November 1950

[12] Southern Star, 8 September 2001

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