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It's A Family Affair: Six Of Our Favourite Sporting Families

It's A Family Affair: Six Of Our Favourite Sporting Families
By Balls Team
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The embrace between Martin McHugh and his son Mark at the end of the 2012 All-Ireland football final was the most joyous father and son embrace witnessed on a sports field. Martin was working with the state broadcaster but neutrality went out the window. Perfect way to introduce a post looking at some of the finest sporting families around.

The Williams

Like Peter Graf before him, Richard Williams had a dream of being a wealthy tennis and nothing was going to get in his way. Though, in fairness to Richard, he did at least remain tax compliant.

He decided his daughters would become tennis players. He wrote up a 78 page blueprint for how this could be achieved.

The next step, unbelievably, was to conceive these daughters. Incredibly, the idea came to him before Venus, the elder one, was born.

They were pushing five years of age when he took them down to the public tennis courts. In the style of the classic cliche'd tennis dad, he had a zero tolerance policy on boyfriends. Absolutely not allowed.

A New Yorker profile of the man wrote that he used to rip the heads off Venus' dolls 'in order to discourage impulses towards motherhood'.

Over thirty years later, the sisters have won 31 Grand Slam titles, Venus accumulating nine in the noughties, with Serena racking up 22 over the past 15 years (with more, presumably, to come).




The Walshs

A family steeped in National Hunt racing. Father Ted is better known to the young as a trainer and a pundit but the longer in the tooth may recall him as a leading Irish amateur jockey in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He won the Champion Chase at Cheltenham in 1979.


As a trainer, he teamed up with his world class jockey son to win the 2000 Grand National with Papillon. Ruby had only recently turned professional when he rode Ted's horse to victory at Aintree. By 2004, he established himself as the leading jockey at the Cheltenham festival. Since then, he's earned the tag every year, barring three, in 2005, 2007 and 2012.

And there's Katie. Last year, she won the Irish Grand National aboard Thunder and Roses.




The O'Sés

The first family of Gaelic football and there can be no argument on that. The statistics are startling.

Until Colm Cooper passed the 80-championship games threshold a year ago, only three men had played 80+ games in the championship and they all had the same surname.


Tomás O'Sé played 88 championship games, Darragh racked up 81. Marc made his 80th appearance in the 2014 All-Ireland final, since when he has not been guaranteed a place. Indeed, the 2015 All-Ireland final marked the first time since 1972 that Kerry started a final without an O'Sé in the lineup.

The most famous O'Sé of them all was their late uncle. Paidí is part of the gilded quintet who won eight All-Irelands in the 70s and 80s.

Between the four of them, they've won 24 All-Ireland titles, one less than Dublin, who sit second in the roll of honour.




The McHughs

Donegal's 2012 All-Ireland victory provided youtube gold in the form of Martin McHugh, on sideline duty for RTE that weekend, hugging his son Mark at the final whistle.


Mark was an instrumental figure in the 2012 win, epitomising the team's high-energy style and all-action versatility. In recent years, Ryan McHugh has become a vital figure in the Donegal setup, starring in the famous 2014 semi-final win over the Dubs, Jim Gavin's only defeat as Dublin manager. This year, he took the fight to Tyrone in a tremendous Ulster final display. It sadly went unrewarded with victory.

The elder generation of McHugh's were a vivid presence on the 1992 All-Ireland winning team. Both were busy and energetic half forwards who picked up All-Stars that year. Younger brother James was a livewire wing forward, while Martin, the '92 Footballer of the Year, held down the centre.

James's son Eoin is currently on the Donegal panel.



The O'Briens

Galway, or at least its eastern part, was something of a hotbed of Irish cricket in the late nineteenth century, before the GAA muscled in and swept it aside.

Galway was also the birthplace of Brendan 'Ginger' O'Brien, the patriarch of Ireland's most important cricketing family. Brendan himself batted for Ireland for fifteen years from the mid-60s until the early 80s.

Three of his kids represented Ireland internationally, the boys Niall and Kevin in cricket, and Ciara in hockey.

The O'Brien brothers have had central roles in Ireland's greatest World Cup victories.

While Kevin's record breaking century in the famous 2011 win against England grabbed international headlines, one shouldn't forget how Niall hit a crucial 72 against Pakistan in 2007.

Ciara amassed a whopping 156 caps for Ireland in hockey in the noughties.


The O'Learys

It's the cross-sport father and kid relationships we're especially fond of here. Seanie O'Leary and his son Tomás have both won All-Ireland hurling titles in Croke Park.

Whereas Seanie picked up four senior All-Irelands - the 70s three in a row and again in 1984 - Tomás inter-county hurling glory was restricted to captaining the Cork minors to the All-Ireland in 2001.

The lure of professional rugby drew him onto a different path. His central role in Munster's Heineken Cup win of 2008 and the 2009 Grand Slam vindicated this decision, though he fell out of favour at a national level prior to the 2011 World Cup.

His father was a squat but deadly full forward during Cork's latter-day golden era in the late 1970s.


Read more: Balls Remembers How Ulster Football Went From Whipping Boys To Conquerors In A Dramatic Period


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