Homeward bound to Ballydehob, Co. Cork, came the world wrestling champion
Ballydehob, Co. Cork, is a peaceful small town as the Atlantic Ocean ripples out westwards to the shores of America and one native athlete from the decade of the 1930’s became World Wrestling Champion, thus ensuring that Ballydehob is firmly landmarked, as the native heath of Danno O’Mahony.
On 30th July 1935 at Boston, the mighty Danno O’Mahony of Ballydehob, faced up to 1931 World Champion, Ed Don George. The bout attracted worldwide focus as Danno had claimed 49 consecutive wins under the guidance of promoter, Paul Browser. In a rough and tumble riot with Dick Shikat in the lead up to a fight with top contendor, Jim Londos, promoters were seeking a unification bout. Victory over Londos gave Danno the New York State Athletic Commission World Heavyweight Championship, as a stepping stone to a world title bout.
Standing in the opposite corner for that famous 1935 world title bout was Ed Don George. The early signals from the Ballydehob mans corner were spelling disaster, as Danno was overpowered and thrown out of the ring by his confident opponent. Undaunted the Irishman made a re-entry to the ring surprising George, who himself was already celebrating a famous victory. In one mighty swoop a new World Champion from Ballydehob was crowned, when Danno put George out of the ring and flat on his back. George, believing he had already claimed the title stayed down as the referee, World Boxing Champion, Jim Braddock, counted to 20 and declared Danno O’Mahony of Ballydehob, Co. Cork, the new ,World Champion.
Growing up in a remote farm, wrestling was not in Danno’s future plans, but entry to the Irish Army, along with his sibling Flor in 1933, paved a glorious sporting journey that brought wealth and fame. The family consisted of seven boys and one girl and Danno, gifted with immense physique and strength, set new Irish Army records at the hammer throwing event.
Jack McGrath, an Irish wrestling agent, became impressed with Danno’s national sporting achievements and sought approval from the Curragh base to buy Danno out of the Army. The Irish Army also facilitated Danno with great introductions to boxing and wrestling and challengers for Danno were non existant in both rings. The journey to professional wrestling ranks began in London and in his maiden bout, he challenged Edward Lewis, a fighter who claimed four world titles prior to taking on Danno O’Mahony.
The Ballydehob wrestler earned a respected draw against his feared opponent and proceeded to claim victory over his next two opponents. The next stage was America. In the United States he developed his ‘Irish Whip’ style. Next up was a series of elimination bouts versus Ernie Dusak; Rudy Dusek; and a queue of other major contenders. The pinnacle of Danno’s career soon confronted him and the ambitions of the Irishman who discovered him in the Irish Army, Jack McGrath, were about to become a reality for the sporting hero from Ballydehob, deep in West Cork.
After presentation with the glittering world belt proclaiming Danno as World Champion, his defeated opponent believed the referee had acted too swiftly and referee, Jim Braddock, was now the subject of great abuse and attack. The new champion was just 22 years old and only two years into a professional wrestling career.
News of Danno’s famous American win soon reached the night skies of Ballydehob on that date set in ink — 30th July 1935. On arrival back to the Emerald Isle on a liner from Boston, All Ireland wanted a piece of Danno O’Mahony, but it was in his native heath that the champion was most celebrated.
Meanwhile across the county bounds in Sneem, on the Ring of Kerry, another wrestler was making great noise and despite Danno’s enthusiasm to do battle, the great Kerryman claimed victory in four bouts. With the demise of Danno’s career, he settled into life in California and ran a local pub in Santa Monica with his wife, Esther, and their four young children.
In a traumatic and tragic motor accident whilst holidaying at home in Ballydehob, on a return trip from Dublin, Danno sped in to a parked up unlighted lorry and died a few days later from his injuries at Portlaoise General Hospital.
The incorporation of Irish sports legend, Danno O’Mahony, in The All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery,as a Famous Sporting Son of Ireland, will preserve and promote the outstanding and legendary contributions of our illustrious Irish forebears.
Editorial by Derry JF Doody