The arse-kicking history of Irish Superstars

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March 17, 2013

The pioneers: Danno O'Mahony & Steve "Crusher" Casey

Ever wonder why an Irish Whip is called an Irish Whip? Look to Danno O’Mahony, the fighting pride of Ballydehob in Ireland’s County Cork who used the maneuver to win multiple major titles in the 1930s.

Advertised as the strongest man on Earth when he was introduced to American wrestling fans by promoter Paul Bowser in ’34, O’Mahony had previously served in the Irish National Army where his muscle made him a local legend. As an Irish gentleman, Danno became a hero to the immigrant populations of cities like New York and Boston — just as Bowser had intended — and defeated stars of the era like Man Mountain Dean and Ed “Strangler” Lewis in front of record crowds.

O’Mahony’s career peaked on June 27, 1935, when he beat the great Jim Londos in front of more than 25,000 fans in Fenway Park to win the NWA World Heavyweight Title. Amazingly, O’Mahony continued to perform in front of packed houses even as most Americans suffered financial strife from The Great Depression.

When O’Mahony’s popularity dipped as the 1930s drew on, a new Irish hero was introduced by Bowser. Hailing from County Kerry on the southwest tip of Ireland, Steve “Crusher” Casey was one of the seven sons of a bare-knuckle boxer. The rowdy family — each champions in rowing, wrestling and even tug-of-war — proudly claimed to be the toughest clan on the planet.

A far more skilled grappler than O’Mahony, “Crusher” won the same NWA World Title as his fellow countryman when he beat Lou Thesz — widely considered to be the best pro wrestler ever — in Boston on Feb. 11, 1938. Casey’s legend grew from there as he became a world-class boxer seemingly overnight and once grappled with a wrestler named The Shadow for nearly three hours before both men collapsed in the ring, resulting in a draw.

With his “Killarney Flip” routinely guaranteeing him victory, Casey received a hero’s welcome whenever he returned to the old country — as he did on Sept. 18, 1938, when he bested none other than Danno O’Mahony in Dublin. In a testament to the popularity of both men, life-size statues of O'Mahony and Casey were erected in their respective hometowns after they passed and their legends still loom large in Ireland as two of the nation’s great sportsmen.

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