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Dublin: -1°C Thursday 15 April 2021

The Magnificent Seven: sporting families

As Alan and Bernard Brogan prepare to help Dublin challenge for a sixth Leinster SFC title in seven years, we look back at some of sport’s greatest families.

Venus and Serena Williams celebrate victory in the Women's Doubles at the 2010 Australian Open.
Venus and Serena Williams celebrate victory in the Women's Doubles at the 2010 Australian Open.
Image: Mark Baker/AP/Press Association Images

1. The Brogans

A few weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to catch up with Dublin superstar Bernard Brogan for a quick chat on all things football.

In the course of the conversation, we jokingly asked him if he boasts at the dinner-table about being the only member of the Brogan dynasty to win the prestigious Footballer of the Year award.

“No,” came back the response, as quick as lightning. “It’s all about winning an All-Ireland in our house. My dad has won three with Dublin.”

Back when Bernard and brothers Alan and Paul were just a twinkle in Bernard Senior’s eye, “Daddy” was a marauding midfielder for the great Dublin sides of the 70s, winning All-Ireland medals in 1974, 1976 and 1977.

One of his finest moments in a blue jersey came against Kerry in the 1977 All-Ireland Semi-Final, a game which is widely regarded as one of the greatest ever. It was Brogan who added the powerful finishing touch to that goal, a stunning pitch-length move which left Kerry reeling.

Of course, neither party need reminding that this was the last time that Dublin beat Kerry in the Championship – but that’s a different story for a different day …

2. The Mannings

With 11 Pro-Bowl selections and one Superbowl ring to his name, Peyton Manning has certainly earned his place in the pantheon of American Football’s all-time greatest quarterbacks.

But, as #18 will be quick to tell you, it’s all in the family.

After an impressive college career at Ole Miss, dad Archie was the second overall pick by the New Orleans Saints in the 1971 Draft, enduring dismal season after dismal season with the franchise until 1982.

Though the Saints didn’t have a single winning season during Manning’s time there (a .500 record in 1979 was the best they managed), the quarterback still shone, leading the league in pass completions in 1972 and winning Pro-Bowl nominations of his own in 1978 and 1979.

Peyton’s younger bro, Eli, appears to have gotten a healthy dose of the quarterbacking gene as well. Eli’s not quite in the same league as the elder Manning, but he’s still a Superbowl-winning franchise quarterback with the New York Giants.

And he also threw this outrageous pass in the dying minutes of a Superbowl so, frankly, he’s got more than enough ammo to bash his brother with.

3. The Charltons

The history of football is littered with plenty of examples of brothers who turned out for the same side – some of whom are more notable than others.

Only two sets of siblings have lifted the Jules Rimet trophy, however. One was the West German partnership of Fritz and Ottmar Walter in 1954. The other? Well, that was Bobby and Jack, wasn’t it?

England’s World Cup success was also a huge personal triumph for the Charlton family. By that time, Bobby, one of the country’s best ever players with 49 international goals in 106 games, had served for eight years, making his debut shortly after the Munich air disaster in 1958.

By comparison, older brother Jack was a blow-in who had only got the international nod from Alf Ramsey at the age of 29, little more than a year before the World Cup.

As those stats would suggest, Bobby was the more celebrated footballer, rightly revered as one of the most gifted players of his generation, while it was the managerial achievements of the elder Charlton which earned him legendary status – on these shores at least.

Combine both CVs, however, and you have one awesome footballing family. “Uncle Jackie” Milburn would’ve been proud …

4. The Williamses

They’re not everybody’s cup of tea, but no family has come close to dominating tennis for such a sustained period as the Williams sisters.

Since 1999, the pair have won 20 Grand Slam singles titles between them as well as 12 Grand Slam doubles tournaments playing together. And that’s before we even begin to consider the Olympic gold medals and the host of other ATP titles they have picked up along the way.

Under the tutelage of their father Richard, Venus and Serena were well on the road to superstardom while still in their teenage years. Serena, the younger of the two by 15 months, was only 17 when she won the family’s first Grand Slam at the 1999 US Open. Venus would get off the Grand Slam mark at Wimbledon the following summer, just a few weeks after her 20th birthday.

And once they had started to win, there was no stopping them.

Such was the talent of both sisters that when they met in Grand Slam finals, it was almost akin to the irresistible object meeting the immovable force. Serena appears to have her big sister’s number though, winning six of their eight head-to-head finals.

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There is such a thing as Williams overload, for sure, but there’s no doubting that they bring out the best in each other …

5. The Wallaces

As far as rugby is concerned, the Wallace brothers – Richard, Paul and David – don’t owe their country a jot. There haven’t been too many Irish panels over the past 20 years that didn’t contain at least one member of Munster’s finest rugby-playing family.

As the eldest of the three, Richard was the one to pave the way, making his debut on the wing against Namibia in 1991, the first of 29 international appearances at a time when Ireland was only awakening to the possibilities of the professional era.

In the latter stages of his career, he was joined at both club (Saracens) and country by Paul, four years his junior and a regular fixture in the Irish front row from 1995 onwards.

Then it was the turn of David, the most fortunate of the three in that his playing days coincided with a golden era for Irish rugby. By the time the World Cup rolls around this autumn, he will be a sprightly 35, though he still possesses the ability to change a game with explosive running from the back row.

More impressive, perhaps, than their dedicated national service is the fact that all three brothers have been honoured with a place on the British and Irish Lions tour – Richard in 1993, Paul in 1997, and David in 2009.

Not bad going for one family.

6. The Roches

“Daddy” is the only Irishman ever to win the Tour de France. “Son” is the most successful Irish cyclist of his generation.

(And, for the sake of completion, it’s worth noting that “Cousin” Dan Martin is doing quite well for himself too.)

Professional cycling might not have the highest profile in Ireland, but nonetheless, it is impossible to discuss the sport in this country without reference to the Roches.

Alongside Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche was one of the most successful Irish athletes of the 1980s. After a devastating knee injury in 1986 threatened to ruin a promising career, Roche bounced back the following year, becoming only the second man after the legendary Eddy Merckx to win cycling’s Triple Crown (Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and the World Championship).

Of all his many achievements in the saddle, Roche’s superhuman climb to La Plange during the latter stages of the 1987 Tour, reeling in Pedro Delgado, is the most impressive. Here was a man who, desperate to win, pushed himself to the point of collapse in pursuit of victory.

Though Nicolas is yet to emulate his father’s achievements on the international stage, he is still Ireland’s brightest hope. A two-time Irish champion and current leader of the A2gr-Mondiale team, a stage win or a top ten finish overall in this year’s Tour would certainly reinforce his position as the poster boy for a new generation of Irish riders.

7. The Ó Sés

It’s nearly impossible to assess the importance of the Ó Sé dynasty to Kerry football over the years.

Let’s start with uncle Páidí. Not content with winning eight – eight – All-Ireland medals with the legendary Kerry teams of the 1970s and 1980s, he decided to further add to the Kingdom’s burgeoning trophy cabinet during his time as manager, guiding the county to further national glory in 1997 and 2000.

Páidí may have stepped back slightly from the frontlines of inter-county football in recent years, but his three nephews have proven themselves to be every bit as instrumental as Kerry continue to dine at the top table.

Eldest brother Darragh had such a monumental impact on the county during his 17 years with the senior panel that, since his retirement last year, dates in the Kingdom have often been annotated with the letters AD – After Darragh.

Tomás, four years Darragh’s junior, joined his brother in the senior set-up in 1998, making the wing-back berth his own over the course of a hugely successful career.

And then there is Marc, the youngest of the three at 31 years of age, but no less successful or revered than his older siblings.

Together, the brothers Ó Sé have won a combined total of 15 All-Ireland medals, 19 Munster titles and 11 All-Star nominations. Anybody who dares argue with their place on this list might well find themselves on the receiving end of one of “Uncle Páidí’s” trademark slaps …

Read more of The Magnificent Seven series here >

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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