Martin Sheridan was actually born and brought up in County Mayo, Ireland. The USA was very quick – and sensible – to claim him as one of their own, soon after he stepped upon their shores! Sheridan was born in Bohola, County Mayo in 1881. He stayed in Ireland until he was 18. Then he followed his older brother, Richard, to New York. There Martin Sheridan became a physical trainer and then a policeman.
Martin Sheridan was 6’3″ and 194 lbs, a fair old size at the beginning of the twentieth century. He was also extremely strong and athletically talented. He specialised in throwing and jumping, competitively. Over the course of his competitive life he won 12 US Championships and over 30 Canadian titles. Those were the national titles…Sheridan won 5 gold Olympic medals over the course of 3 Olympics: 1904 in St Louis, Missouri; 1906 in Athens and 1908 in London for discus and shot put. He won two silver medals for the Standing High Jump and Standing Long Jump. The man was virtually unbeatable over a 14 year period, during which he established 16 world records.
Sheridan had by this time officially become American but, understandably, Ireland has always laid claim to him too. They quickly gave him the accolade of having won more Olympic medals than any other Irish athlete. When he returned to Ireland after the 1908 London Olympics, he imagined he would ‘slip into’ Ireland quietly to see his family. Instead, as his train drew into Swinford Station, people thronged the platforms and the town’s band played ‘See the Conquering Hero Comes’.
Sheridan returned to New York and policing after his athletics career. He was always held in huge esteem. He saved four children and their parents from certain death in a burning building. He also was the New York Governor’s personal bodyguard whenever the governor was in town. Sadly, strong and mighty as he was, Martin Sheridan’s life was cut short by the 1918 flu epidemic. He was one of its earliest casualties in 1918.