McWeeney, Paul Denis (1909–83), sportsman and sports journalist, was born 26 September 1909 in Dublin, youngest child among five sons and two daughters of Edmund Joseph McWeeney (qv) of Dublin, professor of pathology and bacteriology/microbiology at the RUI, and Emilie McWeeney (née Brazil) originally of Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire), Co. Dublin. He was educated at Mount St Benedict School in Gorey, Co. Wexford, and Catholic University School, Leeson St., Dublin. As he was the youngest in a large and active family, it is no surprise that he became involved in a wide variety of sports from a young age; Mitchel Cogley (d. 1991), later sports editor of the Irish Independent, and a neighbour of the family, remembers the McWeeneys playing ‘a particularly rough form of hockey’ on the grass behind Newman House on St Stephen's Green (Ir. Independent, 14 Nov. 1958). The family's interest in sport was such that an Irish table-tennis association was formed in their house in the 1920s and Paul McWeeney was the first national table-tennis champion at the age of fourteen, holding the title for six years. In a busy and eclectic sporting career McWeeney played rugby at club level and hockey for Monkstown and Three Rock Rovers, as well as interprovincial hockey for Leinster. He also played tennis for the Fitzwilliam club and for Leinster. He was a particularly gifted squash racquets player, being credited as one of the pioneers of the game in Dublin; he won the national title in 1941 and 1942, and was runner-up in 1947. He won nine caps for Ireland at squash in the period 1937–50, and played on the first Irish international side against Scotland in 1937. McWeeney was also a single-figure handicap golfer, and a member of the Grange and Royal Dublin golf clubs.
Despite his own impressive sporting achievements, it is as one of Ireland's finest sports journalists that he is primarily remembered, particularly for his rugby and golf writing. McWeeney also had a keen interest in and reported widely on tennis, boxing, hockey, and squash. He began his journalistic career in 1929, when he did some freelance sub-editing and reporting for the Irish Independent. He moved as a sports reporter to the Irish Times in January 1931, and in 1943 he became sports editor of the paper, a position he held for over three decades. Despite his position as sports editor he spent most of his time out of the office and ‘in the field’, travelling to Europe, Asia, and the US covering major sporting events. He also covered two Olympic games: Rome (1960) and Mexico City (1968). Shortly before his retirement in 1974 he was presented with the medal of the Association Internationale de la Presse for his distinguished contributions to sports journalism. He never really retired from journalism, continuing to contribute to the Irish Times, and was Dublin correspondent for both the London Times and the Guardian. In his later years he was rugby correspondent of the Sunday World.
McWeeney was considered by his colleagues to be a thoroughly professional journalist with a deep knowledge and appreciation of sport and sportspeople. His articles were always carefully put together and were composed in longhand in a sparse, elegant prose, with what his colleague Seamus Kelly (1912–79) described as ‘something approaching lyricism’ (Ir. Times, 28 Mar. 1983). As sports editor of the Irish Times he skilfully defended his department from potential budget cutbacks by always suggesting cuts in the coverage of sports in which he knew influential members of the paper's board had a particular interest, and he insisted on adequate coverage of minority sports. He was also not afraid to spend the paper's money: early on in his career at the Irish Times he persuaded the then editor R. M. Smyllie (qv) to send him to Switzerland to cover the final of the Davis Cup tennis competition, and ran up such an expenses bill that he was not sent abroad again until 1950. Despite, or perhaps because of this, he always maintained that he needed generous expenses if he was to represent the paper properly at sports events at home or abroad.
Urbane and dapper in appearance, he was a lover of good food and drink and was a great conversationalist with a fine sense of humour. He had a broad range of interests outside sport, particularly in classical music, and was an accomplished and skilful card player. He married (1944) Eithne Maddock; they had two daughters and one son. After a long illness he died 26 March 1983 at his home at Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, and is buried in nearby Kilmacanogue cemetery.
An older brother, Arthur Philip Edward McWeeney (1904–58), also a prominent sports journalist, was born 27 May 1904 in Dublin and worked for the Irish Independent sports department for thirty-four years. He was also educated at Mount St Benedict's in Gorey. Initially he joined the Freeman's Journal in 1920 as a reporter before joining the Irish Independent in 1924, where he covered a variety of sports including boxing, golf, tennis, rugby, soccer, and athletics. He was actively involved in a number of sports, including amateur boxing and lawn tennis, but was particularly involved in squash, serving as president of the Irish Squash Racquets Association in 1948. Urbane and genial in personality, he was described as a complete all-rounder. He covered five Olympic games, his last being the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, and travelled three times to the US to cover the Walker Cup in golf, as well as travelling all over Europe. In addition, he was at most of the major Irish sporting events of his era. Highly scrupulous in his reporting, he always endeavoured to be sure of his facts, and had an old-fashioned horror of ‘scoops’, preferring to base his reporting on his own observations and ability to turn a phrase. Although he was described as an extremely punctual and meticulous person, colleagues report that he was also rather absent-minded and regularly left things behind him, including, on one occasion, his typewriter. He had a wide range of interests, including literature and the theatre, and had a slight speech impediment, which he rather cryptically maintained was the result of being a naturally left-handed person forced to use his right hand. Mitchel Cogley wrote that he was ‘the best sports writer of all’ and that he was ‘a man whose outstanding merit as a sports writer was recognised far outside his own country’ (Ir. Independent, 13, 14 Nov. 1958). He married (1940) Vera Mahony, a well-known hockey international and tennis player, and later a prominent sports reporter in her own right; they had one son and one daughter. Forced to take it easy in his last years, after a long illness he died 12 November 1958 at the age of 54, and is buried in Glasnevin cemetery.
Arthur's wife, Veronica Mary Elizabeth (‘Vera’) McWeeney (1909–81), sportswoman and sports journalist, was born 21 July 1909 in Blarney, Co. Cork, third among three children of Francis Walter Mahony , managing director of the family business Martin Mahony & Bros Ltd, from Blarney, Co. Cork, and his second wife, Mary (‘May’) (née Ashlin), originally from Castle Richmond, Midleton, Co. Cork. She moved to Dublin as a young girl, and played hockey with Dublin club Maids of the Mountain, winning the Irish Senior Cup in 1930 and 1935. In 1927 she won her first interprovincial cap for Leinster and followed that with her first international cap in 1932. The highlight of her playing career was captaining Ireland on a tour of the USA (1936), where they initially attended a world hockey conference and tournament in Philadelphia, winning two out of their five exhibition matches, and continued on a two-week tour, where they easily won their five games. She also travelled on Ireland's tour to Denmark in 1933. An active and versatile sportswoman, she was also widely regarded as a tennis player of international standard, although there is no clear evidence that she ever played at international level for Ireland, as there were few international opportunities for ladies in the 1930s. A member of the Carrickmines club, she won the prestigious East of Ireland tennis championship in 1934 and the County Dublin Championships twice (1936, 1937), and she was listed as no. 4 in the Irish tennis rankings in 1937. Her only national tennis title was the 1940 Irish Close ladies’ doubles championship, in which she partnered Norma Stoker (qv). A keen badminton player as well as an active skier and skater, she is also reputed to have won international caps at squash. In 1951 she was elected as president of the Irish Ladies Hockey Union (ILHU) and also served for some years as both a senior umpire and as an international selector.
Vera McWeeney is chiefly remembered, however, as a pioneer in what was at the time the all-male world of Irish sports journalism, and she carved a niche for herself as a forthright and intelligent writer on ladies’ hockey, as well as on tennis, badminton, and squash. The death of her husband in 1958 launched her on her career as a journalist, as she turned to what she knew most about to make a living. Initially working as a freelance reporter for the Irish Independent, in the early 1960s she moved to the Irish Times, where she wrote a column on women's hockey for almost two decades. She also covered domestic tennis and all the major tennis events held at Fitzwilliam, as well as badminton and squash. She was always extremely well informed and never afraid to voice an opinion; a hallmark of her writing was her ability to pen pictures of any event with accuracy and imagination. Her writing reflected her no-nonsense personality; when reporting at the Fitzwilliam club she was not averse to taking a shortcut through the locker room in what was then an all-male bastion.
A son, Myles McWeeney (b. 1942) was a prominent television executive at RTÉ. She died suddenly 9 January 1981 and is buried in Glasnevin cemetery. The ILHU under-21 provincial tournament, inaugurated in 1982, is called the Vera McWeeney Cup in her memory, and in croquet the Vera McWeeney Trophy is competed for annually between teams representing the Croquet Association of Ireland and their English counterparts.