Northern Ireland has had its fair share of sports stars over the years. Despite a population of under 2 million, this land has produced top-class football players, boxers and snooker players.
While many of them achieved fame and fortune at home or in England, others went further afield to live out their dreams. Who has made it big far from home?
Dave Finlay – WWE Wrestler
Born in Belfast in 1958, Finlay started his wrestling career in places such as Glynn and Carrickfergus. As his reputation grew, he was invited to compete in England, Japan and Germany. His successful wrestling career in Europe than saw him move to the US, where he competed for a number of years in the WWE as the Belfast Bruiser.
At the time of writing, Finlay lives in Atlanta, Georgia and works as a producer for the WWE. During the years that he wrestled, he won more than 20 championships in different parts of the world.
Frank Loughran – Football
Loughran started life in Belfast in 1931 but made his mark in the world of football far from home. He moved to Australia when he was 23, taking his wife and young children with him. Having played for amateur teams in Northern Ireland, he quickly made a big impression in the fledging Australian set-up.
A terrific club career and several international caps for his adopted homeland ensured that he is now viewed as being one of the pioneers of football in Australia. He was one of the first players to be inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame when it was opened in 1999, where he was awarded with a Medal of Excellence.
John Graham – NASCAR driver
Graham was born in Belfast in 1966. He moved to Canada, where he gained the Canadian nationality and carved out a successful career in different types of motor racing. He started in the early 1980s, in the Can-Am series before competing in the 24 hours of Daytona, IMSA and WSC among other events.
He is perhaps best-known for driving in the NASCAR Nationwide Series., but he had had a long and interesting career behind the wheel of many cars. Graham now lives in Montreal, Canada.
Whitey McDonald – Football
McDonald was another sports star from Northern Ireland that became famous on the opposite side of the world. He was born in Omagh in 1902 but moved to Canada with his family when he was just 2 years old.
He played with several North American teams and moved to Scotland when he was spotted by scouts from Glasgow Rangers when they were touring the US. McDonald only earned a couple of international caps for the country of his birth but was inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame when it opened in 2000.
Who Will Be Next?
The proud history that Northern Ireland has of producing sports stars means that it is likely that another makes their mark far from home before too long. While soccer has been one of the main sports that they have excelled in, it is possible that football of another type is due a success story from Belfast or elsewhere in the country.
The popularity of American football has been growing here lately. Anyone who likes placing bets on sports knows that the NFL is known as an international league with players from all over the world competing in it. There would be no big surprise in seeing a player from Northern Ireland hit the heights in this sport.
Keep an eye on sports stories from around the planet if you want to find out who is next in this line of successful sports stars.