Matt McGrath (USA) led the qualifiers with 167-11 (51.18), while John Flanagan (USA) was in second place with 165-2 (50.36). In the final, Flanagan improved on his last throw to 170-4¼ (51.92) to repeat his victories of 1900 and 1904. Flanagan commented on his victory 20 years later, )It was, without doubt, one of the most satisfying competition wins of my life. Matt McGrath tended to be a little arrogant and I had the feeling he believed he was certain to win. When it all came down to my last throw I knew I had to put everything into it and as it turned out I did. If I have any regret at all now, it is that I was not competing for Ireland on that day.)
John Flanagan had won the Olympic title in 1900 and 1904 and was then considered the greatest hammer thrower of the 20th century. He set 18 marks considered as world records between 1896 and 1909. Flanagan would win seven AAU hammer championships and six titles with the 56-lb. weight. Of Irish birth (Kilbreedy, County Limerick), he had emigrated to the United States in 1897. Amazingly for a man of his size (5’10” [1.78 metres], 220 lbs. [100 kg.]), he finished second in both the high and long jump and the all-around at the 1895 Irish Championships.
By 1908, Matt McGrath (USA) was becoming Flanagan’s rival for hammer throw supremacy. He first appeared on the national scene in 1907, finishing 2nd in the AAU championship, but he was a world-class hammer thrower until 1928, winning seven AAU titles (the last in 1926), setting two world records, and winning three Olympic medals - silvers in 1908 and 1924, and a gold in 1912. In his defense, it was noted that he had injured his knee in the spring of 1908 and was not fully recovered from that by the time of the Olympics.
Interestingly, all three medal winners were born in Ireland and with Scotsman, Tom Nicolson, finishing in fourth place, it was a memorable day for Celtic throwers. The bronze medalist, Con Walsh, had been born in Carriganimma, County Cork, but spent most of his athletic career in Canada, and may have had the most potential of any of the throwers. The 1920 Olympic hammer champion, Paddy Ryan (USA), commented on Walsh in a 1958 interview, )Con liked the good life and as far as he was concerned training was not part of the good life. He could have beaten the lot of us but he never bothered with any serious training. He was lazy but thoroughly enjoyed competition and was a wonderful man to know at all times.)