Tommie-Johnnie rivalry starts with Ignatius O’Shaughnessy

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Michael Ewen, Videographer

The Tommie-Johnnie football game is something that students look forward to year after year. But some students may not be aware of the history behind the two teams.

The rivalry dates back to 1901 when Ignatius O’Shaughnessy began his freshman year at St. John’s. He and a group of his friends had a beer bust in the woods and were dismissed from the school.

Ignatius O’Shaughnessy’s 88-year-old son, Larry O’Shaughnessy, explained how his father ended up at St. Thomas.

“He was ashamed and didn’t want to tell his parents he had no where to stay so he took the train to the St. Paul station and walked down to the College of St. Thomas at that time and applied for admission,” Larry O’Shaughnessy said.

The president of the College of St. Thomas, the Rev. John Dolphin, accepted Ignatius O’Shaughnessy’s admission because of his honesty. He then became the star running back on the St. Thomas football team and was able to showcase his skills by defeating his former team.

Then after graduating he moved to the southwest in hopes of becoming rich in the oil industry.

“He was very meticulous about how he went about being in the business,” Larry O’Shaughnessy said. “He was so successful in the oil business. He became very wealthy and he had the expression that ‘Money is like manure. Unless you spread it around, it doesn’t do any good.'”

His philosophy led him to become a philanthropist, forming a foundation to give away charitable funds. The College of St. Thomas became the chief benefactor of his wealth.

“It wasn’t because he didn’t like St. John’s, but because that’s just the way it was,” Larry O’Shaughnessy said. “That’s the end of a success story, and that’s one that St. John’s is still lamenting about.”

This Saturday, the St. Thomas football team is hoping for a success story of its own as the Tommies try to defeat the Johnnies for the first time in 11 years.

Zach Pagano can be reached at

Michael Ewen can be reached at

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