Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: REMEMBERING A CHAMPION’S FAREWELL (Guest article by John Walshe)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

REMEMBERING A CHAMPION’S FAREWELL (Guest article by John Walshe)

John Treacy from Waterford is one of the few Irish athletes to win an Olympic medal after finishing second in the Marathon at the Los Angeles Games in 1984. In 1995, a special 5 mile race was held in Waterford City to mark the end of his career.

John Walshe has written an article about that special occasion 20 years ago.


Twenty years ago, on Sunday October 15th, 1995, a special and rather unique five-mile road race took place around the streets of Waterford city.

It was to be the final competitive appearance of arguably Ireland’s greatest-ever male distance runner, John Treacy. It brought the curtain down on what had been a roller-coaster international career which had begun for the boy from Villierstown 21 years before when, as a 16-year-old, he finished third in the junior race at the 1974 World Cross-Country Championships in Italy.

Another world junior bronze followed the year after in Morocco and then, in 1978, he took the senior world crown at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow. A second world title was added 12 months later in front of an ecstatic home crowd in the mud of Limerick Racecourse.

After collapsing in the qualifying round of the 10,000m due to the heat and humidity of Moscow at the 1980 Olympics, Treacy returned a few days later to take seventh in the 5000m final. Later that year he set an Irish 10,000m record of 27:48.7 in Brussels.

He added the Irish 5000m record with a time of 13:16.81 in 1984 and then – after finishing ninth in the 10,000m at the Los Angeles Olympics – on an unforgettable Sunday evening he attained his greatest honour when taking the silver medal behind Carlos Lopes of Portugal in the marathon.

Treacy’s international career continued for another 10 years and included two third-place finishes in the Boston Marathon – his 1988 time of 2:09:15 is still the fastest by an Irishman – along with marathon victories in Los Angeles (1992) and Dublin (1993). He also won the Great North Run Half-Marathon in a time of 61:00 (1988) and ran 46:25 for 10 miles at the Great South Run in Portsmouth (1993).

And so on to that fine October Sunday afternoon of two decades ago. The event was put together by Frank Quinn, who had been manager to cyclist Sean Kelly and who had organised a similar farewell for Kelly in his home town of Carrick-on-Suir the previous December.

Invitations were sent to Carol Lopes and Charlie Spedding, Treacy’s fellow Olympic medallists, and both were delighted to attend. It was the first time that all three had been together since they stood on the victory podium on that glorious night in Los Angeles.

Photo by Dan Linehan. It shows Coghlan, Cram, Dick Hooper, Richard Mulligan and of course Treacy (wearing No 1 on the long-sleeve T-shirt given to every runner) setting the pace in the early stages.

Joining them was a galaxy of stars including Michael Carruth, Ireland’s 1992 Olympic boxing champion, indoor mile record holder and world champion Eamonn Coghlan, world, European and Commonwealth champion Steve Cram, along with Dick Hooper and Jerry Kiernan who had also represented Ireland in the Olympic marathon. Sean Kelly, like Treacy, a Freeman of Waterford City, was also in attendance and even ran the race, covering the five miles in a creditable 34:39.

Although Lopes (looking distinctly overweight) and Spedding didn’t compete, they, along with Cram, Coughlan and many local dignitaries paid glowing tributes to Treacy on the steps of Waterford City Hall. Also, before the main event got underway, hundreds of schoolchildren took part in a one mile lap of honour. Then, with the formalities over, the action began with over 300 runners setting off on a route comprising of one small and one large lap around the city.

Of course there could only be one winner, and shortly after four miles with the leading group reduced to Treacy, Cram, Kiernan and Richard Mulligan, the local hero moved marginally ahead and crossed the line first to a tumultuous reception in a time of 25:50. Mulligan and Kiernan were credited with similar times in second and third with former world mile record holder Cram a second behind in fourth.

The following day’s Cork Examiner gave Treacy’s farewell race extensive coverage and included a classic picture, taken by Dan Linehan. It shows Coghlan, Cram, Dick Hooper, Richard Mulligan and of course Treacy (wearing No 1 on the long-sleeve T-shirt given to every runner) setting the pace in the early stages.

Also prominent is a man no stranger to the athletics scene in the Cork area and beyond, Martin Drake from Youghal, now Chairman of the East Cork Divisional Board.

As can be seen in the picture, Martin is smiling at some remark passed by the ‘Chairman of the Boards’. But, like that iconic photograph of hurling legends Christy Ring and Mick Mackey from the 1957 Munster Semi-Final, the question must be asked - what DID Eamonn Coghlan say to Martin Drake on that autumn Sunday 20 years ago?

The results of the race can be seen HERE


IACAN said...

Eamonn Coghlan to Martin Drake *Are the Royal playing in Redbarn tonight*

Anonymous said...

Excellent article John Walshe. A golden era for world and more importantly Irish Atletics.

Anonymous said...

In fact Eamonn Coughlan says to Martin Drake "What are you doing up the front?"

Lovely piece John