Evening Echo Supplement

Articles Published in the Evening Echo April 2007 To Mark The 40th Anniversary of Leevale AC.


Forty years is a long time in business.  Its a long time for an athletics club to be around, and an even longer time to be ranked as one of the leading clubs inIreland.

Leevale athletic club is forty this year and the history of the club shows that it has been, and continues to be, one of the leading lights in Irish athletics.

The secret, perhaps, has been the ability of the club to keep on re-generating itself over the years.  The continuous input of determined and capable officials and coaches has been a huge factor.  And the ability of these officials and coaches to get on with one another, to accept that everyone has an important input to make, makes for a great club.

The magnificent performances of Leevale athletes down through the years do not just happen.  It is the result of the athletes ability and talent in the first place, added to the tremendous background work of officials and coaches.  The encouragement and patience to let the athletes advance at their own pace, without pressure, is a vital factor for any athlete to progress.  The same thinking that existed when the club was formed is still very much to the fore today.

Over the 40 years there has been an endless supply of athletes who have represented Ireland at the highest level.  To list any of them here would surely mean that someone would be left out.  However, every one of them can be justifiably proud of their achievements, just as every club official and coach is so proud of the accomplishments of every athlete who has worn the club singlet.

Leevale continues to attract athletes young and old, and they in turn make Leevale what it is today, a club that has 40 years of experience and know-how that ensures that every member develops to their fullest potential.

The club is confident of continuing its proud tradition well into the future.

Happy 40th birthday Leevale.

Der O’Donovan

Fr. Nessan Shaw OFM Cap

By Finbarr O’Brien

Fr. Nessan Shaw OFM Cap was born in Dungarvan.  In his student days he was a keen sportsman excelling in Gaelic football and athletics.  He came toRochestown College in the mid forties where he remained as teacher and games master for many years.  While there he trained and developed many great sportsmen, particularly Gaelic footballers like Cork All Ireland stalwarts such as Paddy O’Driscoll, Paddy Harrington, and Brendan Coughlan who also dominated shot putting in Ireland for several years.  

The O’Dwyers of Ardgroom owe their expertise at triple jumping, which won them fifteen national titles, to his grooming.  

He was unparalleled at identifying talented athletes and expertly developing them.  Donie Walsh, Colm Cronin, Brendan Coughlan, John Lomasney, Dave Murray are but a few of his prodigies, all of whom won national titles.  

A humble man of great integrity he excelled as an administrator / facilitator.  A founder member of the GAA’s Bord na nOg, he was a lifelong member of St. Finbarr’s Hurling and Football club.  

While at Holy Trinity in Cork he founded F. Matthew athletic club and facilitated the formation of a youth drama society with O’Halloran which thrived for years.  

His final years were spent as a Curate at Gurranabraher where he initiated so many community organisations, particularly for the youth.  

Right up to his death at 84 Fr. Nessan coached young athletes at the weekly training sessions in the Mardyke.  

He was laid to rest in his beloved Rochestown at a funeral attended by generations of people who benefited from his expertise, wisdom and friendship.

Hilltown Athletic and Cycling club

By Finbarr O’Brien

The origins of the present Leevale Athletic Club go back to the formation of Hilltown ACC on February 8th 1956.  

It’s formation was instigated by a group of local runners, notably Christy O’Flynn, Liam Murphy, Barry Cogan, and Finbarr O’Brien, who were members of he Rising Sun club in Riverstick at the time.  Elected to the first committee were President Rev. Fr. Nessan OFM Cap, Cairman Barry O’Flynn, Hon Sec. Finbarr O’Brien, Hon tres. Miah Kelleher, Captain Christy O’flynn, committee John O’Brien, John Kelleher, Liam Cogan, Liam Murphy, Wm O’Neill, Charlie Coakley, Tom O’Mahony, and Percy Aherne.  

The first man to compete in the Hilltown colours of white singlet with green sash and winged boat crest was 1952 marathon Olympian Joe West who finished 54th behind the great Emil Zatopek in Helsinki.  

This high profile start followed by Ronnie Delaney’s gold medal in Melbourne later that year inspired great enthusiasm and expectation in the new club.  

Under the expert guidance of Fr. Nessan the club quickly developed many outstanding administrators, athletes and cyclists, and in its short eleven years history became one of the strongest and most progressive clubs in Cork.  Its promotions included the All Ireland senior cross country championships in 1962 and an annual open sports meeting.    

It pioneered the promotion and development of juvenile and ladies athletics.  This was the era when permission had to be sought from the Bishop to include ladies events on the programme.  The club’s unofficial ladies section produced the Jeffords sisters Mary, Phyllis, and Anne, all of whom won provincial and national medals later in the Leevale colours.  

Regular coaching courses were organised primarily through Fr. Nessan, a top colleges coach himself, who introduced prominent coaches of the time, such as Jack Sweeney, Cyril White UCD, Tom Cavanagh Fermoy,and the Loughborough trained Larry O’Donnell.  

Success followed quickly in all spheres of athletics.  In the sprints county and provincial medals were won by Jim Linehan, Tom Furlong, Sean burke, Finbarr O’Brien, Wyndy Williams, and Gary Horgan.  In the jumps by John Saunders, Christy O’Flynn, Ronnie Martin, Fr. Michael Waters (Cork hurler), Ray Cosgrove, and rugby international Paddy McGrath.  

The club produced outstanding throwers Brendan Coughlan four times Irish champion, John Lomasney, and Tony Egar.  

Distance running was however the strongest and most popular category.  Dick Hodgins was the club’s first senior All Ireland champion, dramatically winning the 1,500m at Cork City sports in 1963.  

Jackie O’Callaghan, John O’Mahony, Dermot and Denis O’Leary, Hugh Parnell, Phil O’Sullivan, Jerry Lane, Kieran Donovan, Mick O’Connell, and Con O’Leary won many county and provincial medals.   

Cycling thrived also and produced some great champions.  Jack Aherne, small, chirpy and confident, won Irish, provincial and county titles on road and track. As indeed did Mick Kingston, Mick Dolan, Tom Aherne, Sylvie Murphy, and the O’Flynn brothers.  The legendary John Smyth was the driving force here.  

In 1967 the three bodies governing Irish athletics, NACAI, AAU and NIAAA amalgamated to unify Irish athletics under Bord Luthcleas na hEireann, thereby giving international access to NACAI.  Cycling formed their own Federation.  

Huge changes and new challenges were faced by clubs and decisions had to be made.  After much discussion to decide the future of the club contacts were made with Fr. Matthew Athletic Club through Fr. Nessan and finally decisions were made to disband both clubs and form Leevale Athletic Club.

Leevale has become such an essential part of my life in the past five years.
When I first decided that running was the sport for me, Leevale was the club
recommended to me, by all that I asked. I remember walking into the C.I.T.
on a Saturday morning and instantly being shocked by the comradeship that
was present in a sport that I had originally thought was solely individual.
The approachability of the coaches and the friendships that were immediately
obvious. It was an amazing atmosphere and I was instantly hooked. It helped
to build me as a person, allowing me to meet life long friends and giving me
confidence in myself and my own abilities as an individual. Running is a
sport like no other. It challenges the individual both physically and
mentally. It teaches you valuable lessons that can be applied to all
sections of life and ensures you focus on your own capabilities rather than
the capabilities of those around you. It truly is a life changing sport but
without the people in our club I do not think I would have stuck with it. I
instantly felt welcome that day I first went to the C.I.T. and it was the
people that I continued to meet as those weeks went on that assured me, I
was going to be staying with this club a long time.

Alanna Quinn

Irish Records held by Leevale Athletes

2,000m 4:55.06 Marcus O’Sullivan 1996

3,000m 7:30.36 Mark Carroll 1999

5,000m 13:03.93 Mark Carroll 1998

10,000m 27:46.82 Mark Carroll 2000

Triple jump 15.89m Colm Cronin 1977

100m Hurdles 12.72 Derval O’Rourke 2006



4x400m Relay 3:18.64 Leevale 1984

Triple Jump 15.56m Colm Cronin 1976

100m Hurdles 13.61 Derval O’Rourke 2000

Long Jump 5.97m Claire Ingerton 1991 (Record until last year)

Under 23

Triple Jump 15.89m Colm Cronin 1977

100m Hurdles 12.96 Derval O’Rourke 2003


1,000m 2:20.2 Marcus O’Sullivan 1985

1,500m 3:35.4 Marcus O’Sullivan 1988

Triple Jump 16.27 Colm Cronin 1978

50m 6.44 Ailis McSweeney 2005

50m hurdles 6.80 Derval O’Rourke 2006

60m Hurdles 7.84 Derval O’Rourke 2006

4x200m National team with Derval O’Rourke 2002

Junior Indoors

60m Hurdles 8.46 Derval O’Rourke 1999

Under 23 Indoors

3,000m 7:51.35 Mark Carroll 1993

Triple Jump 16.27 Colm Cronin 1978

60m 7.37 Ailis McSweeney 2005

60m Hurdles 8.12 Derval O’Rourke 2003

Memories of Leevale…not my first memory but one that lingers. I
started my athletic life as a wannabe sprinter under the watchful
gaze of Ray Shanahan. Ray, being a middle-distance man, had no idea
what do do with me and begged John Sheehan to see if there was any
way in the world he could convince me to try another event (or as it
was sold to me, to see if he could develop my speed).   John, ever-
enthusiastic, set to work on improving the worst part of my race: the
start! My start at the time is best described as easygoing. I was
inclined to wait till the smoke from the starter’s piston had
cleared, stand up, have a cup of tea, and eventually attempt to chase
down the likes of Donal McCarthy – not an ideal race strategy, I
think you’ll agree, although I think it received Donal’s kind
 support. Anyway, on a chill Tuesday night in the ‘Dyke John set to
work. Start after start I squeezed my tall frame into the blocks, and
without fail, exited like honey from a jar – perhaps it was the use
of the word “set”.  Analogy after analogy was used, countless members
of the animal kingdom were introduced into the scheme but to no
avail. Then, like lightning, John was struck by an idea. “Eureka!”,
he might have thought. Or possibly not. One way or the other an idea
was hatched and I was to spring load myself into the blocks and then
“explode out of them, explode out of them like a fekkin…like a
fekkin CATERPILLAR!!” A what? OK.  So I did. I squirmed out like a
hairy green worm and set out to take on the world. Did John mean
catapult? I’ll never know. But, however much or little my start
improved from that point on, one thing is for sure, I never went into
the blocks nervous again!

Stephen Fleming

Leevale Athletic Club Origins

By Finbarr O’Brien

Leevale Athletic Club was formed in 1967 when Hilltown A.C.C (1956) and Fr. Matthew Athletic Club amalgamated .  Re. Fr. Nessan OFM Cap has to be credited with the merger.  He had a major influence on the formation of both of these clubs where he instilled an ethos of excellence, sportsmanship and integrity.  

The catalyst that brought it about however was the unifying of Irish athletics under Bord Luthcleas nahEireann.  This brought the internationally banned NACAI in to World athletics which presented a huge new challenge to all clubs.  

After much negotiation and general meetings in both clubs agreement was reached to join forces and build a club that would be a force nationally.  At a packed general meeting at the old Hilltown Clubhouse the first officers were elected.

President John O’Brien; Chairman Dermot O’Leary; Joint Hon. Secretaries Finbarr O’Brien and Finbarr O’Callaghan; Hon. Treasurer Tim Collins; PRO Kevin Barry; Club Captain Hugh Parnell.

The naming of the club was a major issue with many proposals such as Southern Striders, various saints names, valleys, rivers being debated.  However, the man who spoke the magic word Leevale was Finbarr O’Callaghan, Hon Secretary of Fr. Matthews.  Many others have claimed to have thought of it before that but history will credt Finbarr with the distinction.

History shows that the dreams and aspirations of the founding fathers came true.

Leevale’s nine in a row National junior cross country team title Roll Call

      1989 Killenaule, Co. Tipperary.
      1. Limerick, 48 points.
      2. Leevale, 50 points.
      2. Mark Carroll, 8. James McGee, 10. Ken Nason, 30. Ken Feen, 31. Damien Collins, 55. Paul Lee, 81. Alan Triggs.

      1990 Plassey, Limerick.
      1. Leevale, 49 points.
      2. Mark Carroll, 8. John Murray, 18. Declan O’Callaghan, 21. Ken Feen, 37. Ken Nason, 44. Ivor Croker, 50. Danny Herlihy, 86. Alan Triggs.

      1991 Plassey, Limerick.
      1. Leevale, 16 points.
      1. John Murray, 2. Mark Carroll, 6. Ken Nason, 7. George Murray, 10. Alan Triggs, 15. Darren Keenan, 17. Martin McCarthy, 18. Trevor Foolkes, 22. Roy Fahy, 51. Sean O’Keeffe.

      1992 Santry, Dublin.
      1. Leevale, 40 points.
      4. Darren Keenan, 8. George Murray, 9. Roy Fahy, 19. Trevor Foolkes, 25. Danny Herlihy, 28. David O’Carroll, 38. David Healy, 43. Gary Daly, 44. Sean O’Keeffe, 56. Roy Drummond.

      1993 Phoenix Park, Dublin.
      1. Leevale, 34 points.
      4. Darren Keenan, 5. David Healy, 12. Danny Herlihy, 13. Oisin Crowley, 19. Stephen Coade, 26. Gary Daly, 28. David OCarroll, 31. Karl Walsh.

      1994 Ballinlough, Co. Roscommon.
      1. Leevale, 30 points.
      5. Padraic Buckley, 6. Niall Lahive, 9. Stephen Coade, 10. Karl Walsh, 25. Liam Deasy.

      1995 Naas, Co. Kildare.
      1. Leevale, 33 points.
      2. Oisin Crowley, 9. Niall Lahive, 10. Cathal Lombard, 12. Graham O’Dwyer, 23. Liam Deasy, 24. David Coade, 28. Cillian O’Tuama.

      1996 Santry, Dublin.
      1. Leevale, 56 points.
      11. Graham O’Dwyer, 13. David Coade, 15. Jason Foolkes, 17. Fiacra Lombard, 19. Lochlan Harte, 20. Cillain O’Tuama, 23. Padraig O’Dubhgain.

      1997 Whitechurch, Co. Cork.
      1. Leevale, 42 points.
      7. Mark Cotter, 10. Cillian O’Tuama, 11. Jason Foolkes, 14. Mark Foley, 51. Owen Crowley.

      1998 Bree, Co. Wexford.
      1. Leevale, 32 points.
      2. Barry Egan, 9. Brian Keane, 10. Paul Carroll, 11. Ronan Crowley, 15. Mark Cotter, 23. Barry Hayes, 43. Eric Skillington.

Been with Leevale for a year and a half and have come through a lot. Started
off with 800m but looking at the sprinters train with a brake after every
run I said id hav to join them. But then a torn hamstring and being out for
6 months doesnt do anyone any good. A lot of physio and my parents money ha
ha! Put now running 400m and everything going well. Joining leevale was the
best think I did. Everyone is sound out a having the best Athletics coach in
Ireland also helps Well 5 munster and 5 All-Ireland medals who wouldnt be
happy with that.

Cathal Owens

List of Leevale Medal Winners

World Indoor Championships

1987 1,500m 1st Marcus O’Sullivan

1989 1,500m 1st Marcus O’Sullivan

1993 1,500m 1st Marcus O’Sullivan

2006 60m Hurdles 1st Derval O’Rourke

European Indoor Championships

1985 1,500m 2nd Marcus O’Sullivan

2000 3,000m 1st Mark Carroll

European Track and Field Championships

1998 5,000m 3rd Mark Carroll

2006 100m Hurdles 2nd Derval O’Rourke

European Junior Championships

1991 5,000m 1st Mark Carroll

World University Games

2005 60m Hurdles 3rd Derval O’Rourke

2005 60m 2nd Ailis McSweeney

2005 4x100m Relay 3rd Derval and Ailis

European Youth Olympics

1991 Long Jump 2nd Claire Ingerton

2005 1,500m 3rd Ciarán Ó’Lionáird

European Masters Championships

2002 Over 45 5,000m 1st Carmel Parnell

2006 Over 50 10,000m 1st Carmel Parnell

World Masters Championships

2005 Over 50 10,000m 1st Carmel Parnell

2006 Over 50 5,000m 2nd Carmel Parnell


World Cross Country Championships

1979 Ireland second with Donie Walsh team member

European Junior Cross Country Championships

1999 Ireland third with Bryan Keane team member

2004 Ireland second with Mark Hanrahan team member

World Student Games Cross Country

1980 3rd Fionnuala Morrish

1980 Ireland third with Fionnuala Morrish team member

AAA Championships

1985 1,500m 1st Marcus O’Sullivan

2004 5,000m 1st Mark Carroll

AAA Indoor Championships

2003 60m hurdles 2nd Derval O’Rourke

2004 60m 2nd Ailis McSweeney

2004 60m Hurdles 3rd Derval O’Rourke

2005 60m 3rd Ailis McSweeney

2005 60m hurdles 3rd Derval O’Rourke

2006 60m Hurdles 1st Derval O’Rourke

AAA Junior championships

1975 Long Jump 1st Colm Cronin

1975 Triple Jump 1 Colm Cronin


As well as all the medals listed above, Leevale members have also gained international success in the Celtic international cross country and track and field internationals; schools cross country and track and field internationals, and a host of other events on the international stage.
Leevale members can feel justifiably proud of the club’s achievements since it’s foundation in 1967 and have a lot to celebrate on this their 40th birthday.

I  love running – it is something you can do by yourself, As Jesse Owens
said, ”You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting
the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of
your feet and the courage of your lungs”.They say taking part is most
important and I agree but winning is the best feeling of all . But even
still more important for me is the friends Ive made through athletics.These
friendships are the real gold of competition.
Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust.

Paul Stack

The following Leevale athletes won scholarships to American Universities

Brosnan David   Iona College
Buckley Padraic Iona College
Carroll Mark  Providence
Carroll Paul  Villanova
Coade  Stephen Iona College
Conroy  Sean  Loyola Chicago
Cronin  Colm  Brown
Crowley Oisin Villanova
Delaney John  Brevard
Donovan Kieran  Holy Cross
Egan Finbarr  Coastal Carolina
Fitzgerald Willie
Foolkes Alan    McNeese
Foolkes Trevor  McNeese
Foolkes Jason McNeese
Gibbons Claire Western Kentucky
Gibbons Stephen Western Kentucky
Grufferty James East Tennessee
Healy David  Providence
Hegarty Niall  St. John’s
Horan Gerard Illinois
Hunter John Villanova
Keenan Darren  Boston College
Kiely Denis San Diego
Maunsell Aisling Western Kentucky
McCarthy Martin  Iona College
McGee James North Texas
Murphy Martin
Murray George South Plains Texas
Murray John  Malone
Nason Ken  Villanova
O’Callaghan Gerard  Nebraska
O’Callaghan Declan  Iona
O’Flynn Sean Richmond
O’Lionaird  Ciaran  Michigan
O’Regan Leonard Louisiana State
O’Regan Aidan Villanova
O’Regan Paul Villanova
O’Sullivan  Marcus  Villanova
O’Sullivan Bernard Western Kentucky
Shannon Noel East Tennessee
Treacy  Ray Providence
Triggs  Alan North Texas
Walsh  Donie  Villanova
Walsh  Niamh Richmond
Walsh  Karl Coastal Carolina

Leevale, a club that is vibrant, happy & successful.

 Leevale, a club where future stars are nurtured & guided to the
International ‘Stage’ & to the Olympic Games.      Leevale, a club which
provides a safe & healthy outlet for hundreds of youngsters to experience
the thrill of athletics in all its varied disciplines. These are the
principal thoughts on Leevale which flit across my mind as I travel on
Flight 506 from Atlanta to New York on Sunday April 22.
                                    When reflecting on Leevale’s 40 years
of voluntary effort in guiding, training & coaching so many athletes to
success I am convinced that the club’s greatest achievement is in the number
of young people for whom it has opened up a pathway not just to successful
athletics but- more importantly- to quality adult life! The values of
honesty, discipline, hard-work, modesty in victory, dignity in defeat,
team-spirit & fun fostered by the club have greatly facilitated athletes in
their smooth transition from childhood to adulthood.
                        That so many former athletes have their sons &
daughters training in Leevale is a powerful testament to their own happy &
fulfilling experiences in the club. That they are now ‘giving something
back’ as administrators & coaches is ensuring a bright future for Leevale.
                                    On a personal note the strong links
between the North Monastery & Leevale have provided me with many of my
happiest days in athletics.
   Congratulations Leevale on your 40th. birthday & may you shine as
brightly over the next 40 years.             

 Br. John Dooley

The Leevale Rugby Connection

By Finbarr O’Brien

Traditionally rugby players, particularly the backs, joined athletic clubs to sharpen their speed in the summer track season.  Many of the world’s flying wingers were prominent sprinters.  

This was so in respect of many of he best Leevale sprinters.  Two Leevale men, Moss Finn and Jimmy Bowen, were on the Munster team that beat the All blacks.  Who can forget Jimmy’s lightning run that led to that famous try by Christy Cantillon?  Or Moss outsprinting the Welsh in Lansdowne Road to score two tries, one in each corner.  Then there was Michael Kiernan whose first Irish cap was in athletics, with that famous goal at Lansdowne Road against Englandto win the Triple Crown.  

Michael was Irish 200m champion in 1982and his time is still a club record.    

Before these feats there was Dr. Paddy McGrath’s crushing tackle on a flying David Duckham in Lansdowne Road to stop a certain English try.  Paddy was on the first Irish team to beat Australia.  

Long time Irish scrum half Fergus Aherne also wore the Leevale singlet with distinction.  

Others of note were Gary Horgan, Cork Con and Munster.  That great forward Jerry Murphy, who won everything in rugby except an Irish cap, was an outstanding 400m/800m man.  

Several of the famous Crotty brothers wore the Leevale colours with distinction.  

With modern full time professional training this tradition is now gone.  However, there is no doubt that expert sprint coaching is a big plus on the rugby pitch.

By Orla Barry

My name is Orla Barry, I hail from Ladysbridge in east Cork.  I am seventeen years old, I am a double amputee.  I am a paralympic athlete and a member of Leevale athletic club.  Under the guidance of Cork Wheelchair sport and youth I train with Leevale at CIT athletics grounds with my fellow athlete David Berry and under the guidance of our coach John McCarthy.

Since my induction to field sport at the age of nine I have come a long way since then.  Discus throwing is my chosen discipline.

I currently hold the Irish junior record, Irish senior record, Irish schools record, combined schools event record.

My biggest record breaking to date is the breaking of the senior European record at the World championships in Holland last year with a throw of 25.24 metres. I was the first Irish female to ever throw over 20m from a sitting position.

Having successfully thrown the A standard qualifier for the Beijing Paralympics, I await selection.

My goal is to compete in a Paralympic Games, either Beijing 2008 or London 2012 and hopefully win gold for Ireland.  I am also chasing the World senior record of 27.09 metres.

 Am a world class carded athlete with the Irish Sports Council to whom I am grateful for their continued support.

I congratulate Leevale athletic club on their 40th anniversary, wish them well for the future, and thank them for their continued support.

Combined Events in Leevale

By Frank Stam

At various ages children join sport clubs, often inspired by others or just to explore if they have an aptitude for the sport. We all like to find things we can do well. Self-esteem feeds on achievement, and sport is an excellent way of testing this. In athletics there are many different types of running, jumping and throwing events each one requiring its own technical skills and training. Ideally every new club member should be given an opportunity to explore different events and find out where his/her talents might be. With better facilities becoming available and improving coaching standards and participation, development in technical events is becoming more feasible. Maybe recent Irish performance improvements in hurdling, polevaulting, and high jumping are a sign of things to come.    

Children need exercise to develop their bodies and brains healthily. Unfortunately children today, due to TV and computer games, are not playing outdoors as much as their parents did. So we see children joining with less coordination, balance, fitness, and postural strength, qualities which in the past were obtained from natural play. This combined with the tendency to specialise earlier and earlier (a result of our performance driven society) is a recipe for trouble often masked by short-term success. The forced adaptation of the young bodies and insufficient training capacity often leads to serious injuries or burn-out before senior level is reached. A much better approach would be to lay the foundation for a wide range of technical skills and physical conditions to be developed in many years to come, while encouraging team spirit, organising social activities to stimulate enjoyment, camaraderie and de-emphasise winning-at-all-costs. “Combined events” and “relays” are great tools for achieving this.      

Combined events could incorporate anything from 2 (diathlon) to 20 (icosathlon) individual events, and exist in other sports as well. From the Olympic Games we know the diathlon (winter Olympics), triathlon, pentathlon, heptathlon and the “king” of all combined events the athletics “decathlon”. The events for the decathlon are (in sequence): 100 meters, long jump, shot putt, high jump, 400 meters (first day); 110 meter hurdles, discus throw, polevaulting, javelin throw, 1500 meters (second day). In athletics specific scoring tables are used that award set points for each individual performance, and the overall winner is the one who gathers most points after completion of all the individual events. The winner of a combined event has the best over-all athletic ability, endurance, and physical and mental toughness. Since participants spend a considerable amount of time together sharing their happiness and misfortunes, often friendships develop that stretch beyond club and country.  

A few years ago the combined event approach was introduced in Leevale and implemented in training by rotating the young athlete groups (ages 7 – 11) between different event coaches. Sometimes organising this can be difficult when dealing with different ages and skill levels, and limited availability of volunteers. For the older athletes (ages 12 -16) more planning is needed to effectively mix in training elements like speed work, various types of  conditioning, flexibility and coordination, while targeting various competitions as well. After a successful club hexathlon trial last year, Leevale traveled with 11 athletes to the Munster Indoor Combined Events Championships and recorded a huge number of personal best performances. Two weeks later 10 Leevale athletes took part in the National Indoor Combined Event Championships and they came home with 4 medals. Not bad for a first outing.   

Hopefully in future more children will take part in the combined events, justifying more, local, events to be organised with more extended combined events (e.g. including polevaulting, discus and javelin) and also get the 10 to 12 year olds involved. 

Leevale AC can be viewed on two levels which are mutually inclusive and therefore feed off each other. The first is as a local running club which brings young and old together with a common interest in athletics. The benefits of this from a socialisation standpoint are enriching for the athletes, coaches, administrators and parents involved and greatly benefit  the communities and indeed the country. The second is as a breeding ground for some of the world finest athletes which has put Leevale on the world map. I was fortunate to have benefited from both.

  Bernard O’Sullivan

By John Sheehan

A lifetime involvement in sport has left me young at heart and 28 years in Athletics has allowed me to enjoy a truly competitive & international sport at every level. I am lucky to be in the position I am in today.  

When my daughter Emma, ran her first race in the Mayfield Community Games, little did I know the path it would lead me down.  Kevin Barry obviously spotted the young talent in Emma and within minutes of her win we had practically been signed for Leevale AC…. The both of us that is…. Kevin Barry always a man to kill 2 birds with the one stone landed himself a new sprinter and coach in one fell swoop. Those who knew Kevin will not be surprised at this! My first experience as a coach was in Tyrell Kerrigan’s hall in Mayfield and it started me down an exciting, eventful road.  

It seems I have come along way in athletics in Ireland, in no small part due to the encouragement of Kevin Barry in the early years, when I was coaching Juvenile athletes. I progressed to coaching to senior level under the guidance of Finbarr O’Brien who had an abundance of experience to draw from. Fr. Nessan, will always remain a constant reminder as to the fundamental enjoyment one should get from a sport and that there are many reasons why athletics should and can play a role in your life; so many events to try that there is one for everybody; and always keep an open mind. My daughter Dyan went on to International Success in the Shot Putt and discus due to Fr. Nessan’s attitude, support and encouragement. It has encouraged me to always keep an open mind when I first meet athletes; sometimes it is their hidden talents that you must encourage them to pursue. I have discovered it is often spotting this that is the true skill of good coaching! That and an eternal sense of optimism!  

I worked hard to get to where I am today.  I feel one has to commit 100% to this sport in order to succeed and I endeavour to instil this in all the athletes I have the privilege of coaching.  The AAI have encouraged my progression through their coaching courses and support; I have learned so much from Ciaran Coakely and Jim Kilty down through the years. And now by encouraging my participation in international events as team coach I can thoroughly enjoy exposure to the highest level of competition that I have been preparing top athletes for over many years.  

Although I had always been involved in sport, dabbling in gymnastics, hurling, football, athletics and rowing; in those days sport was a luxury we didn’t often get to pursue. I guess that is why after 28 years as a coach I appreciate the difference that sport now contributes to the lives of so many young people in their formative years.  Athletics in particular, encourages both the individual and the teamwork strengths, skills so important in all aspects of life. It is not a coincidence that most of the athletes in Leevale AC go on to third level education, having been encouraged to strive to obtain goals, show determination and commitment and aspire to new levels.  Helped along by lifelong friends made throughout Ireland during their participation in athletics.    

Throughout my career as a coach in Leevale Athletic Club, I have had successes at all levels.  I have felt so much enjoyment and satisfaction from meeting so many different people both coaches and athletes over the years.  I have seen athletes who have come the whole way through Leevale from toddler to a senior athlete and go on to international competition and success. Some have come back to athletics after a long break and overcome the tough battle to reach their previous form and potential. Many athletes we loose through exam pressures; athletes taking a year out to complete their Leaving Certificate at a time when their athletic career is about to take off. Sadly they rarely return to that level of competition post exams. I often wish that they would be encouraged to participate, to relieve the tension of constant study and academic pressures, even if it is at a reduced level of their true potential. This would keep their interest up at a time when the social aspect to teenagers’ lives is also starting to take hold. It can only be of benefit to all the well-rounded individuals we are hoping to develop.  

I feel such pride when I see athletes reach the pinnacle of success; athletes like Donal McCarthy, Derval O’Rourke, Ailish Mac Sweeney, Jer O’Donoughue, Dave Power, Amanda Clifford and Claire Ingerton to name but a few. To feel that I have made some contribution to their success is reward enough for the hours of training in the rain! However, I often feel even more pride seeing the countless individuals who use the lessons learned through athletics to succeed in their careers and lives in general.  

Like Steve Heighway, former Liverpool and Irish international footballer, said recently ‘It’s to do with the type of person we try to produce, it’s to do with loyalty and a love of the sport and your club.’ I, for one, think its all about the people you meet and friendships you make, after all how else are you going to leave your mark in this world! I hope I continue to do so for a long time to come as Leevale AC is very much part of my life. I wish the club every success in the future and encourage those wishing to get involved in sport, or who want to start their children off on the right ‘track’, to come and take a look at us and join in our success. I look forward to meeting with you!

A five Year Journey

By Ciarán Ó’Lionáird

It has been over five years since I first came into contact with Leevale AC, yet I can still remember clearly that first night when my then coach at West Muskerry AC Ted O’Herlihy asked Der O’Donovan if I could join in with the Leevale lads in a track session. That night marked the beginning of a journey with Leevale that has taken in many countries and continents and given me memories that I shall never forget, not to mention the fantastic friends I have made and a relationship with Der that has given me someone I can always trust in and ask for advice. Many writers for this piece will point at Leevale’s tremendous record in Cross Country and Track & Field on the provincial, national and international stage but first and foremost for me Leevale represents a family that supports me in everything I do. They first let me train with the lads whilst being a member of another club, and since then have given me the opportunity to get the very most out of my abilities whilst having great craic in the process.

            People probably ask for the reasons for Leevale’s great success, that secret recipe in training that has produced international stars like Marcus O’Sullivan and Mark Carroll, not to mention countless national champions. For me, the reasons were obvious as soon as I first started training with them. Leevale encouraged fun in athletics and made the track not a place of nerves, anxiety and pain but an outlet for all of us athletes to showcase what talents we have in a fun environment. Those first few sessions with Der always left me wanting more, wanting to come back the following day. I remember Wednesdays spent simply longing for Thursday’s workout to arrive, the urges having not been satisfied on Tuesday evening. Der would always pull me out of a few reps. He knew I liked to push to the front and piss off the older lads yet had the knowledge to stop me from burning myself out by trying to match and beat their efforts constantly. I looked up to lads like Darren Keenan and Damien Dunlea, but was always quick to let them know I was around in workouts. I always relished early June when Gruff (James Grufferty) would come back from America. He was on scholarship in the USA, and the first workout back would always look to impress. I would always look to put myself about and cause a bit of hassle by sprinting off down the backstretch on 300’s well ahead of pace, bringing about shouting matches down the homestretch that lay somewhere on the border of banter and actual anger.

            Der was always careful about overtraining. In fact, right up until I left for America we followed a plan he had devised when we first met. It involved an experiment to see how fast I could run off basically no training. Two workouts a week and just enough in between to keep my legs from seizing up. I trusted his word as gospel, and still do. He and Tony Shine would tell me to slow down three or four times an evening probably. He hid on the route back from Curraheen Farm to the CIT and made sure I hadn’t ran over my quota or faster than goal pace. That said, the mile and a half back from the Farm was always an all out sprint between me, John Shine, and whoever else wanted a piece. It was fun, competition and I would always flash Der a smile as I sped by, trying intensely to mask the fatigue that ran through me. Rest days could be a 20minute jog, a soccer game, or football training. Der’s plan gave me a confidence in my own abilities I never would have had, as it attributed most of the success to talent. Though he himself would always stress this point, we both knew that come Tuesday and Thursday evening I would always be ready to hammer a session on the track or render myself incapable of speech or motion following a rigorous sand-dune session in Owenahincha.

            My favourite Leevale memory involves a night in Santry with Der, Tony, John Smith and Joe Flynn and Mark and John. Mark, John and myself skipped a night out on the town after Nationals on the track to relax in the trackside bar with the old boys. Drinks were flowing for them and water was on tap for me. The stories were hilarious and nothing was spared from us younger fellas. There was a trust and a bond between all of us that highlights better than anything what being a part of Leevale means. You always have people to rely on. Running, drink, girls. Crazy stories from years past and plenty of banter. I will never forget some of the lines and quotes from that night and others like it. The advice received on nights like those and at every training session has helped me become a better runner, student and person I feel. Der’s plan has taken me to some amazing places and lead to some tremendous athletic moments like the Youth Olympic Medal and World Youths in Marrakech. There have been many, many disappointments also, the majority of which could be attributed to my own stubbornness and stupidity. But as I sit here thousands of miles away, trying to continue the journey that began that night, I know I have the support of everyone at my club. I will always bleed gold and black. And Der is always a phone call away if I ever need him for advice. It truly is a family in every sense of the word.

Leevale Athletic Club a Brief History.

By Liam Horgan

              The year 1967 was an historic year in Irish athletics. It marked the foundation of Bord Luthchleas na hEireann (BLE) and the opening up of international competition to clubs and athletes in the Republic of Ireland that was denied them since the 1930’s. The year also marked an important year in Cork athletics with the formation of Leevale Athletic Club.

The club was formed by the amalgamation of two clubs Fr. Matthew A.C. and Hilltown A.C. Fr Matthew’s was set up as a juvenile athletic club based in the Fr. Matthew hall in the heart of Cork city. As the athletes reached Senior level in 1967 an approach was made to Hilltown AC to amalgamate and form a new senior club. Hilltown club was founded in 1956 and at this stage was a well-established senior and juvenile club. Both clubs amalgamated in April 1967 to form Leevale AC, The Fr. Matthews and Hilltown juvenile clubs remained as a feeder clubs to Leevale for a few years before complete amalgamation.

Fr. Matthew A.C. and Hilltown A.C. already had one common link in that both clubs were the brainchild of Fr. Nissan OFM. Cap. Fr. Nessan was synonymous with athletics in Cork both as a coach, an official and a great motivator of young people. He was a tireless worker for the club and the sport from 1950’s until his death in 1997.

            On formation Leevale affiliated to the newly formed BLE. The first competitive outing was at Ballincollig Novice Sports on the 21st of May 1967. The official black and amber singlets were not yet available on the day. And in assorted colours Leevale athletes came away with 3 victories.

In 1967, Leevale was like many other athletic clubs in the country, in that there was no ladies’ section. However, that was quickly rectified in 1968.

In a very short time Leevale became one of the foremost athletic clubs in the country winning the National Senior Track and Field League 3 years in a row in the 1970’s and representing Ireland in the European club Championships. Athletes from the club have won countless national senior, junior and juvenile titles. 

Within a year of the formation of the club, Donie Walsh became the first athlete Leevale athlete to represent Ireland at Senior level. In the meantime, Leevale athletes have represented Ireland at the 1972, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic games. Several athletes from the club have medalled at major championships at both European and World Level. The highlight being Marcus O’Sullivan’s 3 gold medals in the World Indoor Championships at 1,500, and the recent world titles won by Derval O’Rourke and Carmel Parnell. Mark Carroll holds the Irish Record at 3000, 5,000 and 10,000 meters.

Over the past 40 years more than 60 young athletes have received University Scholarships to the US and more recently to Irish Universities

Initially the club was based in the Douglas and Ballinlough area but quickly attracted athletes from all over Cork City and County. After a number of years of moving clubhouse from Douglas, to Ballinlough to Blackrock Road the club finally purchased the present premises at Dalton’s Avenue in 1983. This is now a well-equipped indoor training facility for athletes. It was renovated 2003/2004 through the generous contributions of club members and from National Lottery Funds

             The club is deeply indebted and proud of its coaches and officials over the last 40 years. It is through the efforts of these people that the club has prospered on the athletics field and in providing adequate facilities for athletes.

Unique Sprint record

By Finbarr O’Brien  

In 1981, at the national championships in the Mardyke cork four Leevale girls created a unique piece of history by winning the 4x100m and 4x400m events on te same day.  This feat, which has not been equalled, was performed by sisters Anne and Carol Leahy, Tina Hegarty and Niamh Walsh when they convincingly beat teams from Limerick, Nenagh and Dublin.  

All four girls represented Ireland in their athletic careers, the Leahys and Niamh Walsh at 400m at senior level, and Tina Hegarty at schools over 200m.  

Niamh Walsh later became one of the first Irish women to be awarded an athletics scholarship to USA when she accepted a four year scholarship to RichmondUniversity in Virginia where she graduated in 1986.

All are still fit and well and competing occasionally.

Been with Leevale for a year and a half and have come through a lot. Started
off with 800m but looking at the sprinters train with a brake after every
run I said id hav to join them. But then a torn hamstring and being out for
6 months doesnt do anyone any good. A lot of physio and my parents money ha
ha! Put now running 400m and everything going well. Joining leevale was the
best think I did. Everyone is sound out a having the best Athletics coach in
Ireland also helps Well 5 munster and 5 All-Ireland medals who wouldnt be
happy with that.

  Cathal Owens (17)

The future looks Bright.

by Donal Murnane Club Secretary.

Leevale AC has a very a very strong and distinguished history over the last forty years, producing National Champions, International Athletes and Olympians takes a lot of effort and dedication not to mention a strong organisation and dedicated coaching staff.  Leevale AC has always been fortunate to have an abundance of people willing to give their time to the running of the club and the coaching of the hundreds of athletes.   

It is important never to become complacent, as a club always needs to be progressive and forward thinking in order to ensure that its athletes continue to compete at the highest levels. Leevale AC has identified four elements that are key to the success of the club, Coaching, Facilities, Equipment and Athletes.    

To facilitate the large number of athletes in the club it is important to have sufficient coaches to ensure that the ratio of coach to athlete is sufficient for each of the events. The focus for all coaches is to develop skills while maintaining a fun environment for the athletes.  Leevale continually invests in training new coaches and progressing all coaches thought the AAI qualification levels.  This philosophy is paying dividends as Leevale athletes are competing across the full spectrum of track and field events.


Leevale AC headquarters is located at 1 Daltons Avenue, Lavittt’s Quay Cork. The indoor hall has been equipped to meet the needs of all our athletes and boasts a state of the art weights gym and indoor circuits arena. With funding received from the Sports Capital Grants Leevale boasts indoor facilities for Circuit Training, High Jump, Shot Putt and Sprints.

Additional to the indoor facilities Leevale AC is fortunate to have the use of the Athletic Tracks at UCC and CIT. The juvenile athletes train at the CIT track on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 8:00pm and on Saturday mornings at 11:30am while the Junior and Senior athletes train at UCC’s Mardyke Stadium. The track facilities and equipment provided by UCC and CIT is crucial to the development of athletics in Cork. 

At Leevale we encourage participation in sport and one of the great things about athletics is there is an event for everyone, be it running, throwing or jumping. We invite children of 8 years and older to come join us at training.  All young athletes will be trained in the running, throwing and jumping. The skills that we teach form the basis for all sports and ensures a healthy lifestyle.

As the athletes get older and progress through our system we start to focus on performance.  The performance standard for each athlete is different so we provide an environment so that individuals can develop their sporting abilities.  The coaching and the training become specific to events that each athlete has selected to compete in. 

Moving forward we have a plan to implement a sports science programme within the club. This will involve substantial capital investment and training. The aim of this is that we will be able to measure and monitor the performance of each athlete, provide individual advice and customised training programmes based on scientific measurements. Our goal is assist our elite athletes to compete nationally and internationally to the maximum of their abilities.    

Right now the future looks bright at Leevale AC. The building blocks of Coaching, Facilities, Equipment and Athletes are in place and plans exist for continual developement to ensure that we will produce not only National Champions and potential Olympians but people who have a love of activity and physical fitness.

Kevin Barry

By Mick Quinlan

Kevin Barry was one of the founding members of Leevale Athletic Club. Coming
from the Fr. Mathew Club he was greatly influenced by Fr. Nessan who was to have
a major influence on him and indeed become a lifelong friend.
He was one the driving forces behind the formation of Leevale in 1968 and his
contribution to its success and development was enormous over the years.
Indeed Kevin, who was affectionately known as Mr. Leevale, was not only chairman
for many years but he took on anything that needed to be done in the field of
coaching, fund raising and appearing on Radio and TV. He also specialised in
writing victory speeches and songs. Some older members of Leevale will remember;
“Our friends and rivals are St. Finbarrs
And we’ve got to admit that they’ve got three stars
But alas for them it is six to score
So to beat Leevale they’ve got to find three more”
Leevale, Leevale La La La.”
On the coaching front Kevin had time for everyone and always encouraged those
with little talent.
His influence extended to the Cork County Board; the Southern BLE Region, of
which he was president. He was also secretary of the Board of Control of the
National Management of BLE at one time.
Colleges Athletics was also to benefit from his expertise and he acted as chief judge
at county, provincial and national level for over 25 years. He also found time to play
a major role at the annual Cork City Sports fixture.
Kevin’s tragic and premature death in 1998 severed a connection with Leevale and
Athletics – a club and a sport to which he made an immense contribution at all

Tonight is a great night indeed 
It is a testament to our lives in sport and I am proud to have played 
a part in Leevale’s history. Tonight is a celebration of this history 

What does Leevale mean to me : 

Is is where the seeds are planted for life. From my young years 
growing up in Turners Cross, I remember with nostalgia the 2 mile way 
to the club with Der Riordan, Sean Lynch, David Varian, Mick Daly 
among others. The run would always be eventful with some argument 
breaking out over some incidental point in a discussion. On the walk 
home we would “Pool our resources”….. in other words put all our 
money into the hands of one person and divide it up evenly among the 
group to buy sweets at the shop on the way home. 
We learned the lessons of self respect, respect for others and the 
admiration of our senior athletes who we always looked to for 
guidance. They were such an inspiration to me and the rest of the 
young boys. I wish I could be with them tonight to be fully reminded 
of all of the influences which have helped shaped my life. 

I owe one enormous debt of gratitude to one particular Leevale 
man …Donie Walsh .He believed in me like no other and more 
importantly I believed in him and consequently he managed to change my 
life forever. He was always there to help me and give me direction 
when it was needed and it continued all the way to the end of my 
running career. 
Donie was the personification of what Leevale meant to me. That is to 
say it was like a family that was there to help you grow as an athlete 
and a person. Leevale makes us who we are and I am proud to say that 
it is my club forever 
Enjoy the evening and have a wonderful time reminiscing Leevale 

Good night and God Bless

Marcus O’Sullivan

Oh Happy Day

By Ina Killeen

Being an active member of Leevale A.C. for the past number of years has certainly kept me very busy. I have met with great people, parents & athletes and re-kindled friendships and acquaintances from years ago, namely Finbarr O’Brien, Tony Shine, and Hughie Parnell.
These guys used to coach me as a youngster in Ashton and Colaiste Mhuire, (now Douglas Community School), where our changing rooms were an old run down lodge with no electricity and no glass in the windows! A large group of us used to go
there 2 or 3 nights a week for training, and a laugh too! We trained on the fields where the cows had grazed all day, so you can imagine the state & the smell from us when we came in from a session!
I can honestly say every weekend we were gone off somewhere to a race meeting. We would be collected by a bus at the nearest point to our homes and go off with our bags packed with our running gear, a change of clothes, a packed lunch & a few bob if
we were lucky! We never really knew where we were going, that wasn’t important to us, but our parents would let us off, knowing we were in the capable hands of these guys, and return home exhausted a number of hours later.
Each year we had 2 “Special Occasions”. One was always after the Track & Field season finished and the other was the annual Christmas Party.

I recall one of these trips was to Gougane Barra, on a beautiful sunny day. This day was nearly harder than any training session because we were climbing up hills & down hills and trekked along paths for miles and miles. After a few hours we had our
picnic by the lake, in front of the church. Afterwards we (the younger ones) gathered at the back of the church to play – SPIN THE BOTTLE – what rebels we were, even back then, and such harmless fun. On the journey home we would make a stop for ice-cream, sweets & of course mother nature!
Our Xmas party was usually held in St Francis Hall & we thought these guys were fab to supply us with minerals, crisps chocolate etc & of course music for a disco.
From time to time we have taken athletes (and parents) away for day trips & overnights for events and I hope they will remember these trips with fond memories.
All these years on, these coaches are still giving freely of their time every week of the year to Leevale A.C. and for this we applaud-them. Leevale A.C. continues to be-a-major part of their lives. It’s great to be part of such a renowned & prestigious club
and would encourage new members to come and join us at any time of the year.

Running is more than a hobby it’s a way of life. Some people can’t see the true sport in running. They can’t see the thrill of conflict, but if you look closer you shall see there is no better conflict, more raw than a man versus himself. On the track you race the cruellest of all opponents, yourself. Your real adversary lies deep within you.

There’s no better feeling than standing behind your blocks just before a race, butterflies going like crazy yet entirely focused on the task at hand. 

While on your marks thinking only to DRIVE beyond what you believe yourself possible of doing.

When the gun goes everything changes, reacting instinctively an instant and indescribable rush ensues.

You push your body to the absolute max, this is what you train for, this is what you live for.

Over the line you erupt with joy over the satisfaction of doing what you do best.

Winning may not be everything but when you do win it sure means a hell of a lot.

Chris Murnane (17)

Fr. Matthew Athletic Club

By Mick Quinlan  

Fr. Mathew Athletic Club was founded in 1964.  It started simply as a juvenile club

supported and financed by the Fr. Mathew Hall. The main man behind the formation of the club was Rev. Fr. Nessan O.F.M. Cap.

The new club organised training facilities for the many boys who were interested in Athletics but not attached to any of the established clubs in the City. It was strongly

supported by the games-masters from various schools. In particular, Colaiste Chriost Ri, North Monastery and Sullivan’s Quay.

From the beginning the club was successful for the simple reason that there was a demand for juvenile organisation and men like Fr Nessan, John O’Leary, Kevin Barry, Dick Henchion, Finbarr O’Callaghan, Tim Collins and others had the dedication and efficiency to supply it.

The first event organised by the club was a trial cross-country race held in the Lee Fields.  The purpose was to select teams to compete in juvenile events in the 1964/65season.

Many successes followed the highlights being individual wins by Donal Walsh in the Munster and All Ireland youths events. 

In May 1965Fr. Mathew’s made a significant impact in its first venture on the Track at the Riverstick Novice Sports held at Ballymartyl G.A.A. grounds with Jim Archer taking 1st.place in the 100yds.and 440yds. In the 800 metres Cork Co. championship the club took the first three places. Mick Quinlan 1st, Kevin Barry 2nd and Donal Walsh 3rd. Donal also took first place in the 2 mile event. 

The club went from strength to strength with many of the athletes quickly graduating from Novice to Junior and on to the Senior ranks. In 1966 the club competed successfully in the Tailteann Games held in Croke Park and in the All Ireland Junior Championships where the club captured the Medley Relay and many individual titles. As Fr. Mathew AC was principally a juvenile club and many of its members were now in the senior ranks it was decided to seek amalgamation with Hilltown AC.

World Mile Relay Record Attempt

By Finbarr O’Brien

In spring 1971 Leevale’s distance runners took on a unique challenge in attempting to break the world record for a 24 hour continuous mile relay for 10 man teams.  At the time the record stood at 274 miles 40yds by an American collegiate team.  

The attempt took place on a grass track at PBC Grounds Wilton starting at 6pm on Saturday and ended at 6pm on Sunday.  

Lord Mayor Mr. Tim O’Sullivan started the event amid great excitement, sending the first runner Jackie O’Callaghan on his way to a 4:46 mile.  Tony O’Leary took the baton to a 4:38 mile, followed by Wally young in 4:56.  The fourth runner was that great athletics man Joe O’Flynn with 5:13.  Joe handed over to the present club chairman Liam Horgan who posted 4:59.  Then came Finbarr Marshall 5:01, Mick Long 5:39, Jerry Murphy 5:09, Pat Duggan 4:59, and the tenth man was Hugh Parnell 4:49, giving a total of 50:09, well within the record schedule.  <>

They kept on schedule well into the early morning but lost crucial time in the pre-dawn hours.  Eventually 268 miles 500yds was covered before the 6pm deadline.  Each man covered more than the marathon distance.  Best individual performance was by Tony O’Leary who covered 27 miles in 2 hours 13 mins and 50 sec, followed by Jackie O’Callaghan with 2:16.57


I was a relative late-comer to the sport of athletics.  In my last year at College, a chance invitation to join some classmates for a run ignited a passion for the sport which has lasted ever since.  In those days, UCC Athletic Club disbanded each year after the Intervarsity Track & Field Championships in May.  Competition for the summer was in the singlet of the “home club”.  In my case, the home club was Leevale.

In the mid 1980’s, Irish middle distance was incredibly strong.  A good friend, Tommy Moloney was ranked the 21st fastest miler in the World in 1985.  He ruefully observed that he was number 9 on the Irish list after the likes of Marcus O’Sullivan, Eamon Coghlan, Frank O’Meara amongst others. Across the water, Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett led a correspondingly formidable group of British middle distance runners.  Competition in Cork was strong.  I remember one year winning a Munster Title, being placed 2nd in the National Championships and 3rd in the Cork County Championships!  Even as an International athlete, I was only second choice in Leevale for my favourite event, the 800m. Pride of place, of course, went to National record holder and three times World Indoor Champion, Marcus O’Sullivan.  

Competition is an important facet of athletes but, then as now, only one aspect of a rich sport.  The bonds of friendship built during training and competition last a lifetime.  Athletics is a pure sport in the sense that the challenge is to better oneself – to throw further, jump higher or run faster.  Much like golf, this challenge can be as real to a novice/high handicapper as to an international/scratch player.  Unlike some team games, there is nowhere to hide and nobody else to blame!  

At Juvenile level, the focus needs to be much less intense – a principle that is strongly espoused by Leevale.  Relays allow the individual interact as well as perform.  Physical and skills development are paramount, so much so that there is a constant demand for athletics coaches from other sports.  Momentarily picture a hammer thrower, a high jumper, a sprinter and a distance runner and you will appreciate the different physiques that are accommodated and developed within athletics.  What is not as evident is the manner in which athletics appeals in different ways to different psychological approaches.  The intense concentration of a high jumper contrasts with the “mind over matter” mentality of a 5000m runner.  

As with all sports nowadays, athletics relies heavily on voluntary input.  Ability and experience are appreciated, but there is no substitute for enthusiasm and commitment.  Leevale is fortunate to have a strong cohort of qualified and dedicated coaches, but the breadth of athletics is such that a place can always be found for those who wish to put a toe in the water.  

As my own children grow older, the track again begins to beckon.  While encouraging their participation in all sports, athletics has a special allure.  One way or the other, they won’t be late comers to sport.                                                                                                              


In the early days of Leevale Athletic Club, a number of young athletes, not yet teenagers, had just embarked on a lifelong journey. Athletic facilities were modest in those days, with grass tracks and equipment which, by today’s standards, would seem primitive. Yet, these limitations seemed insignificant when the competitive spirit of young athletes was the only thing that seemed to matter. Fr. Nessan had taken many of the club’s juvenile athletes under his wing at that time. It was a difficult challenge to develop the capabilities of impatient youngsters; capabilities that varied from sprinting to throwing, to jumping to middle and long distance running.   

On a warm summer’s day in Macroom Castle almost forty years ago, many of us were competing for the very first time and we were pitting our skills against athletes from other clubs throughout the county. A lot of these young people would later go on to become, not only accomplished athletes, but lifelong friends.

It was just prior to the amalgamation of Hilltown and Fr. Matthews. In the 4 x 100 relay, we were fortunate to field two teams. The A team consisted of Pat Daly, Adrian O’Mahony, Gary O’Donovan and Denis Buckley. The B team included Ray O’Callaghan, Jim Long, Alfie Davis and Dave Murray.  Fr Nessan had worked hard to create the winning mentality and technical capabilities that were necessary for success.  

The Fr. Matthews A team were comfortable winners of the relay that day. Surprisingly, however, the Fr. Matthews B team finished in second place. I can remember the personal excitement at our first competitive success. But the excitement was tempered when Fr. Nessan informed us that the medals for second place had been mislaid. He assured us, however, that we would receive them in due course. Fr Nessan was a man who was true to his word and, several weeks later, he produced the four relay runner-up medals. For us, it was recognition of our first athletic accomplishment.   

When you watch a man, like Fr. Nessan, working with athletes over the years, you realise that he deployed many skill-sets in fostering the capabilities of young people. It was not just his desire to make then run faster, throw further and jump higher. It was his personal commitment to help them to grow into stronger and more capable people.  

Of course, there were no medals for second place in the relay on that summer’s day in Macroom. And, when Fr. Nessan subsequently bought those medals himself, he was making an investment. He was expressing his confidence in the potential of the young athletes in the club. He was investing in our future development. He was building our character and he was building the character of Leevale.  

Leevale AC has accomplished much over forty years, from world class athletes to those who simply have bettered personal performances. But the stars of the club, those who don’t get to stand on the podium, are those unassuming people who invest their time and effort in fostering the potential of young people, week after week. Fr Nessan, Finbarr O’Brien and Kevin Barry built the podium for many of Leevale’s athletes to stand on. The next generation of parents and coaches in Leevale had a tough act to follow. But it came easily because it’s a natural instinct to seek continuous improvement in the opportunities that we create for the young athletes. Some day, these youngsters will do the same.       

I still have that medal today. It serves as a constant reminder of the significant responsibility that we have to create the opportunities for all young people, regardless of skill, to reach their potential. 

Dave Murray.