Guinness Fairwell for McCarthy

Guinness Ireland hosted a very pleasant function in their Hospitality Room on Union Quay last Monday.  The occasion was to honour the selection of Leevale’s Donal McCarthy on the 4x100m relay team for the Sydney Olympics, and the function brought together a host of former Leevale sprinters who dominated the Irish sprinting scene for many years.  Donal himself won an All Ireland BLOE silver medal in the 100m as a sixteen year old competing for Skibbereen athletic club.  Injury problems forced him to give up the sport shortly afterwards.  A native of Drimoleague, he spent the next ten years concentrating on his studies and then on his work as an Accountant in Cork city.  He never lost his interest in the sport, and just a couple of years ago ended up back in the training regime with Leevale.  Leevale club president Finbarr O’Brien expressed his delight at Donal’s selection, the first Leevale sprinter to qualify for the Olympics.  “We dreamed of it long ago but we really didn’t believe the dream – Donal achieved it.  Personally I am very proud, and all the club is very proud” he told the guests.  He said he hoped it’s just the start of a trend for other Leevale sprinters in the future.  “Sprinting, and especially relays, was always a passion for myself and a lot of others in Leevale over the years” he added.  He recounted the fun times he had in the Mardyke for training, and the ‘friendly’ rivalry between the sprinters and middle distance runners.  “I hope Donal has a great time in Sydney.  It’s something you hardly dare dream of”, he said.  He also spoke in high terms of Leevale sprints coach John Sheehan who helped him when he himself was sprints coach.  “From knowing very little about the sport – on his own admission – he has developed into an outstanding sprints coach, and I’m delighted for him”  Donal himself said that from the first time he phoned John he knew he was going to have a friend for life.  “ That first night, training in Ashton, I remember saying to John that I just wanted to have fun, that I was never going to run as fast as when I was sixteen.  I think John had other ideas!” he said, and added “I had great fun – I always said I will keep running while it is fun”  John Sheehan, he said, is the best sprints coach in the country, and without him he definitely wouldn’t be where he is.  He paid tribute to Cork City Sports for organising the 60m dash at the St. Patrick’s Day parade, and The Market Tavern for sponsoring it.  He also thanked Guinness and all the officials in Leevale for all their efforts.  For Guinness sponsorship manager Robert Daly it was the perfect opportunity to renew old acquaintances.  He re-counted how he joined Leevale as a teenager and became part of a very talented group of sprinters – Michael Kiernan, just back from a Lions Tour, amongst them.  Unfortunately, after a couple of months his hamstrings tightened so he was forced to concentrate on more relaxing sports, and never got back to Leevale.  He welcomed the people present and praised the achievements of the two Leevale members going to the Olympics, Donal McCarthy and Mark Carroll.  He said it was an important time for the club, and an important time for Irish athletics.  “I think we are going forward into a new era” he said.  Picture shows (from L-to-R) Robert Daly, Donal McCarthy, John Sheehan, and Finbarr O’Brien.