Congratulations to our European silver medallist Derval O’Rourke.  All those years of painstaking preparation, tough training sessions, injuries that came at the worst possible time, self sacrifice, and lack of finance, have, in 2006, all become well worth it.
World indoor champion over 60m hurdles in March and a European silver medal over 100m hurdles in August confirm Derval amongst the greats of Irish athletics.  A household name in the space of five months!!
For the majority of Leevale members this was one of the most emotional moments in their lives.  The heats in Gothenburg saw Derval do just enough to qualify – more like a training run for her, just enough to stretch the limbs.
The semi final saw Derval blast out of the blocks, showing she was wide awake and alert.  Then she faded a little in the closing stages and the rest of the runners seemed to cascade on top of her.  Scary stuff!  But Derval was in control and qualified for the final.  Thankfully there were just ninety minutes to wait.  Was it enough for her?  For the rest of us it was a nerve wracking and nail biting wait.
Then the final.  Derval looked like the world had stopped.  She was oblivious to everything.  Everything except the ten hurdles that lay ahead of her in lane 1.  Everything except the commands of the starter and officials.  Nothing else mattered.  All the years of advice that told her to focus, to relax.  The ‘tunnel vision’ that all athletes should develop was now in overdrive.
Once again Derval blasted out of the blocks.  The ability to do that did not happen overnight.  It took hours and hours of practice.  Painstaking practice, concentration, attention to detail.  Very few people see the effort that goes into the preparation and the training.  The commitment, the self belief, the ability to banish any little doubts that might exist.  The incredible belief in the people advising her.  The huge support of family, friends, training partners and coaches.  All vital ingredients in the quest for medals.
Then the ten flights of hurdles.  More nerve wracking moments. More long hours and days of training to develop the  massive skill needed to clear each one.  The lead leg, the trailing leg, the coordination.  And the speed.  Hurdle too high and it’s wasted effort.  Hit a hurdle and all the rhythm is gone.  Less than thirteen seconds to coordinate everything.
Would Derval ‘fade’ over the final flights?  A big question.  Derval answered that in the best possible fashion.  It was mind over matter and again that sheer belief in herself saw her maintain her effort all the way to the finish line to win a fantastic silver medal.
Finbarr O’Brien, the man responsible for developing Leevale into one of the most successful clubs in the country in the forty years since being formed in 1967, summed it all up when he said that what Derval showed in Gothenburg could not be coached.  That came from within, and added that she was successful because of her competitiveness, her concentration, and her not making mistakes.
The television pictures of Derval jumping for joy on the track when the result was announced revealed her unbridled joy at winning a medal, as well as the huge relief that the long years of training and self sacrifice and commitment had finally reached a conclusion.
Derval’s success continues the outstanding record of Cork athletes on the world stage.  What is annoying is that there are hundreds of youngsters all over Cork who have the ability to succeed.  However, because of the antiquated approach to sport by Government Ministers down the years, they will never be given the opportunity to unearth their talents.  Youngsters know themselves just what they are good at.  They know they are good at running, or throwing, or jumping.  Only they themselves can do anything about it, and the first step is to join a club.  Leevale Athletic Club train at the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) every Tuesday and Thursday from 8pm to 9pm, and everyone is more than welcome to become part of a great sport at a great club.