Just a week after we laid our esteemed colleague, Joe O’Flynn, to rest, the club is sad to announce the passing of another Leevale great, Bernard Walley. Bernard passed away on Sunday night after a heroic fight with cancer. Bernard was the identical twin brother of Frank, who is the current President of the Cork City Sports Committee.
During most of the 1970s, on the Irish sprinting scene, the Walley twins were a permanent fixture in the winner’s circle. In their competitive years Frank was the quiet unassuming one and Bernard the flamboyant one always at the ready for some mischievous prank. Frank won the Irish 100m title in 1972 and then went on to do the 100m/200m double in 1973.
Bernard was an outstanding sprinter. Though he never won the Irish individual sprint title, he had a number of podium finishes. He won several international caps as an individual and on relay teams. I can well remember that he was the proudest man on the planet when he won his first international cap. He would go on to be a regular on Irish relay teams during the mid 1970s. During this golden era of Leevale sprinting Bernard, his twin brother Frank, together with Finbarr Jeffords, Brendan Mooney, Mick O’Flynn, brother of the late Joe, and Conal Courtney, were unbeatable at national level, winning several 4 x 100m national relay titles. That group was coached by our current club President Finbarr O’Brien, and all represented Ireland at international level.
Bernard was a vital member of the brilliant Leevale teams that won the National Track and Field titles three years in a row in 1975, 1976 and 1977. He was captain of the 1976 Leevale team that represented Ireland in the European Inter-Club Championships in Rieti, Italy. 1976 was to be one of Bernard’s most successful years in his athletics career. Having just competed in Rieti, he headed straight for the Mardyke, where he won the 100m at the Cork City Sports. When Bernard was at the height of his career, many towns and villages in Cork, from Castletownbere to Charleville, held open sports meetings. Bernard always enjoyed competing in these events, which were held on grass tracks. He and his brother Frank invariably came home with the spoils of the sprint races.
Like many other former great Leevale athletes, during his active career, and when he hung up his spikes, he became involved in the administrative side of the club. During his spell as captain in 1976 and 1977, he was a fantastic motivator. He led the club in 1977 to the third League title in a row. When he retired from competing he became involved at committee level and was chairman for number of years in the early 1980s. During his tenure as chairman, he initiated projects and he was very active in getting the club to obtain proper facilities. The ‘house’ that the club owned, at that time, on the Old Blackrock Road, was inadequate for the ever expanding needs of the club. The seeds were sown and eventually, in 1983, the club purchased our current clubhouse in Dalton’s Avenue.
Gradually Bernard had increasing work commitments, involving traveling abroad. He was the type that would not get involved unless he could give the task in hand his full commitment, so he ceased his involvement in the club. Leevale’s loss was the Irish food industry’s gain. As a scientist, he spent many years working initially in research and development and later in senior management roles in the Irish food processing industry with a number of different companies. In later years, and right up to the time of his illness, he worked in Saudi Arabia.
We are sad to be saying goodbye to another Leevale stalwart. He will be missed by all of us who knew him so well.
This is a particularly difficult time for his twin Frank. In consolation we can say that the irrevocable bond that exists between twins is reflected in all of us, who knew Bernard, and he will always have a special place in our memories.
We extend our deepest sympathies, to his wife Anne, daughters Kim and Helen, and son Brian, brothers, sisters and grandchildren.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis
Chairman Leevale AC