Sunday 28 December 2014

Record holder enjoying the clash of the ash

Frank Greally

Published 01/07/2014 | 02:30

Skills: David Matthews holds the Irish 800m record and is now training the Cork senior hurling team. Photo: Sportsfile
Skills: David Matthews holds the Irish 800m record and is now training the Cork senior hurling team. Photo: Sportsfile

David Matthews, trainer of the Cork hurling team, finds it hard to believe that his Irish 800 metres record of 1:44.82 is still standing 19 years after he set the mark in the summer of 1995 in the Italian town of Rieti.

It is 20 years now since Matthews broke Marcus O'Sullivan's then existing record of 1:45.87 when he posted 1:45.57 at that same meeting in Rieti in September of 1994. Matthews also can lay claim to the Irish 1,000 metres record of 2:17.57 that he set at an IAAF International Meeting in Sarajevo in 1996.

However, these days it is the hard, physical training of the very successful Cork hurling team that occupies Matthews for most evenings of the week and in between he manages to work as a personal trainer to a number of carefully selected clients.

This is Matthews' third year to train the Cork hurling panel and he loves the challenge involved.

"It was a piece that Ian O'Riordan wrote about me that prompted Cork hurling manager Jimmy Barry Murphy to look me up for the job of training the team," Matthews said.

"It was a daunting challenge at the time, but I am happy with the way it has all worked out over the past three years. I am now looking forward to the team's appearance in the Munster hurling final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh on July 6."

After he retired from athletics, from 2007 to 2010 Matthews played Junior A football for his local Robertstown team in Kildare.

"Playing football gave me a unique insight into the fitness requirement of the modern GAA player. If you had to pick a discipline that would dovetail with Gaelic games, I have no doubt 800 metres would be the perfect fit as it combines the speed of sprinting with the endurance of distance running – this combination seems to be an absolute requirement in today's game," he said.

When he retired from competitive athletics in 2000, following the Sydney Olympics, Matthews had competed in 13 major championships in six years.

"I wasn't making any money from running. I had a house and a mortgage and I had to hold down a full-time job, so I had to make a decision at age 26 that it was time to move on."

The death of his long-time coach, mentor and friend Noel Carroll in 1998 was also another factor in nudging Matthews towards retirement.

Carroll spotted Matthews' potential in June of 1992 when the Leaving Certificate student from Colaiste Chiarain in Leixlip won an 800 metres race in UCD – beating the pick of the Irish and British Varsities talent – as well as a contingent from Yale and Brown universities in the US.

Under Carroll's guidance at UCD, Matthews made a seamless transition from European Junior bronze medallist in 1993 to senior international athlete in 1994 – the year he first broke the Irish 800 metres record.

He remains passionate about athletics and he would love to work in a coaching capacity with a few of our current top-level athletes. One such athlete that he greatly admires is Mark English, the UCD student who he believes will this year break that long-standing Irish 800 metres record.

"He has come within two hundreds of a second of breaking my record and I expect that he will break it this summer.

"There is a really great crop of young Irish athletic talents coming through right now and I would love nothing better than to be able to get involved in some area of coaching where I feel I could make a difference," Matthews said.

@Irishrunnermag

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