Ronnie Long (Former athlete)
Over the last 60 years there have been very few sports Ronnie Long hasn't turned his hand to, from cycling to athletics, badminton and GAA, he's been involved in all at a variety of levels.
His love of sport started with cycling. In September 1953 he joined the Limerick Road Club and that same year he competed in his first race. The following year he was a member of the Limerick team which won the 50-mile Irish Team Title and during his career he competed in numerous national road races.
From there Long became involved in athletics and over the course of his career was an event and team manager on over 56 occasions including the Montreal Olympics and seven other major championships. Out of all the events that he was involved in, the World Indoors in Indianapolis in 1987 is the one that stands out.
"We took four athletes, Eamonn Coghlan, Marcus O'Sullivan, Frank O'Mara and Paul Donovan and we brought back three medals. Marcus won the 1,500m and Frank and Paul came first and second (in the 3,000m). That was particularly significant because it was the only time that two Irish flags went up together on the same podium. I don't think it happened before and I haven't seen it happen since. It was a special moment."
Long served as the president of Athletics Ireland from 1994-1995 and was also one of the people responsible from bringing the World Cross-Country Championships to Limerick in 1979.
He was instrumental in the organisation of the event which saw the Irish team take second place in front of 30,000 spectators. Today a strong team from Ireland will travel to Budapest for the European Cross-Country Championships and although Long thinks they will perform well, especially defending champion Fionnuala Britton, he feels that there is room for improvement in Irish athletics.
"I think there is too much emphasis on road racing and I think this is promoting mediocrity. I know it is helping the general population of the country to get fitter but, in relation to producing athletes, it's not the way to go."
Long lives in Limerick and he recently received a National Award for Volunteers in Irish Sport. He is a regular attendee of many sports events and can often be heard on Limerick 95 talking about athletics.