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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Delany's golden moment hasn't lost its lustre

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

EVEN today, some 55 years later, the memory of Olympic gold medalist Ronnie Delany's epic win in Melbourne has the power to inspire awe.

And, it appears, even a former Taoiseach is not immune to its charms.

"Go on Ronnie, go on Ronnie," cheered the crowd yesterday as the runner's long, lean physique sprinted, almost effortlessly it seemed, past the finishing line.

Watching himself on screen in a video of the race all those years ago, the athlete's face was suffused with a mixture of delight and pride that was wonderful to behold.

The room burst into spontaneous applause and Ronnie (76) raised his hand in response to the crowd's reaction, Bertie Ahern among them.

Just 21 years old when he won the Olympic 1500m gold medal in Melbourne in December 1956, Ronnie is still renowned as one of Ireland's greatest sportsmen and ambassadors on the world stage.

Yesterday, he was back at his former school, O'Connell CBS on North Richmond Street in Dublin's inner city, for a ceremony marking the official opening of the Ronnie Delany Arena -- an all-weather sports facility.

It has a synthetic turf surface and 50-metre hurling wall and as well as being used by students at O'Connell CBS, the facility is open to the 12 primary schools in the area which currently have no access to a pitch.

Principal Gerry Duffy said the pupils' response to the arena was: "It's deadly."

The inspirational athlete said he was "deeply honoured" by the tribute and quipped that he was glad the video of his win was shown, lest today's younger generation at the school should ask, "who's that grey-haired auld lad?".

Recalling his time at the school, Ronnie said he used to run from Amiens Street Station up the steep incline of Buckingham Street, developing great stamina "like the Kenyans".

He said the school had given him the foundation to a great education which he went on to pursue and warned that today's athletes should not lose sight of the need for education.

"You can't ignore it," Delany said.

Among the guests at the official opening of the arena was former Taoiseach Mr Ahern, who said the hurling wall was a great addition for "those of us that still hope for a Dublin All-Ireland hurling final win".

Speaking publicly for the first time since the election that reduced Fianna Fail to just 20 seats in the Dail, Mr Ahern gave his blessing to the new Government and expressed his optimism about the future of the country.

Looking relaxed and rested, the former Dublin Central TD confessed that he had not followed any of the inter-party negotiations between Fine Gael and Labour or the speculation surrounding the run-up to Thursday's unveiling of the new Cabinet.

But he said he had "read down the list" of Enda Kenny's new appointees and expressed his approval, wishing them well.

"I know them all very well. They have a lot of experience. It will go well," he told the Irish Independent.

Asked whether he considered that the shaping up of the new Cabinet boded well for the future of the country, Mr Ahern said: "That's the important thing," adding that he was "always optimistic" and believed that Ireland would come out of the crisis.

Meanwhile, he said that he was occupying himself during his retirement by doing "bits and pieces" and revealed that he was still very much involved in conflict resolution in the North.

"That's keeping me more than busy," he said.

Irish Independent

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