Saturday 16 November 2019

Day to remember

• Standing on Molesworth Street as we welcomed home our Olympic heroes and seeing Ronnie Delany take the podium, I wondered what it was like in 1956, the last time we recorded such a medal-haul at the Olympics.

Quizzing my uncle Mick proved a most enlightening experience. Now in his 70s, he remembered cycling down to College Green and seeing the homecoming of our 1,500 metre gold medal hero in an open-top car.

But what was even more revealing was his memory of the race itself and athletics in Ireland in the 1950s. Because of the time difference between Melbourne and here and the lack of television in the Liberties, he remembers listening to a recorded version of BBC's Rex Alston's commentary and that unbelievable late charge of the man from Arklow and Sandymount, which not only secured the gold medal but also a new Olympic record.

My uncle then regaled me with stories -- how he saw Ronnie Delany break two minutes (and the Irish record) for the half mile as an 18-year-old at Shelbourne's football ground in Irishtown in 1952; the night in Billy Morton's Santry Stadium in the late 50s when five men (Herb Elliot, Merv Lincoln, Ronnie Delany, Murray Halberg and Albert Thomas) all broke the four-minute mile, with Elliot breaking the world record to boot. My uncle also told of how he rubbed shoulders with the Dublin Italian community as he witnessed their hero Fausto Coppi, one of the best cyclists in the world, pedalling furiously to overcome the likes of Andre Delagarde (another Tour de France hero) in a track race.

He informed me that Morton, who established Santry on the world stage of international track and field, also organised athletic meets (which Delany raced in) in Lansdowne Road.

As I walked up Dawson Street after the homecoming parade had finished, I espied Delany embracing Katie Taylor in front of the Mansion House, a wonderful passing of the torch from our oldest king of the gold circle to its newly crowned queen.

Mark Lawler
South Circular Road, Dublin 8

Irish Independent

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