O'Connor is a worthy entrant to Kerry Athletics Hall of Fame


Martin Fitzgerald presenting the trophy to the Hall of Fame winner Mike OConnor
Martin Fitzgerald presenting the trophy to the Hall of Fame winner Mike OConnor

Tessa Dennison

Last Friday saw athletes of all ages swap shorts and spikes for their glad rags as they attended the Kerry Athletics annual awards night banquet at the Kenmare Bay Hotel. The county was well represented and over 150 guests sat down for dinner ahead of which the club awards were presented.

Receiving these awards, which were presented by Vice-Chairperson Brendan Cullen, were Melissa Ahern and Darragh Lynch (An Ríocht), Eabha McCarhty and Malachy Kirwan (Farranfore Maine Valley), Danielle and Frank O'Riordan (Gneeveguilla), Deirdre Kelly and Adam Quigley (Iveragh), Abbie Dunlop and Liam Palmer (Kenmare), Aoibhinn Gleeson and Sam Griffin (Killarney Valley), Saoirse Dillon and Sean Keane (Lios Tuathail), Lilly Nowak and Tom O'Flaherty (St Brendan's), Marina Eager and James Clifford (Star of the Laune), Elinor Dennison and Basit Oyebanji (Tralee Harriers).

The Kerry County Board recognised the following track and field athletes for their achievements in 2018 with crystal trophies presented by Chairperson Martin Fitzgerald. Juvenile Men- Jordan Kissane (Tralee Harriers); Junior Men - David Kenny (Farranfore Maine Valley); Senior Men - Denis Finnegan (An Ríocht); Master Men - Kevin Lynch (Lios Tuathail), Patsy O'Connor (Tralee Harriers) and Jer O'Donoghue (An Ríocht).

Juvenile Women - Ciara Kennelly (Killarney Valley); Junior Women - Shona O'Brien (Gneeveguilla); Senior Women - Solange Diogo (Tralee Harriers); Master Women - Ursula Barrett (St Brendan's); Catherine Moynihan and Sheila O'Donoghue (Gneeveguilla).

For Cross-Country the following athletes were honoured: Juvenile Men - Luke Merrigan (Kenmare); Junior Men - Oisin Spilliane (Tralee Harriers); Senior Men

- Conor O'Mahony (An Ríocht); Master Men - Tim O'Connor (An Ríocht); Juvenile Women - Niamh O'Mahony (An Ríocht); Junior Women - Alyce O'Connor (Kenmare); Senior Women - Shona Heaslip (An Ríocht); Master Women - Niamh O'Sullivan (An Ríocht).

Sean Daly, President of host club Kenmare AC, gladly shook hands and presented trophies to the recipients of the International Awards. These prestigious awards for Kerry athletes who represented Ireland on the international stage went to Shauna McCarthy (Farranfore Maine Valley) who was part of the Irish team who won bronze in the SIAB Schools Cross Country and Cillian Griffin and Luke O'Carroll from Tralee Harriers who were both on the Irish team for the SIAB and Celtic Games track and field competitions; Travane Morrison (Tralee Harriers) who took medals as part of the Irish College's team; Jordan Lee (Killarney Valley) for his outstanding bronze medal in the European Para Athletics Championships; James Doran (An Ríocht) who was part of the Irish team who won silver medals at the European Masters Indoor Championships; Colm Lynch (Iveragh) and Ger Cremin (An Ríocht) who were part of the Irish team who won European bronze medals in the 4 x 200m relay in an Irish record time; Jim O'Shea (Farranfore Maine Valley) for his outstanding achievements in the European Masters Indoor championships where he took gold in the M75 long jump.

Athletics in Kerry got a real boost in 2018 with the return of the Kerry Athletics Men's National League team. Built with athletes from across the majority of Kerry clubs, the team consisted of 11 junior athletes with a few seniors and a handful of seasoned veterans thrown in for good measure. Two good rounds in Templemore and Athlone saw the team qualifying for the final and heading to Tullamore in August where fantastic performances all round, including two thrilling relays, saw the men take the silver medals and move from Division 1 to the Premier Division on their first outing. Not bad for a team that on the day included nine athletes under 18 years of age.

Well done Travane Morrison, Cillian Griffin, Basit Oyebanji, Cathal Fitzgibbon, Oisin Spillane, Luke O'Carroll, Patsy O'Connor, Alan O'Connor (Captain) from Tralee Harriers; Dermot Dineen, Sean O'Shea, Rossa Foley, David Kenny (Farranfore Maine Valley); Michael Tony, Kevin Lynch, Ben Sheehan (Lios Tuathail); Aaron Malik, Darragh Courtney (St Brendan's) and Iveragh's Adam King.

The final presentation of the evening was the Hall of Fame Award which went to the most deserving Mike O'Connor from Farranfore Maine Valley. Mike made his athletics debut at Ballyhar Sports in 1966, when as a tall lanky youngster, he entered and won the 880 yards under 18 run. He was awarded for his efforts with a prize of a cake stand and from then on he was hooked!

Highlights of his career include winning the Kerry Novice Cross-Country Championship in 1968 and in 1972 he won the National Novice Road Walking Race Title at Kilkenny and also in this year he won the Kerry Senior Cross-Country Title held in Ballymacelligott. Mike has been a very regular and loyal member of Farranfore Maine Valley for well over fifty years and still retains his love for the sport in athletics. He is a regular competitor with no intentions on stopping. He can be found on several week mornings doing Race walking training in Killarney National park and along the Fossa way.

Congratulations to all the Kerry athletes that took part in the Great Ireland Run (National 10k) in Phoenix Park Dublin on Sunday, especially Grace Lynch (Iveragh) who finished in third place finish in the Senior Women's category to claim her first national medal and Niamh O'Sullivan (An Ríocht) who won the W55 title.