Wednesday 17 January 2018

The politician: Jimmy Deenihan

POLITICIANS are hardly flavour of the month in Ireland.

If they're not bitching at each other across the Oireachtas chamber, they're lazing about in the Dail bar, while the country goes down the toilet, right?

Kerry football legend and Fine Gael TD Jimmy Deenihan -- who would close the Dail bar as the first of his cost-cutting measures -- gives a lie to that stereotype.

Not only will Dublin be his second marathon, but he is leading the first cross-party group of 11 Irish politicians to the start line, all running for charity.

Deenihan, a five-time All-Ireland winner and a PE teacher before going into politics full-time, started them out very gradually last January. They ran just one side of Merrion Square the first night and built that up to the full square, then laps of it before extending their horizon.

"There's 11 of us and we're all different paces -- some will run, some will run-walk it," Deenihan reveals.

After finishing his first marathon in Dublin last year, Deenihan was among the hordes getting post-race physio on Merrion Square when 'Irish Runner' magazine editor Frank Greally spotted him and threw down the gauntlet: why not enter a Dail team?

"I sent out an email to all TDs and senators, got 15 initial replies and it's been very enjoyable," Deenihan says.

"The Dail is a very transient place because people lose their seats in elections and there isn't much cross-party activity, but this has created good comradeship and new friendships, which is always a good thing."


Deenihan's first marathon experience was painful. A serious calf injury, a legacy of his football days, meant he couldn't train from June to August.

"I was still able to keep cycling and I'd done the 'Ring of Kerry' cycle in the lead-in, but, on the day, after running the first 13 miles in two hours, it took me three to do the second half," he says.

"My only regret is that I didn't do a marathon years ago. I'm 58 now and would love to have taken on the challenge when I was at peak fitness or even 10 or 20 years ago.

"What I have learnt is that you have to speak to your body and pace yourself properly. I got far too ambitious in training last year, went too fast and it all fell apart.

"Luckily my cardiovascular fitness is probably still there a bit from the football, but from the hips down I have problems."

So, political bias aside, who does he fancy to top the poll in this all-party group?

"Barry Andrews -- he's run a few marathons before."

Deenihan reckons that Damien English and Brian O'Domhnaill (a former competitive race-walker) will also do decent times and tips Lucinda Creighton and Senator Cecilia Keaveney to be the first female politicians home.

And himself? "After taking five hours last year, I'll be happy with anything inside that!

"Most people could probably do a half-marathon, but doing a full one is a major physical challenge, no doubt.

"Someone has to benefit from it to make it worthwhile.

"This year I'm doing it for 'Cuan Mhuire' and Sister Consilio. I've been pledged some good money to do it and that certainly does give you additional motivation to get across that finish line."

Irish Independent

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