Sunday 17 December 2017

Where are they now?

Inside Back

Gerry Deegan

(Former athlete)

One thing Gerry Deegan always had in abundance was energy. He recalls growing up in Waterford and spending every waking moment playing on the street. From football to soccer he tried his hand at several sports before settling on running. Back in those days kids spent most of their time outdoors and Deegan feels that today's youth need to return to those habits.

"All the kids were out, you don't see that now," says Deegan. "Maybe that's why there aren't so many athletes coming through. There are plenty of facilities but the kids aren't putting it in."

Deegan first took up athletics when he was ten. At that time there was a good crop of juveniles in Waterford including John and Ray Treacy and they helped with Deegan's development.

"We had a very good county team, we were going to All-Irelands and Munsters and we were winning inter-counties and inter-clubs. That kept us involved in it because it wasn't about individuals, it was about the team."

When Deegan was 16 he finished third in his age group in the National Cross-country Championships and that was a turning point in his career. He gave up all other sports, focused on athletics and upped his running to about 50 miles a week. His efforts paid dividends and by the time he was in his late teens he was competing internationally and was Irish youth champion.

In 1976, when he was 20, he made the Irish senior team and won the national senior cross-country title, his first of five. Deegan also competed in to the World Cross-country Championships 13 times. It was a very competitive sport in Ireland during those days.

"Neil Cusack, Jerry Kiernan and myself were great friends and rivals. We'd train together either in Dublin, Limerick or Waterford and then we used to hop off each other week in and week out at races. We were all working full-time and training as professionals. That was just the way it was."

Deegan also spent a year in America on scholarship at Providence College when he was 22.

"I was there for a year and won three medals. I came third in the American Cross-country nationals, I won the two-mile indoor and I was second in the 5,000m outdoors."

He retired from athletics when he was 34. He still lives in Waterford and works for Solas.

Sunday Independent

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