Despite the allure of a career as an inter-county footballer, Carlow native TJ Kearns opted for life as an athlete. He was born and raised in Rathvilly and along with his brother Linus played both senior and underage football for his club and county.
In 1984, Kearns moved to Dublin to study in Bolton Street college. He joined the Dublin City Harriers Athletic Club and his training sessions increased from his normal two days a week to six.
Two years later, he made a big breakthrough by winning the national championship in the 110 metre hurdles. After that he knew that his dream of competing at the Olympics could become a reality.
"Getting to the Olympics was something that I always wanted but I never really thought it would come true," he says. "I was always interested in watching the athletics on the TV. In 1984, a friend of mine managed the Irish Olympic team in LA. When he came back he gave me an Irish singlet and shorts; they helped inspire me."
Kearns knuckled down to training and qualified for the 1988 games in Seoul. Although he didn't make a huge impact, he set an Irish record of 14.2 seconds in the 110 metre hurdles.
"Lining up and going into the Olympic stadium was a total dream come true. I was 21 at the time and completely overawed by the experience It takes time to get the confidence to deal with those surroundings and pull out your best performance."
Setting an Irish record in Seoul gave him confidence coming home and spurred him on to focus on the next Olympics. At Barcelona in 1992, Kearns again set an Irish record, clocking in at 13.63 seconds.
Four years later, at the age of 31, he went to Atlanta for his third Olympics. It was his last games but also his best and once again he set an Irish record, finishing in 13.55.
Although Kearns is not directly involved in athletics these days, he keeps in touch with his former coaches and colleagues and often helps out with up-and-coming athletes.
He is a chartered surveyor by trade and currently manages the development of a retail centre in eastern Europe.
Prior to that, he was a partner in Colliers Jackson Stops in Dublin and was one of five directors who was involved in the disposal of a majority shareholding to UK company Colliers CRE back in 2006.
Sunday Indo Sport