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John Treacy

Margaret Aylward Dr Edward Barron Philip Barron Denis Cashman Raymond Chandler Paddy Coad Patrick Comerford Donncha Ruadh Val Doonican Sean Dunne Frank Edwards Alfie Hale John M Hearne William Hobson Dr Thomas Hussey Charles Kean John Keane Edmund Leamy D. P. Moran Gen Dick Mulcahy James Nash Peter O'Connor Jas Louis O'Donnell Pádraig Ó Fainín Gilbert O'Sullivan John Redmond Edmund I Rice James Rice, Mayor Lord Roberts V. C. John Roberts Frank Ryan Thomas Sexton Archbishop Sheehan Susan Smith John Treacy Luke Wadding William V. Wallace Cardinal Wiseman Bullocks Wyse Lucien Bonaparte Wyse






Where does one begin to tell the story of John Treacy, one of Ireland's greatest ever athletes? Do you begin with his memorable silver medal winning performance in the Los Angeles Olympic Games or do you begin with his the back-to-back world cross country gold medals? Someone once said that you should start every story at the beginning, so we return to the date of his birth, June 4th, 1957 and to the little County Waterford village of Villierstown. ohn has one brother, Ray, and a twin sister Liz (Bullen) and all three have had great careers in athletics. John showed great promise as a young boy and he was lucky to come under the guidance of Fr. Michael Enright. He followed the usual path, for Irish children, of early involvement in the Community games where he won his first major victory, the six mile road race for under 17 boys, and then into age-group competition with B.L.O.E. He has told the story of how he managed to fit-in his mileage while he attended Secondary school in St. Anne's in Cappoquin, County Waterford - he would give his schoolbooks to his twin sister, Liz and he would run the 10 miles home. While he won National titles and set several National records as an under-age athlete it was not until he entered Junior ranks that he started to gain international attention with a series of great performances.

In 1974 he finished 3rd in the World Junior Cross Country championships and then in the following year, 1975, in Rabat, Morocco he again finished in 3rd place as the Irish team took 2nd place to the USA (35 points to 29). The other members of that Irish team were, Louis Kenny 9th, Gerry Finnegan 10th and Gerry Redmond 13th. Dick Hooper finished 28th. In that same year, 1975, John competed in the European Junior T&F championships in Athens where he finished 2nd in his heat of the 5000m in a time of 14:37.4 and 2nd in the final in 14:19.2. In that same year he ran a National Junior record for the 5000m, in 14:04.6, in Kirkby, England. 

The USA now beckoned and with American colleges waiting in line to grab him, he decided to go to Providence College in Rhode Island. Following four years of great success, including several NCAA titles, John exploded on to the world stage when, on Saturday, March 25th 1978 he became the first Irishman to win the IAAF World Cross Country Championship. This took place in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park and all the finishers presented a sorry sight at the end, being covered in mud from head to toe. John's first National senior title followed in July (5000m) and then he journeyed to Prague for the European T&F championships. Here he finished 11th in the 10,000m in 28:17.0 and, in a memorable 5000m final he finished fourth in 13:28.8, only three hundreths of a second behind the winner, Ortiz of Italy, 13:28.5 with Ryffel of Switzerland and Fedotkin of the USSR in 13:28.6.Could any year top 1978?  

Well, 1979 came close. Treacy was a "dark horse" in 1978, but when the best cross country runners came to Limerick in 1979 he was clearly the man to beat. Sunday, March 25th was another day like Glasgow the year before. Torrential rain drenched athletes and spectators (there were 15,000 present) and Ireland got off to a bad start. It was only as they came to the end of the first lap that Treacy was seen to good effect  and as they started on the 2nd lap he contested the lead with Leon Schots, Belgium. Halfway through that lap Treacy drove to the front and, with no response from Schots, the destination of the 1979 title was decided there and then. Near the end of the race the huge crowd, by this stage in a fever pitch of excitement, broke through the railings and entered the course but, luckily for Treacy and Ireland, they responded to appeals over the P.A. and no runners were hampered. To add to the crowd's delight at Treacy's win they had the further heady experience of witnessing a 2nd place finish for Ireland in the team race.                 

The following year, 1980, was Olympic year and John had set his sights on the 10,000m title but the great heat and humidity in Moscow took a fearsome toll and he collapsed on the track during a qualifying round and was taken, in an unconscious state, to the treatment room. There he stayed for about an hour until he was well enough to leave. His remarkable powers of recovery were seen only four days later when he lined up for the qualifying round of the 5000m where he finished 4th in 13:44.8. He finished 4th in the semi-final in 13:40.3 and 7th in the final in 13:23.7. One month later, on 22/8/1980, John set his 10,000m National record of 27:48.7 in Brussels.   

He finished 11th in the 10,000m at the 1st World Championships in Helsinki, in 1982 and in the 1984 World Cross Country Championships in New Jersey he placed 13th. A lot of people were now saying that Treacy's challenge for top honours was over and not many expected him to feature as a realistic hope for a medal in the 1984 Olympic games. He finished 5th in his qualifying round of the 10,000m in 28:18.13 and 9th in the final in 28:28.68, but it was in the marathon - his first ever - that all his fighting qualities were seen and his silver medal was Ireland's first medal since Ronnie Delany won gold in Melbourne in the 1500m. John continued with his marathon running: in Seoul he did not finish and in Barcelona he finished 51st. In that year he won the Los Angeles marathon.  

His career record is astonishing. 
In cross country racing he won the individual title in the National Inter County Championships in 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1994 and he was a member of all the Waterford winning teams - 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1983. He was 3rd in the World Junior Cross Country Championships in 1974 and 1975 and he won the senior event in 1978 and 1979.     

On the track he was 2nd in the European Junior 5000m in 1975 and he was 4th in the senior final in 1978.

In the Marathon he won the silver medal in Los Angeles in 1984.

He was National senior champion in 5000m in 1978, 1980, 1981, 1983 and 1984. He was 10,000m champion in 1985 and 1987.

He was the first sportsperson to be made a Freeman of Waterford City and he won the Texaco Award for Athletics in 1978, 1979 and 1984, winning the Supreme Award in 1979.

At present he is the C.E.O. of the Irish Sports Council and, who knows, a possible future Sports Minister in the Irish Government.

-Photographs courtesy of Fr. Liam Kelleher, Marathon magazine

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