Adam Moynihan met Killarney sprinter Sarah Leahy at the Killarney Valley AC Arena to chat about her recent appearance at the World Championships, her goals for the rest of the year, and a very special pair of socks
Hi Sarah. Thanks for showing me around Killarney Valley’s facilities. It’s an impressive set-up.
The track facilities here are perfect. We have everything we need and Killarney Valley are always looking to improve the facilities and the club itself. All the people behind the scenes at are the MVPs, people like Jerry and Tomás Griffin, Jean Courtney, and Bríd Stack to mention just a few.
You recently competed in the World Championships in Oregon as part of the Irish 4 x 100m relay team, finishing eighth in your heat. How did you feel the event went for you?
We're very proud of each other, and we did well, but we definitely could have run better. We had more. We were aiming for and felt we were capable of running a national record. But on the day, it just didn't happen.
Personally, it was a great experience. I loved every second of it. But I will admit that the actual running part is a bit of a blur. I came onto the track and there's this huge stadium, but I was more looking around at the people I was running against. Ewa Swoboda – I thought she’d win the World Indoor - she was four people away from me and I was looking at her… She was probably like, ‘Why is this woman staring at me?’ I was very nervous. But it was still amazing and I hope I can do it again.
The fact that I was running against international athletes that have been to the Olympics and been finalists, I was kind of star struck. My trainers are like, okay Sarah, calm down. You're meant to be here. Don't act like you shouldn't.
Can you describe your mindset before a race? Do you often get nervous?
On the line it's all about how you're feeling, what you can do. You just have to get mentally prepared for a good start. Especially for me. Get out, and run as fast as you can. Just getting in the zone, I guess. I’ll know if I'm not in the zone, because I’m thinking of other things. If I'm on the blocks my head shouldn't be wandering. It should be blank and all I should be waiting for is that gun.
Would you say that you're an ultra competitive person?
I'm a competitive person, obviously. Otherwise, I wouldn't be competing at this level. But I also come from a team background, and I’m friends with a lot of these girls, so I want them to do well as well. And if they happen to beat me, fair play. You put in the training, you did very well. I'm very happy for you.
We all kind of get prepared differently. A lot of people for the warm-up, which is an hour or half an hour before the race, have the earphones on, gameface on, not talking to anyone, not smiling at anyone. I’m completely different. The more nervous I am, the more I’m going to talk.
There was a situation in Greece where everyone had their earphones on and I was mad to talk to everyone. That could change but as of right now I do tend to talk a lot. And then, going on to the track, obviously there's no more talking. You’re getting ready for the race and mentally preparing.
Tell me about the socks you wore in Oregon.
[laughs] My socks were a Valentine's Day gift from my boyfriend, Daniel. They had his face all over them and they say ‘I love you’. So yeah, I just ran the Worlds with my boyfriend’s face on my feet. He was delighted!
Daniel was the person who pushed for me to go back to running. He knew I was no longer enjoying the football and he heard the way I spoke about athletics. He helped me make the decision to go back. It was the best decision so it was only right I wore the socks and he was there in some way. I probably wouldn’t have been there without him.
Did you have some of your own supporters over there?
Yes, my mom and dad (Marie and Mike) actually travelled over. They spent the week and it was unreal to have them there. And then my cousins from Vancouver in Canada drove down which was I think over 10 hours. I was actually warming up before the relay and then I saw and heard my family with all their Kerry jerseys, Irish jerseys, Irish flags, roaring my name. That was really nice.
What’s the plan for the rest of 2022?
I was hopeful that we were going to send a 4 x 100 relay team to the Europeans but I just got an email saying that we wouldn't, which is disappointing. I know some of top 2022 female sprinters aren't available but some are and with any of them we would do well over there. We would be competitive. We held our qualification of being in the top 16 teams all summer so it's a pity that, at the last second, we aren't going.
In saying that, the women's Irish relay will continue to work hard and we have a lot more to give. We will prove that next year.
You’re moving to Dublin for work later this year. How will this affect your training?
I might have to change coaches again, which I'm a bit sad about because I really liked the Limerick training group (Leahy was in UL where she trained with the Hayley and Drew Harrison). I think I performed well and I loved the training. I was surrounded by the right people who were really lovely. I hope to find a group like that in Dublin and keep running well and performing better.
And what about next season?
I'd like another good indoor season. I was talking to Lauren Roy in Stockholm and she told me that I have the European standard in the 60m from last year. Which I didn't know! So that's kind of in my head now to try and get there, to improve my time. I think I could actually run faster. I ran 7.39 and I'd like to run at least 7.30, hopefully get another European standard, and actually go to the Europeans. I think it's in Germany. That'd be my target.
And then next summer, there's the Worlds again. So it'd be nice to continue making the Irish relays and definitely improve my time, because there's more. I can definitely run faster over 100.
What is your current PB in the 100m? Are you close to bettering it?
I ran 11.67, which I was delighted with. But it was my first run of the season. It's quite rare that you run a PB in the season opener. But I ran it, and I haven't ran it since. The closest was 11.70 in Switzerland. So I definitely think there's more in there. And I think I have a lot to learn as well. I'm still new to the sport and I’m a powerful kind of runner. I was doing a lot of gym work at the beginning of the year, before I ran my PB, and then afterwards usually people taper it off. So I did what other people do. I think that affected my running a little bit. I'm slightly weaker. So I've learned that maybe next year I shouldn’t do that. Then hopefully I’ll be running PB after PB, instead of just a one-off.
Onwards and upwards. Chat to you again soon.
Jim awarded for life-long service to the community
By Michelle Crean Listry local Jim O’Shea was honoured last week as members of the community council presented him with an award for his life-long service to the community. Jim […]
By Michelle Crean
Listry local Jim O’Shea was honoured last week as members of the community council presented him with an award for his life-long service to the community.
Jim received the O’Shea Award for 2022 at a meeting of Directors of Listry Community Council held on September 21.
Jim has been involved in Athletics from a very early age both as a competitor and administrator.
He was very much involved with Community Games in Milltown/Listry as organiser and coach. He was also involved with the Farranfore Maine Valley Athletic Club since its foundation.
Over the years Jim has competed in athletic events, mainly high jump and long jump, both in Ireland and abroad.
Recently he travelled to Derby in the UK in the British Masters Championship and won Gold in the 100 metres and Long Jump and finished second in the High Jump.
Jim, who is a very modest man, was actively involved with Listry Community Council as a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels and for his commitment to keeping our community litter free by organising a number of litter picking days each year.
Always interested in fitness, Jim often came along to the Listry Seniors Social day and led the group in gentle exercises.
“Jim is a very worthy recipient of the O’Shea Award 2022 and we thank him for a lifetime of service to others,” Tony Darmody, Chairman, said.
New book recounts stories from the Irish Civil War
The killing of 17-year-old Bertie Murphy in Killarney in September 1922 Historian and author, Owen O’Shea recounts one of the most shocking murders of the Civil War which occurred in […]
The killing of 17-year-old Bertie Murphy in Killarney in September 1922
Historian and author, Owen O’Shea recounts one of the most shocking murders of the Civil War which occurred in Killarney a century ago this week.
There were many tragic episodes and incidents during the Civil War in Kerry. One of the dreadful features of the conflict was the young age at which many on both sides of the conflict were killed in 1922 and 1923.
In Killarney in August 1922, for example, two young Free State army medics were shot dead by a sniper as they stepped off a boat onto the shore of Inisfallen Island. 18-year-old Cecil Fitzgerald and 20-year-old John O’Meara, both from Galway, had joined the army just a few months previously and were enjoying a boat trip on the lake during a day’s leave when they were killed.
The following month, one of the most shocking deaths to occur in Killarney in this period was the murder of a 17-year-old boy from Castleisland.
Bertie Murphy, a member of Fianna Éireann, the youth wing of the IRA, was just 17-years-old when he was taken into custody by Free State soldiers while walking near his home in September 1922. His mother saw him being taken in away in a truck to the Great Southern Hotel where the army had established its headquarters in the town.
The improvised barracks had a number of prison cells in the basement where anti-Treaty IRA members were detained. The prison would become renowned as a place where beatings and torture took place: a young man whose brother was an IRA captain was taken there and ‘mercilessly beaten to get him to reveal information’. He was then ‘thrown down a coal chute and left as dead’.
On Wednesday, September 27, a Free State army convoy was ambushed by the IRA at Brennan’s Glen on the Tralee road and two officers, Daniel Hannon and John Martin, were killed. Bertie Murphy had been in one of the army vehicles – he was being used by the army as a hostage in an attempt to prevent attacks by anti-Treaty forces. It was common for Free State convoys to carry a prisoner as a deterrent to IRA ambushes and attacks.
When the convoy returned to the hotel, they were met by Colonel David Neligan, one of the most ruthless members of the Kerry Command of the Free State army. Neligan had been a member of Michael Collins’ ‘Squad’ during the War of Independence and was an experienced and battle-hardened soldier.
Neligan demanded to know why the soldiers had not taken any prisoners during the ambush at Brennan’s Glen, in which two of his officers had died. The soldiers, in a frenzy following the ambush, threw Bertie Murphy down the steps of the hotel. In the presence of other soldiers, Neligan began to beat up Murphy at the bottom of the steps and then shot the prisoner. In her book, ‘Tragedies of Kerry’, Dorothy Macardle says that Murphy lived ‘until the priest came’, but died shortly after.
Another prisoner was in custody in the hotel at the time. Con O’Leary from Glenflesk was brought down from his cell to identify the dead man. But so extensive were Murphy’s facial injuries that O’Leary was unable to identify his fellow prisoner.
Newspaper reports wrongly reported that Murphy had been wounded during the engagement at Brennan’s Glen and had ‘succumbed to his injuries’ on returning to Killarney.
At Murphy’s inquest which was held a fortnight later, General Paddy O’Daly, the head of the Kerry Command, sympathised with Murphy’s family but insisted that Murphy had died in the ambush at Brennan’s Glen. He said his soldiers had done ‘everything humanly possible for the man’.
He reminded those present that deaths like Murphy’s were the fault of reckless IRA leaders who refused to accept the authority of the people. ‘It is the women and children’, he said, ‘that are suffering, and for all the suffering that is being endured those leaders are to blame’.
It would not be the last time that O’Daly and senior army officers in Kerry would cover up the actions of their soldiers in the county. Nor, sadly, would it be the last time that young men, on both sides of the divide, joined the long list of victims of the Civil War in the county.
Owen O’Shea’s new book, ‘No Middle Path: The Civil War in Kerry’ will be published by Merrion Press in mid-October and can be pre-ordered now on Amazon and at www.owenoshea.ie.
Jim awarded for life-long service to the community
By Michelle Crean Listry local Jim O’Shea was honoured last week as members of the community council presented him with...
New book recounts stories from the Irish Civil War
The killing of 17-year-old Bertie Murphy in Killarney in September 1922 Historian and author, Owen O’Shea recounts one of the...
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