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Kerry’s fastest ever woman is keeping her feet on the ground



by Adam Moynihan

Solo athletes aren’t always noted for their humility, at least not outwardly. Operating as an individual requires a lot of self-belief. When you only have yourself to depend on, you need to have absolute faith in your abilities at all times.

While those involved in team sports tend to deflect praise and extol the talents of their colleagues, solo sportspeople project a type of confidence that can sometimes border on arrogance. We often hear pro boxers, golfers, and track and field stars banging on about how great are (the best, even), conveniently ignoring any statistics or rankings that might suggest otherwise.

But how about an athlete who’s the best without even knowing it?

This week I had the honour of inadvertently informing Sarah Leahy that she is the fastest Kerry woman of all time. Yes, you read that right. The 22-year-old Killarney sprinter was caught off guard when I asked her how it felt to be the county’s fastest ever woman. Speaking to me on the phone from a quiet corner of UL’s Glucksman Library, Leahy sounded genuinely surprised when I clarified that her Killarney Valley AC clubmate Jerry Griffin had provided the information.

“Oh… I hope he did the research on that, because I didn’t!"

“I sometimes forget about things like that. I know I’m there for the club and I have my family and other people there supporting me, and it’s kind of a big deal. But I feel like I’m just there to run and enjoy it.”

She certainly enjoyed her most recent outing, the National Indoor Championships in Abbottstown. Having taken silver in the 200m on Saturday, she capped a fine weekend for local athletics by securing bronze in the 60m on Sunday.

Fellow Killarney Valley competitors Jordan Lee and Ciara Kennelly both came sixth in their high jump competitions while the unstoppable David Kenny of Farranfore Maine Valley won gold in the 5,000m walk. Kenny also walked a personal best time of 19.35.37.

As far Leahy was concerned, was there also a tinge of disappointment at how things played out? She flew out of the traps to lead the 200m before being overtaken by Sharlene Mawdsley, and she thought she had finished second in the 60m only for the result to be scrapped due to uncertainty over the start.

Leahy didn’t have her best start in the re-run but she recovered to finish third behind Molly Scott and Lauren Roy. Scott ran a sensational national record time of 7.19.

“On Monday I was definitely emotionally drained to be honest. I didn’t have any emotions because I was so tired,” the engineering student reflected.

“Overall, I was very happy with how things went. But also I felt I had nothing to lose going into it – until I started running. At one point in the 200m I was winning, but I finished second.

“Unfortunately I don’t feel like I did myself justice in the second [60m] race. I didn’t run as well, I didn’t get out of the blocks fast enough. I ended up coming third, just about. I was a bit behind but I managed to claw my way back up there. I wanted to get to my PB of 7.39 again but I got 7.46, which was slightly slower than my time in the heat earlier that day."

That personal best of 7.39 is what makes her the fastest Kerry woman over 60m of all time. Leahy believes that she can go even faster.

“When I go running it’s more about getting PBs for me. I know that there is definitely more in me, so I was a little bit disappointed that Sunday wasn’t the day for that. But at the same time, we’re there to win medals and I guess I did that. I had never won a senior medal before, so I’m delighted.

“The standard of competition was really high. Not just in my races but in all the races. There were loads of Olympians in the men’s and women’s 400m, and obviously Molly Scott got a national record again. It was a mad standard and a fantastic experience.”

Leahy had previously been juggling athletics with GAA commitments but with all of her focus now on sprinting, her progress has been remarkable. In addition to being the fastest Kerry woman ever, she is the 14th fastest Irish woman over 60m ever and 12th fastest over 200m.

Her coaches say they are impressed by what she is doing, but not one bit surprised. She had been singled out as a major prospect as a teenager. Now that she is “all in” on her chosen disciplines, they are confident that she can take it to the next level and compete internationally.

For Leahy’s part, she feels as though is she is “slowly but surely” finding her feet amongst the elite of Irish athletics. Not so long ago she was the new girl. Now she’s starting to feel like she belongs.

“It used to be a lot more intimidating but now a lot of the girls talk to me. I’m kind of getting to know more people and they’re all very nice, and very chatty. Some people tend to be very focused all day but I feel like I do better when I’m having a laugh and making friends.

“I was a bit starstruck when I saw Phil Healy. I haven’t got the courage to talk to her yet! But in general I’ve learned to deal with it more. I just enjoy it, put on a smile and chat away.”

Next on the agenda is the outdoor season, during which Leahy will be gunning for gold in the 100m and 200m.

“I’m very excited about the outdoor season. I think I should be much faster after the training I’ve been doing. I’m much stronger than I used to be; I used to fade a lot. That shouldn’t happen this year.”

There’s a hint of that self-belief we talked about earlier. All the top athletes know full well that as important as it is to be humble, that will only take you so far.

Leahy has more than earned the right to project confidence. She is the fastest Kerry woman ever, after all. And now she knows it.


Start clocking up those ‘Kingdom Kilometres’

With an increase in daylight hours there’s no better time to clock up the ‘Kingdom Kilometres’ on foot or by cycling along the county’s two new Greenways. The recently opened […]




With an increase in daylight hours there’s no better time to clock up the ‘Kingdom Kilometres’ on foot or by cycling along the county’s two new Greenways.

The recently opened Kingdom of Kerry Greenways between Tralee and Fenit and between Listowel and Abbeyfeale are already proving hugely popular with locals and visitors to Kerry.

Representatives of the tourism Industry, local public representatives, travel writers and influencers gathered in Kerry on Monday to experience the exciting new tourist attractions and welcome the arrival of the longer daylight hours as the clocks changed over to summertime.

Sarah Hanrahan, a social media influencer who posts about Irish travel and has more than 100,000 Instagram followers, described the experience.

“Ireland has some of the most amazing outdoor spaces. For a lot of my followers and other people, connecting with green spaces has become much more important to their overall sense of well-being as well as their health and fitness. It’s been really gorgeous to experience the Tralee to Fenit, and Listowel to Limerick Kingdom of Kerry Greenways; a fantastic trip sampling the warm hospitality of Kerry and a great reminder of the active holiday options that are right on our doorstep.”

The new purpose-built trails provide an accessible and inclusive experience for visitors of all abilities.

Mayor of Tralee, Cllr Mikey Sheehy and the Mayor of Listowel, Cllr Aoife Thornton, said that the greenways offer an exceptional recreational amenity for everyone to enjoy.

“The greenways are situated in some of Kerry’s most scenic landscapes and offer spectacular and safe off-road facilities for people of all ages to enjoy as the landscape comes into bloom. They also offer warm hospitality at the trail head towns of each route.”

Visit to find out more.


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St Patrick’s Day parade winners announced

Killarney Valley Classic and Vintage Club has won the sought-after overall award in recognition of their colourful and action-packed entry to this year’s St Patrick’s Day parade in Killarney. Delighted […]



Killarney Valley Classic and Vintage Club has won the sought-after overall award in recognition of their colourful and action-packed entry to this year’s St Patrick’s Day parade in Killarney.

Delighted club representatives were presented with the Seán O’Keeffe Perpetual Trophy – in memory of the former Mayor of Killarney and parade stalwart – at a gala presentation of prizes in the International Hotel, Killarney on Tuesday night.

The award for the Best Interpretation of the Theme, which was Killarney: Experience More, went to the Wander Wild Festival who received the Michael Courtney Perpetual Trophy which is dedicated to the memory of another former mayor of the town who spearheaded the annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations for many years.

The John ‘Killer’ O’Callaghan Perpetual Trophy for the Best Sporting Entry was won by Killarney Athletic AFC and the Peter Irwin Memorial Trophy for the Best Marching Group and Cultural/Arts Entry went to Millstreet Pipe Band.

The Best Sports Club was Spa GAA, the Best Children’s Group prize was won by Kilcummin Comhaltas and the Best New Entry was Killarney Rugby Football Club.

There was an international flavour to the Best Musical Entry which was scooped by the Glenridge High School Marching Band from New Jersey.

The prize for the Best Voluntary Group went to the Kerry Stars Special Olympics Club, the Best School Award went to the Fiona Crowley Stage School and the Best Activity Group was deemed to be Scorchers Cheerleading Club.

The Most Entertaining Entry went to the Killarney Tidy Towns group, the prize for the Most Original Entry was won by Liebherr Container Cranes and the Most Imaginative Entry in the parade was the Art House, Killarney.

The Most Stylish Entry prize was awarded to the Ukrainian community whose representative said they were delighted to play a part in Ireland’s national holiday and thanked the people of Killarney for the warm welcome they have received.

Other prizes presented on the night included the Best Window Display which went to Christy Healy’s on New Street who were celebrating 100 years in business on St Patrick’s Day, while the Europe Hotel and Resort won the Best Green-Themed Building prize.

The judges for the parade were Br Pat Lynch, Guardian, Franciscan Friary, Pam Brosnan, Killarney Musical Society and Denis McMahon.

The awards were presented by Killarney St Patrick’s Festival Chairman Paul Sherry, Mayor of Killarney Cllr Niall Kelleher, Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce Senior Executive Bridget O’Keeffe, and parade grand marshal Cathal P Walshe.

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