Larry O’Reilly, an appreciation

Dominic Branigan: Larry O’Reilly joined Clonliffe Harriers as a young man in the 1940s, and lived through the years of the club wandering from one HQ to another until finally finding its permanent home in Santry. Larry was the last person who was a club member during the lifetime of one of our founders Joe Ingram who died in 1951. The legendary club captain Tommy Burton was still alive when Larry joined and other club legends like Sam Gray, Harry Cooney, Charlie Rothwell, Joe Peelo and of course the great Billy Morton, were regular attendees during his formative years in Clonliffe.

Having developed a great love of language Larry obtained an Arts degree from UCD and was soon described as a sting in the establishment tail, as he regularly sniped at the club committee through the medium of the Clonliffe Newsletter. However, in true club tradition, these “differences of opinion” were regularly reconciled over a few pints in Eugene’s Public House down the road from the stadium.

While his competitive career never graced the pages of the National dailies, he did make a career out of trying to outfox the captain in an attempt to win one of the famous Clonliffe Cross Country handicaps.

He did however distinguish himself in another athletic activity. Having been born with a weaker left leg, his father took him for regular walks in the Dublin Mountains to correct this weakness. Over time these outings corrected the deficiency and saw him develop a passion for hill and mountain walking. He joined other walking groups which eventually led to him knowing every blade of grass on every mountain in Ireland and most of those in the UK.

During these years he set records for completing the Lugnaquilla, Mourne, Hart and Art O’Neill walks among others. In 1953, along with fellow clubmate Mick Mc Garry he completed the Hart Walk ( a distance of 111 kms, 82 on roads and 29 over mountains) in 19 hours and 50 mins.

However, it was the company and friendship of his fellow WASPS that Larry, like so many club members before and since, put above all other club activities. Nothing pleased him more than sharing (at least) a few pints in the famous Clonliffe Bar. All were welcome, whether they were competitive friend or foe, to engage with him on the great issues of the day, or indeed on any day in history.

It was Larry O’Reilly, who as club secretary in the years after the passing of Billy Morton, along with treasurer Colm Brennan and Maurice Ahern among others, who raised the funds to build the first club bar in the early 1970s. The revenue generated from the bar helped to clear the debt and give Clonliffe the financial independence to pursue it’s main goals. In 1976 the club won the Nat Inter Clubs CC for the first time in nearly 2 decades and since then has set a record of success unlikely to be bettered.

In his later years he loved to join a pack on a Thursday night and Saturday afternoon and spend an hour or two covering the highways and byways of north county Dublin. In particular, he enjoyed the 15 and 20 mile runs and loved to describe the last mile home from the top of Santry avenue as the moment when “all hell would break loose”.

While not on the same level as the club “cracks” of the 80s, Larry had instilled in his motley group an ethos of “no prisoners” which was only visible to those within the group. The regular “guest” would simply have to accept the idiosyncratic nature of the pack.

On one occasion Larry tripped and fell at a downhill section of the lap and grazed his knee. By the time we had gathered pace he had christened the location as “Wounded Knee”.

As the years rolled on and the body grew more resistant to the demands of these runs, Larry took more to the golf course and to walks in his beloved Clontarf and Bull Wall. While his legs may no longer have carried him over the miles, they never ceased to carry him up to his beloved Clonliffe Harriers. He was a regular attendee at the Inter Clubs and National T&F Championships and most of all the Morton Games. He still loved nothing more than adjourning to the club bar and regaling friends young and old.

Recent years have not been easy for Larry but despite the loss of his beloved Breege in 2020 and the restriction of the pandemic, he never faltered in his love of Clonliffe and regularly enquired about the progression of the WASPS.

His passing on Saturday, just weeks short of his 93rd birthday will leave all those who were fortunate to have crossed his path over the past 7 or so decades, with great memories, and as he enters the celestial Clonliffe Bar, he will take one look back and say, (in the immortal words of Billy Morton) to all those who will follow “Bring A Pound For Drink”.

Larry in the club bar with Frazer Walker, Jack Deegan & Frank Whelan
2003 Nationals in Santry: Frazer Walker, Larry, Colm Brennan, Joe Harden, John Bourke, Dominic Branigan

Arrangements (

O’Reilly, Laurence (Larry) (late of Clontarf, formerly British Rail and long-time member of Clonliffe Harriers and Howth Golf Club) – February 4th, 2023 (peacefully) at the Fairview Community Unit.

Beloved husband of the late Breege and brother of the late Mary and Benny. Larry will be very sadly missed by his brother-in-law Tom, nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews, extended family and many friends.

May he Rest in Peace

Reposing at the Kirwan Funeral Home, Fairview Strand, on Wednesday evening (February 8th) with a Gathering of Family and Friends from 5 o’clock to 7 o’clock.

Removal on Thursday morning (February 9th) to the Church of St. John the Baptist, Clontarf, arriving for 10 o’clock Requiem Mass, with Funeral thereafter to St. Fintan’s Cemetery, Sutton.