Padraig Keane : Clonliffe Harriers 1970-2016. On a Sunday morning in October 1967, after coming back from mass in his native Ballinlough, Co. Roscommon, a certain Frank Greally came knocking to see if Padraig could run for Ballyhaunis A.C. in the Mayo Youths Cross Country Championships as they were “a man down”. Padraig cycled 6 miles to Ballyhaunis, was picked up there, brought to Hollymount and ran his first crosscountry race. He didn’t know much about cross-country at that stage, but finished 2nd, the team won Gold and he came home with two medals- all I might add in a pair of Brown Suede Shoes!!, (No vaporflies around then). He always said “Elvis had blue, but I had brown.” He loved Cross-Country and started training, running 6 miles as hard and as fast as he could and if he met a car, he would jump over the wall because if they saw him they would think he was mad!! (Not too many cars around then).
A few years later B.L.E. organised an athletics seminar in Galway and Padraig was invited. He found himself with elite athletes and learned that “Racing is racing, and training is training” when he was told to slow down on a training run. He ran for Ballyhaunis A.C. and Moore A.C.when he worked in that area. He won loads of medals and trophys and then the prizes started to come in. Everything was displayed in the “parlor” at home. A new cabinet had to be got, to show them all off to the neighbours. I remember he won a “Gold” coffee set. It was my pride and joy, but of course never used!!.(I don’t think the bottle of Irel coffee would have been appropriate for it!!)
In 1970 Padraig went to Manchester to work and joined Sale Harriers. He was a member of the Sale team that won a 100 mile relay. Each member of the team ran one mile (no athlete could run more than one leg) and they averaged 4:57.. If he wasn’t racing he could be found in Old Trafford supporting his beloved United -but we wont hold that against him!!
He returned to Dublin with the intention of joining Frank Greally at Donore Harriers ,but he didn’t know where they were located. Frank was to ring him to tell him where to go but as he said himself “I’m still waiting for the call”!!. A work colleague told him he knew a man who ran and would be put in touch with him.
Padraig was picked up the following Sunday morning by none other than Laro Byrne, who was on his way to a race in Santry and asked him to come along. He told Padraig if he didn’t like the club he would personally bring him to Donore. Padraig ran a four mile cross-country race in Santry woods surrounded by legends and Olympian: Frank Murphy, Danny McDaid, Des McCormack, Paddy Marley, George McIntyre to name just a few. They were all Irish Internationals but Padraig finished 3rd in this great field. As a result of the warm welcome he received he decided there and then to join Clonliffe Harriers.
Under Laro’s direction Padraig made great progress. In Feb 1971 I remember travelling from Ballinlough to Tullamore to watch him run in the National Junior cross-country-which he won. I was so proud of him and as he went through the finish line, I broke free from my parents and followed him through the finishing chute. He held my hand as we walked through, something to this day I’ll never forget. Eamonn Coughlan was 2nd. .Padraig represented Ireland in the International cross-country championships in San Sebastian that year winning his first Irish vest. The following season he finished 6th in the Senior cross-country running a stormer of a race making the Irish team for the world cross-country in Cambridge, and he still a Junior.
Donore continued to dominate Irish distant running for the next three years but 1975-76 season, the Clonliffe team of Padraig, Jerry Kiernan, young Frank Murphy and Gerry Finnegan toppled the 8 in a a row Donore team to take the National title for the first time. Clonliffe Captain Christy Brady put his trust in that young team, who all had great respect for him. Padraig always sang his praises of Christy. He had great knowledge of the sport and a shrewd psychologist-long before sports psycologists or ”witch doctors”as Padraig often called them! Padraig remembered been a “bold boy” on the night before an important road relay, having had a “few to many” (not like Padraig!). Feeling terrible up to a hour before he was to run,when he started to warm up, he said “he was going to have a good one”.- he smashed the course record and opened up a 90 second gap on the second runner. He was rewarded by the “biggest bear hug I ever got in my life” from a delighted Christy.
Padraig continued to be a stalwart for Clonliffe and amassing an amazing total of 15 Dublin Senior Team Gold medals over a 20 year period. In 1976 he joined the Army and was stationed in the Curragh in the medical core. The army had an elite athletic squad at the time and he loved this. He trained with great athletes there, Brendan Downey, Paddy Murphy, Brian Keeney, and Paul Delaney. The highlight for Padraig was when he represented Ireland in the World Military Games in Finland, and ran a 2:22 marathon to take silver. He now had a world championship medal to add to his collection. He became disillusioned with the army shortly after and left them having served as he said himself “3 years and NO days”. Padraig and Brian Keeney were also picked (by invitation) to run the marathon course in Seoul ,Korea before the Olympics there. I cant recall how they got on, but I do know a good time was had!!.
Padraig continued to run as a vet (or master) and won the title in 1994. He had now won national medals at junior, intermediate, senior and master levels. He was also club Captain in 1990/91. Many years ago Padraig got a motion passed at the club A.G.M. proposing that cross-country running be restored as an Olympic sport. Its great to see IAAF recently recommended to the IOC that cross-country should indeed be reinstated as an Olympic sport. There would be some discussion at the Clonliffe bar about this now!! He was also the brain behind the first Port Tunnel races,-and what a success that was.
Padraig liked nothing better than to hold court in the bar on a Sunday afternoon- or indeed anytime and engage in any topic under the sun, keeping the vocal cords well lubricated with a creamy pint. On meeting you he would greet you with: “May the hinges of your friendship never rust”. If he had a point to prove it would be “My learned friend”. He loved to travel to many Athletic meetings abroad ,but he had a great fear of flying- hence the invention of “aviation fuel” !!. He met many great characters on his travels.
List Of Achievements(to the best of my knowledge);2nd Mayo Youths C.C / 4 Roscommon one-mils c’ships/12 Connaught C.C Golds/15 Dublin C.C Golds/19 Leinster Snr. C.C/ 6 All-Army C.C/1 World Military Silver in Marathon/1 World Military C.C./ Five international vests. Some record.
Padraig Keane: athlete, carpenter, inventor, philosopher, wit and gentleman has enriched the lives of many people lucky enough to know him. Padraig sadly passed away in January 2016