No. 23: 60 Seconds with Harrier Johnny O’Leary

This next Harrier is a Clonliffe legend. A Harrier for 64 years, indeed he ran in the very first opening run in Santry, after Clonliffe moved to Santry from Barn Park, Finglas, in October 1956 who has served as athlete, club secretary (1989, 1993, 1994) committee member, vice captain, club Trustee (aside from all those good things he, along with Noreen, was responsible for bringing a 20 year old Noel Guiden to Clonliffe in 1983) Johnny O’Leary.

Bio: I’ve been a member of the club for 64 years and held several positions over the years, such as Secretary, Vice Captain & Assistant Treasurer. I met my late wife Noreen after the all Ireland senior cross country club championships in Belfast in 1964. I worked in Technicon in Swords for 25 years from 1967 to 1992 and later went on to work at the Dept. Of Agriculture from 1992 to 2006.

What age did you take up the sport of athletics and why? I was 15 years old when I took up athletics. I took up the sport because I wasn’t very good at football !! So I decided to try something new.When and why did you join Clonliffe Harriers? October 1956. I was working with a guy who was in Clonliffe – Joe Dempsey – and he brought me to see the Clonliffe 2 mile race in Finglas. It was run from the Old Finglas Road to Glasnevin. I was instantly hooked and joined the club the following Tuesday!

Johnny & Co., 6/10/56 1st ever Clonliffe XC Opening Run in Santry Woods

What is your favourite training workout? The Clonliffe top 5 and the long runs from Morton Stadium out to Howth on Tuesdays and Thursday nights

And your least favourite? Pass!

What’s your favourite race/athletics meet? The Morton Games

What is your most cherished or proudest moment in athletics? As athlete and or coach?

  1. I was on the Clonliffe senior cross country team in 1964 at Dundonald, Belfast.
  2. I represented Ireland at race walking at several international events during the 1970s.
  3. I represented Clonliffe on ‘Match Play Quiz’ on RTE Radio 1 in the early 1980s alongside Maurice Ahern & Tom Boshell (now residing in the USA). The show was presented by Jimmy Magee and I have the recordings to prove it !!
  4. I ran 8 Dublin City Marathons and my best time was 2hrs 50mins.
  5. My son Bobby (a past Harrier) competed at the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992.

What was your worst injury and how did you get over it ? I had a terrible knee injury after a motor bike accident in 1964. I was out of action for a very long time. It took 6 months to recover.

What piece of advice would you give an aspiring athlete ? Hard work is the only way. You have to put the time in.

Do you have any memorable or funny story from Clonliffe Harriers that you could share? After the Olympics in 1992, Tommy Griffin and I went to an awards ceremony for Paddy Marley in Donegal and after having a few drinks, myself and Tommy couldn’t remember where we were staying so we had to sleep in the car!

What’s your favourite meal? for competition and out of competition?
It’s hard to beat a good steak. Perfect post competition meal and best non competition meal too !!

Who is your sporting hero. Athletics or other? A. Irish Danny McDaid
B. International Herb Elliott

What’s your favourite..?
A. Film. The Field
B. Song or album. The streets of New York by The Wolfe Tones
C. Book. None in particular

What’s your favourite holiday destination? Grand Canaria

What’s your favourite hobby, activity outside athletics? I love watching the Dubs (football)! I’ve been a big Dubs supporter all my life! I also love going to Old Trafford to see Manchester Utd

If your were Seb Coe what changes would you implement to improve the sport? Sort out the drug abuse

How would your non athletic friends describe you? Oh I think they’d say I’m a friendly sort of person 

How are you motivating yourself to continue training at these difficult times? Regular walking. I get out for a walk every day.

Johnny with Club captain Joe Cooper at European clubs T & F Leiria, Portugal May 2017
Noel Guiden, Noreen & Johnny circa 1983
Johnny, judging by the hair it’s gotta be mid 1970’s