A legend came to town at the weekend of 19-20 February as 1983 World 5000 metres champion Eamonn Coghlan visited the Irish Indoors at the Odyssey.Eamonn has broken four minutes for the mile on 82 occasions including a sub 3 minutes 50 clocking. He was the first to break the barrier as a 40 year old. We put some questions to him
WHAT STARTED YOU IN ATHLETICS
My Dad Bill was President of Irish Athletics for 3 years and used to take me to meetings. Then I had a schoolmate who was in a club and I went along with him. I quickly found that I liked running better than soccer as it was an individual sport.
WHICH SPORTSMAN DID YOU ADMIRE MOST
Muhammed Ali Dad you used to wake me in the middle of the night to listen to his fights with Sonny Liston. I was also a red hot fan of the Dublin Football team I would have given anything to play for the Dubs. My father worked on the sound system at Croke Park so we were regular visitors.
YOU GOT A SCHOLARSHIP TO VILANOVA IN THE USA. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT
I was just out of school and in fact was only the second to be picked after Tom Gregan who had run 4 mins 01 There was a great tradition at the University for Irish athletes going back to Ronnie Delaney and beyond.
DESCRIBE THE USA COLLEGIATE SYSTEM
It is fantastic for bridging the gap between 18 and 22 years. We came under the influence of the legendary coach Jumbo Elliott. He ran Track and Field like his very successful business and got fantastic results. The competition was intense but it gave us a very positive outlook and we knew how and when to raise our game.
YOU OBVIOUSLY LOVED INDOORS BEING KNOWN AS THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARDS
It was great -11 laps to the mile on wood! Everyone said that it was my build and style that led to success and a sub 3-50 but there were plenty of tall athletes like Ray Flynn, John Walker and Steve Scott who enjoyed Indoors.
YOU WERE TWICE 4TH IN THE OLYMPICS HOW DID THAT FEEL
Sometimes when Ilook at the 1976 1500 metres on tv I wished that Ihadn't taken the lead so early but whats done is done. In 1980 I was a little naive in the 5000.
IT ALL WENT RIGHT IN THE WORLDS IN 1983 WHAT CHANGED
I had been injury free for over a year. Ihad probably overtrained in 1980. This time mind and body were great and Iknew that Iwas going to strike Gold.
WHY WERE THE LATE SEVENTIES AND EARLY EIGHTIES A GOLDEN ERA FOR IRISH ATHLETES WITH YOURSELF, MARCUS O'SULLIVAN, FRANK O'MARA, JOHN TREACY AND MANY OTHERS
It comes in cycles. We were al determined to make it. There were less distractions. Now Soccer, Rugby and Gaelic are getting great tv coverage and there is mega money in some sports.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PRESENT STATE OF IRISH ATHLETICS
There has been great improvement in a range of disciplines. Sprinters Paul Hession and Ailis McSweeney, Hurdler Derval O'Rourke and Hammer Thrower Eileen O'Keefe all come to mind while there are at least 12 middle distance runners who can run sub four.
Ciara Mageean is a brilliant prospect. She has achieved a lot but still has a way to go and must not fee pressurised by comparisons with Sonia O'Sullivan who did not have that burden. Ciara, helped by coach Eamonn Christie has limitless potential.
YOU ARE NOW ON THE IRISH SPORTS COUNCIL
Yes I am chair of the committee for the high performance programme. We look at all sports to maintain high standards.
IS FUNDING SATISFACTORY AS WE COME TOWARDS THE 2012 OLYMPICS
The carded athletes are well funded. I would like to see more money directed towards Indoor training and competition facilities. The new Athlone venue will be great as, unlike the Odyssey it will be available all year round. Ideally there should be an Indoor venue in each province.
HAVE YOU HAD SUPPORT FROM YOUR FAMILY
Yes my wife Yvonne who I have known since we were kids is fantastic and has been with me every step of the way.
DO YOUR CHILDREN FOLLOW IN YOUR ATHLETICS FOOTSTEPS
John, the youngest, is a middle distance champion, Suzanne has a career in Banking, Eamonn is a Golf professional in Alabama and roomed with Ulster star Gareth Maybin at college while Michael is an aspiring tv and film actor.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE HOLIDAY DESTINATION
We have a house in the Costa Del Sol, Spain.
WHAT WAS YOUR BEST MOMENT IN ATHLETICS
Winning the World 5000 in Helsinki and running a sub four mile at 40 plus
AND YOUR WORST
Only 4th in two Olympics after winning all round from 1976 to 1980.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUNG ATHLETES
Train consistently. Look at the big picture not just one race at a time. Write down targets and move from one plateau to another.
CAN YOU SUM UP YOUR CAREER
I got a tremendous lot out of the sport since starting as a 12 year old. I thoroughly enjoyed each race and do not look back with any regrets.
It was a privelege to chat to Eamonn, a true legend in any era.
Interview by Dave McKibbin for the Newsletter