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Frank O'Sullivan of Fermoy leading the field at the Cork City Sports at the Mardyke, 1952. 
Frank O'Sullivan of Fermoy leading the field at the Cork City Sports at the Mardyke, 1952. 
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

Pictures: A look back at Cork City Sports through the decades

LAST week should have seen the annual Cork City Sports take place but due to Covid-19, the prestigious event in its 69th year had to be postponed. 

The athletics meet was set to take place on July 7 but the committee has been forced to defer it until 2021. 

Cork City Sports, which has been hosted at CIT in recent years, attracts athletes from across the world, as well as local heroes such as Phil Healy, and previously Rob Heffernan and Sonia O'Sullivan. 

Whilst rare, it is not unprecedented that Cork City Sports has missed a year. 

Sydney Maree leading John Walker at Cork City Sports, 1985.
Sydney Maree leading John Walker at Cork City Sports, 1985.

In 1988 and again the following year the event was cancelled due to a lack of financial resources. 

"The biggest problem always was finance," said Chairman Tony O’Connell, adding that it now costs in the region of €170,000 to run the event. 

The voluntary run event, which would have seen athletes from 32 countries participating this year, is a much-anticipated sporting event in Cork and one which Mr O'Connell has been an intrinsic part of since its inception. 

"I was a cyclist myself. 

"I’m 73 this year and I’m the only present member to be at all 69 events. 

"I lived on the Western Road and my father was a cyclist and we were all into sport," he said. 

"It came out of the actual event of the Drapers’ Sports going away back. 

"The likes of Finbarr O’Brien and Con Murphy’s Menswear and Tom Murphy – all these drapers were heavily involved in the promotion of the event and were sponsors," Mr O'Connell explained. 

Cork City Sports organising committee, pictured in 1951.
Cork City Sports organising committee, pictured in 1951.

"John O’Jagoe was one of the founding members involved."

Later, Cork City Council came on board to support the event, and as Mr O'Connell states Cork City Sports went from "strength to strength" when it became an international event. 

In 1951, an American involvement was established when the American vice-consul in Cork, Nick Lakas, presented a solid silver cup - the American Trophy - which has been presented annually to the outstanding athlete of the meeting. Another significant year for Cork City Sports was 1960 when women's events were included for the first time. 

Spectators at Cork City Sports at the Mardyke, 1952.
Spectators at Cork City Sports at the Mardyke, 1952.

"We’ve had huge names at the events over the years," Mr O'Connell acknowledged. 

"Of course, Sonia O’Sullivan, our darling of the athletics track, she’s still supporting us."

The Cobh born athlete has had numerous highlights during her years competing in Cork City Sports. 

At the 1987 Cork City Sports, a young Sonia O’ Sullivan set a national junior record of 9.01 in the 3000m. 

This performance put Sonia on the map and launched the career of one of the greatest athletes Ireland has ever produced. 

Sonia O'Sullivan, Cork City Sports, 1987.
Sonia O'Sullivan, Cork City Sports, 1987.

Prior to this, the 1969 athletics meet was regarded as an immensely successful event. 

It featured an American squad which included Olympic and International athletes Mel Pender, Charlie Greene, Neil Steinhauer, John Carter, Dalton Le Blanc and Ken Moore.

That year spectators were thrilled by shot puts in excess of sixty feet and high jumps of over six and a half. 

Fermoy cyclist Frank O’Sullivan was another Cork stalwart at the event, winning the American Trophy on no less than four occasions - 1955, 1956, 1959 and 1960. 

As Mr O'Connell puts it, the achievements of athletes who have participated at the athletics meet over the years have been vast. 

 Sergey Litvinov, who was then the reigning world champion broke the world record at the Cork City Sports in July 1984.

Sergey Litvinov, who was then the reigning world champion broke the world record at the Cork City Sports in July 1984.

"There are too many highlights to mention. 

"So many world records have been broken at Cork City Sports over the decades," he said. 

Undoubtedly, both athletes and spectators will be disappointed that the annual meet will not take place this year, but Mr O'Connell moved to reassure people that the event will be "bigger and better" in summer 2021. 

"We’re on the right road now and we’re working hard at the moment to try and get back on track as they say, pardon the pun, for next year."