BANDON mother-of-two Deirdre O’Reilly, who suffered a devastating stroke in 2013 that left her wheelchair-bound, completed the Evening Echo Mini Marathon.
The determined woman, who is coached by Sean O’Leary, took three and a half hours to cross the finish line and smiled every step of the way.
In 2013, just a few days before Christmas, Deirdre, a former reporter with the Evening Echo, suffered a massive and devastating stroke. Her family were told that she was unlikely to survive, and if she did pull through, that she would require 24-hour care for the rest of her life, but Deirdre defied the odds and now lives independently.
According to Deirdre’s sister Mary, Deirdre would not have achieved all she has managed without her coach, Seán O’Leary.
“Sean has helped her since the day Deirdre got out of hospital,” Mary said.
“Four and a half years ago, Deirdre was in a wheelchair, she couldn’t walk, talk, read or write.”
Mary said the first time Deirdre walked a mile with Seán, three years ago, it took her two hours.
On Sunday, Deirdre took on her longest distance yet, the 6km Mini Marathon, and completed it in three and a half hours.
Mary said Sean was there her every step of the way, encouraging her.
“It is a fabulous story and an achievement that will inspire other people,” Mary said.
Taking part in the race showed Deirdre’s strength of mind, courage and determination, which shone through at the finish line when a delighted Deirdre reached the end. Along the route, Deirdre had been offered a lift back by the ambulance crews on duty for the event, but she politely declined.
Having reached the finish line, one of the officials offered to get his car to bring Deirdre to her own transport, but this was also declined.
“I’ll walk”, Deirdre declared.
The road closure order in place for the route, expired at 3pm, while Deirdre was still a good distance out from the finish line and it was necessary to dismantle the finish line gantry and remove the rest of the barriers, balloons, banners and promotional material to open the road to traffic.
However, Cork Athletics resolved to ensure that Deirdre would get a finish time, and that a crew of officials would be there when Deirdre finished. When she crossed the line at the end of the 6km, there were a dozen or so officials, family, friends and supporters there to meet her.
Mary was full of praise for both Deirdre and Seán after the race. “Neither would work without the other,” Mary said. “It works both ways.”