THERE was disappointment in north Cork as the coronavirus forced the cancellation of the popular Jack O’Keeffe 4 Mile Road Race from Boherbue to Kiskeam on Easter Monday.
Promoted by Gneeveguilla AC, athletic friends from both sides of the county bounds contributed to the successful staging of the event none more so than sponsor Jack O’Keeffe.
The Kiskeam native has dedicated a lifetime to sporting and community organisations, Jack competed in his first race in 1956 for Millstreet AC and two years later formed the Meelin Athletic Club.
In 1962, Jack emigrated to England and success followed him on capturing numerous club and team events. Apart from athletics, Jack played Gaelic Football and joined the Harps Club where he remained a servant for 40 years, his pioneering spirit set up an underage structure and in 1980, Jack initiated a tour to Ireland and play a selection of games all over the country.
And Jack’s endeavours helped launch the St Anthony’s Boxing Club in London while his caring efforts helped young Irish emigrants settle in Britain and encouraged participation in sport and he established the South London Irish Festival.
On his return to Ireland and now a resident in Mallow, Jack maintains an interest in sport, sponsoring the annual Boherbue to Kiskeam Race for close on 30 years.
During the early years, John Barrett (Desmond Currans) and former World Hill Running champion John Lenihan (Riocht) emerged to capture outright victory before Army international athlete Pat Byrne (Tinryland) landed victory in the foot and mouth year of 2001.
Subsequently, a new star emerged in Sergiu Ciobanu, there was no stopping the Clonliffe Harriers club man on setting a course record.
That record was shattered in 2014, an easterly wind helped generate fantastic times and in the senior men's, Mark Hanrahan (Leevale) took the initiative from an early stage, maintaining the momentum of an all-out onslaught to pull away and cruise home impressively in a time of 18 minutes, 38 seconds.
During the past decade, Ed Murphy (Gneeveguilla), James McCarthy and Michael Harty (East Cork) impressed with Ciobanu returning to land the race for the fifth occasion last year. From the senior ladies, Riocht’s Maureen Harrington grabbed the early limelight as did Carmel O’Connor (Gneeveguilla), Laura Crowe (Riocht), Martina Kiely (St Finbarr's), Mary Finn (Millstreet) and her daughters Michelle and Carol carrying the Leevale singlet are no strangers to race success.
Last year, reigning All-Ireland Schools Intermediate Cross Country champion Niamh O’Mahony(Riocht) took the premier prize after scorching home impressively. Organisers Gneeveguilla AC hope to host the Jack O’Keeffe Race later in the year.