ST Finbarr’s AC member Denis Coughlan won gold medals in both the 800m and 1,500m races at the National Masters Track and Field Championships which were held in Tullamore recently.
The Bantry native was thrilled to return home with two gold medals.
“It’s always an honour to win national titles, but even sweeter to do the double.”
What made the occasion all the more enjoyable was the presence of so many of his friends and family who travelled to Tullamore in support of their hero.
“It means the world to have the huge support network I have. From my club to my good friends, my family and most especially, my wife Úna. Training is a massive commitment which requires a huge amount of understanding, particularly from my wife and family. I wouldn’t have achieved all I have without them.”
The powerful runner has flourished under the careful coaching of renowned athletics coach David McCarthy.
“Together, we concentrated a lot on the importance of building strength which paid dividends in allowing me to perform well twice in the one day. You must have goals to stay motivated in life.
“All year long, competing in both races was a target of mine. However, even with the best of intentions and a good year training behind you, it all comes down to the race-day. I was delighted to come out on the right side of the results this time.”
He raced a perfect race in the 800m. He led from start to finish, while the 1500m race was a lot more tactical.
“In the 800m race, my plan was to go out hard at the start. That has advantages, but it does make you a target for everyone else in the race. I was pleased to be able to lead the whole way around and although it was a very tight finish, I was delighted to be strong enough to hold off everyone.
“The 1500m race was a more tactical race. I went to the front to try to control the tempo. However, in the final 200m, I was passed out by two competitors, so I had to dig deep over the last 150m to overtake them to win. In that particular race, I was very pleased that I was able to answer those questions asked of me when the challenge arose.”
His athletic achievements in recent years have led to him representing Ireland in the Masters Championships, a huge honour and deserved recognition given his consistently brilliant performances. Winning two gold medals at the National Masters Championships ranks very high in his achievements to date.
“I was delighted to get the double national titles this year and it’s a fantastic achievement. Looking back, I am also very proud of my performances representing Ireland on the International Masters stage. I came fourth in the world outdoor final of the 800m in Australia in 2016. Earlier this year, I was fourth again in the 800m and seventh in the indoor world finals 1500m, held in Poland.”
The 38-year-old west Cork man only took up athletics in 2010 on the advice of a member of St Finbarr’s AC as he recalls.
“I took up athletics seriously in 2010. I was playing a soccer final in Turner’s Cross with Rockmount when Marian Lyons, a member of St Finbarr’s AC and the mother of one of my Rockmount clubmates, suggested that given my questionable soccer skills, I might make a better runner than soccer player!
“I took her advice. I loved it immediately and I haven’t looked back since.”
Denis loves competing and representing the St Finbarr’s AC.
“The Barrs are a brilliant club to be associated with. It is like one big family and the support is fantastic. I have been lucky to meet some of my best friends through the club and they are very welcoming.
“For a young fella from Bantry it was great for me knowing that I could drop down to the Maradyke any Wednesday or Friday at 6pm and Marian Lyons, Eamon McEvoy and Fergus O’Donovan would there willing to give great guidance.”
The double champion took to athletics with natural ease.
“I think athletics is great for young people, as everyone is encouraged to take part. No one is left on the sideline and it promotes great confidence and discipline. I picked the middle distances as they suited me best. I was lucky to meet a specialist coach Freda Davoren when starting out, who helped me.
“I love the intensity of the track and the competition during race time. You have one move in these races which will make or break you. It is almost like a game of chess and I love the buzz this brings.”