Sonia O'Sullivan's daughter Sophie shows why the family connection makes the Cork City Sports a magical event

Sonia O'Sullivan's daughter Sophie shows why the family connection makes the Cork City Sports a magical event

Athletics legend Sonia O’Sullivan with her daughter Sophie, enjoying the Cork City Sports. Picture: David Keane.

THERE'S something quite simple, yet magical, that captures my imagination every time I attend the Cork City Sports International meeting. 

Tuesday night, the 66th staging of this unique event took place at the CIT Athletics Stadium with a field assembled of world class athletes, and yet for me, it's the presence of the locals that gives this event its unique selling point.

It's the only sporting event I go to every year that makes me feel happy and very proud of what I have witnessed, put together by a superb bunch of dedicated volunteers led by their president Frank Walley and their dynamic chairman, Tony O'Connell. 

There are others, who form part of this committee, like Joe Hartnett, who took over the role of meet director from the late Dick Hodgins and did a great job in assembling the best field ever, long-serving secretary Terry O'Rourke, and technical director Liam O'Brien, but for me, it's the manner in which I and all the athletes are greeted by Frank and Tony, that makes this event memorable for me.

I am constantly amazed by their enthusiasm and love for this event, and this extra special commitment results in both the spectators and competitors leaving the event, and the City, in a much better frame of mind than when they first arrived.

Where else can you have a night where you can walk around the CIT track and get a chance to witness some of the best athletes in the world compete in their respective events up close and personal?

Where else do you get the opportunity to see the future generation of athletes to get the chance to run on the same tracks as their heroes, on the same night?

Where else do you get an event that is such a family orientated one?

Where else do you get an event that sees the next generation of Irish superstars deliver in front of a crowd and more importantly in front of their famous parents?

Athletics legend Derval O’Rourke and her daughter Dafne O’Leary. Picture: David Keane.
Athletics legend Derval O’Rourke and her daughter Dafne O’Leary. Picture: David Keane.

Watching the 200 and 300m sprints, the inter-companies relay and the Sonia 3K relay, were some of the highlights for me. 

Yes, the international side of the meeting was incredible, and we really got a chance to see some of the worlds best in action in the 100m, 200m and the mile for both men and women. 

But my joy, and satisfaction comes from watching our own local kids participate in the event. 

Meghan Carr, St Catherine’s AC, in action during the Cork City Sports. Picture: David Keane.
Meghan Carr, St Catherine’s AC, in action during the Cork City Sports. Picture: David Keane.

A quick look through the official programme on the night and you see names such as Meghan Carr, daughter of Robert Heffernan, Sophie O'Sullivan, daughter of Sonia, Louise Shanahan and Phil Healy all compete in various events in front of their home crowd and the satisfaction they must get from doing this can only be immense. 

Too see Derval O'Rourke there with her daughter Dafne only adds to the occasion.

I'm sure there was no prouder mother in the world last night than our own Sonia, who got to present her daughter Sophie and her team with their winning medals after they finished first in Sonia's race, and then also to be able to watch her win her 800m junior event in some style. 

It's been some week for Sophie, winning four races and today as she heads back to Australia to return to school as the Irish U17 champion. 

I'm sure her memories of her first time competing at the Cork City Sports will remain with her forever. More than 30 years ago her mother did the same thing and it sent Sonia on the road to greatness. Here's hoping the same thing can happen to Sophie. 

Proud grandad John O'Sullivan, while shying away from the limelight, had the broadest grin of all and it's easy to see why, as I have no doubt he believes Sophie is a chip off her mother's block. 

Phil Healy's speed continues to excite me and her performance finishing third in a world class 200m event was incredible.  She is, without doubt, a superstar that Cork should be proud of. 

Finally, on a night when the sun shone on the sports, and as the various committee members were called forward to present medals, the name Dick Hodgins kept coming into my mind. This was the second Cork City Sports without his presence, and while it's safe to say it was a very successful event, for me something special is missing. 

And it's something than can never be replaced - the great man himself, who did so much for years to make this event what is it.

Former Cork hurler Shane O’Neill of PwC, in action in one of the Inter-Firm races during the Cork City Sports. Picture: David Keane.
Former Cork hurler Shane O’Neill of PwC, in action in one of the Inter-Firm races during the Cork City Sports. Picture: David Keane.

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