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Meelick athlete ‘gobsmacked’ by mayoral reception

A FORMER Meelick athlete, who has given almost three decades of service to Limerick Athletic Club, said he was “gobsmacked” to receive a special mayoral reception in City Hall, Limerick last Friday.
Paddy O’Connell was honoured by Mayor of Limerick Maria Byrne for his contribution to athletics and fundraising for various charities down through the years.
Paddy McMahon from Limerick City was also feted by Councillor Byrne, who decided to choose two volunteers to mark the Treaty City’s selection as the European City of Sport.
Six weeks ago, Mr O’Connell was one of 38 people honoured by President Mary McAleese for contribution to sport in all codes.
Memories of a “lovely day” with President McAleese came flooding back to Paddy recently when he saw Queen Elizabeth travelling on the same route, through the same door and down the big long hall with busts of all the past presidents of Ireland.
Paddy and his wife, Rose, who will celebrate their 57th wedding anniversary next October, attended the function with their family – five children, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Paddy’s first success as an athlete was when he finished second at a 100-yard event at St Munchin’s College in 1946 at just 14. It prompted a lifelong association with athletics as a competitor and administrator, apart from a brief break from 1954 to 1959.
With others, including Gerry Ryan, Richie Hohey, Paddy Sherlock, he went on to form the original Redgate Athletic Club in 1949. This didn’t last very long so he joined Limerick Athletic Club where he has given 27 years of service including a 10-year stint as secretary of Munster Council.
He is still an officer of the Limerick County Board and was a member of the senior activities’ committee at national level for five years and on the management committee for three years.
In fact, he has spent 29 years on the services to sports award committee and 10 years on the Limerick Sports Partnership.
For over 30 years, he has been one of the organisers of the Christmas Day Run in aid of the Daughters of Charity, Lisnagry and was involved in organising the Race Against Time promoted by Bob Geldof, which raised IR£26,000 about two decades ago.
He holds the distinction of having won county medals in counties Clare, Kerry and Limerick.
Indeed, Paddy had little time to celebrate his award as on Sunday, he was off to an athletics meeting in Castleisland to act as a manager for the senior men’s Limerick AC team captained by Simon Hogan and the women’s team headed by Tracy Roche.
A native of Foynes in West Limerick, he came to live in Meelick in 1936 and jokes he was brainwashed to support Clare hurlers even though he remains loyal to promoting Limerick athletics down through the years.

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