by ehistoryadmin on May 29, 2015




With interest in the August Bank Holiday’s sponsored run from Dublin to Naas (in aid of church renovation funds) mounting the Leinster Leader this week talked to Tim Coyle of Naas who celebrates his 80th birthday this year, and is the last surviving runner in the road race when it was held in the 1920’s.

Although suffering from ill-health, Tim, when we visit him at his neat little home in Sarto Road, was eagerly looking forward to the re-run of the road race on Monday next.  Tim is guest of honour at the reception after the race and will be presenting the commemorative scrolls to the fifteen runners taking part in the Town Hall.

The race in the twenties was for the Ballingappach Cup, donated by Mr. Charlie Farrell of that address in Clane.   The race was run in 1926, ’27, ’28 and ’29, and Tim took part in it for the last three years.  He never won the coveted cup but was second on each of three occasions.   It was won outright by a runner from Dublin, called McKeown, who was first home on three occasions running, and earned the right to keep the cup.

Tim has a clear recollection of each of the races he took part in but particularly of the 1927 event.  He was not an athlete in the very competitive sense that we understand now. “No, says Tim, with a smile, “I was more of what you’d call a sportsman, and hardly ever won a medal in my life.”  In fact, he confided he only took part in Naas for the past two years of the race to give McKeown a sporting chance of winning the cup outright – “Not that I would have beat him if I got a chance,” he added hastily.

Unlike today’s runners who train nearly all the year round, and run the required distance umpteen times before the actual event, Tim to present-day standards, did a minimum of training.

Trial Run:    One day, he recalled, we ran to Ballymore and round by Harristown, Carnalway, and onto the Dunlavin road, and back to Naas.  In November, just before the race, with Martin O’Brien, who won the race in 1926, we went to Dublin.  I put my clothes on the back of my bike and ran in a trial which few knew about from the GPO to Naas; so I knew I could do the distance.”

When the big day came – the race at that time was run in December – Tim brought his employer’s family – the Brophy’s of Jigginstown – to Mass in a Model T Ford.  He came back and milked cows – he worked as a farm-hand.  “I had only a cup of tea and a slice of bread before I set off for Dublin with Joe McDonald who had a shop in the town.  Martin O’Brien who worked in McDonald’s was with him.”

From Nelson’s Pillar:  The two Naas runners stripped off in the Automobile Club’s premises just off O’Connell Street.  “Then,” says Tim, we put our backs to the railings around Nelson’s Pillar and we set off.”  There was about nine runners in all, and apart from a man from Maynooth, Tim and Martin were the only runners from Co. Kildare.

Their route was down College Green, Dame Street, and through a maze of Dublin side streets, out into the country (now Crumlin and Ballyfermot) and onto the main road at Bluebell, Inchicore.  Tim remembers the biggest problems were created by pot-holes with abounded on the main road at that time.  At sections along the route there were crowds out to cheer the runners.  Each runner had a steward on a bike to make sure that the way was clear for his runner.  The race finished up that year in the old football grounds – Kenny’s field – off the Tipper road.

Was Exhausted:  Tim says that as he tackled the hill at the old railway bridge at Friary road he began to fade.  He was egged on by a supporter, whom he heard afterwards had backed him whether he won, was placed or even finished the race.  “I was practically exhausted when I reached the railway bridge on the Tipper road,” recalls Tim.  There were about 400 people on or around the bridge and they cheered me on.”

Each runner had to do a lap of the football field before officially finishing.  “When I arrived at the field,” says Tim, “McKeown, the runner, had just completed his lap.  I managed to get around but collapsed from exhaustion at the end.”  He was brought by car to Ned Timmon’s pub (now the Random Inn) where he was offered a meal and other sustenance.  “But,” laughs Tim, “I was only able to drink ale because I had a thirst on me that you couldn’t kill.”

Better Prepared:   The following year Tim was more prepared and made sure that he had more than a cup of tea before setting off on the gruelling twenty-mile run.  This time he ran McKeown closer, and the following year, gave the holder an even closer race but did not manage to improve on his position.  But Tim was well satisfied as he ran “for the sport of it” and not for gain.  In 1928 the race finished at the Town Hall, and in 1929 at the newly opened Fr. Brennan GAA Memorial Park at Maudlins.  Each time the finish was witnessed by large crowds.

Tim, in his youth, was an all-round sportsman, taking part in athletic, boxing, cycling and football, and he names some of this contemporaries in the club:  the late Jack Hartigan, Paddy Farrell, Jack Doyle, Martin O’Brien, Dick and Myles O’Mahony (many of them still alive).  They trained in the former carpet factory at Millbrook under the watchful eye of the caretaker Mr. Maguire. Tim played once for Kildare – in 1921 in Athy – when he says they were short two of their regulars.  He also took part in a number of marathons, including the Irish marathon from Navan to Dublin.  His last race was in 1941 when he took part in a veterans marathon from Rathcoole to Naas.

Fiftieth Anniversary:    Tim, native of Two-Mile-House, Naas, also worked at the Poulaphouca scheme and in the closed down Cotton Mills in Naas.  He celebrated earlier this year the fiftieth anniversary of his marriage to his wife Mary, a native of Naas.  For many years he was a strong Labour supporter with a great devotion for the party leader, the late Billy Norton.

Monday will not alone be a special day for the parish but also for Tim as he relives the memories of the Ballinagappagh Cup races in former years, and he is justly feted for his achievements. The race was won by Karl O’ Brien.

Re-typed by Mary Murphy

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