Tributes flow in for Clonliffe’s Jerry Kiernan, an enduring athlete

by Stephen Findlater

Irish athletics was shocked this week by the passing of Jerry Kiernan, one of the sport’s most enduring figures whether as an athlete, a coach, a pundit or a teacher. 

A Kerry-man by birth, he made his mark in the Clonliffe Harriers’ singlet, eventually becoming a life member of the Santry club. 

Clonliffe paid to him tribute via the club website, saying: “It’s with absolute shock that Clonliffe Harriers have to announce the very sad death last night of 1984 Olympian and Clonliffe Harriers life member Jerry Kiernan.  

“Coming so soon after the passing of Joe Cooper we are numb with grief and sadness. 

“Jerry Kiernan was an institution! A sub-four minute miler, having ran 3.59.12 in June 1976, he went on to enjoy a stunning career as a distance athlete.  

“He was national cross country champion in Kilmacow in 1984 and won the national senior team title with Clonliffe on an extraordinary eight occasions (1980, 81, 82, 84, 87, 88, 89 and 92).  

“It was, however, over the classic marathon distance that he made his name winning the Dublin city marathon on two occasions, 1982 and 92, and, of course, the pinnacle his outstanding run in the 1984 Los Angeles’ Olympic marathon when he placed ninth in a PB of 2.12.20. 

“In addition to all of this, he is one of the country’s top coaches, was very much a philosopher and TV athletics expert. He will be greatly missed by his family, club mates, athletes and the athletics family.” 

As a coach, the likes of John Travers and Ciara Mageean paid tribute to his ability to get the best out of them with his honest and uncompromising approach. 

As a teacher at St Brigid’s NS in Foxrock, many hailed his empathetic methods as being beyond compare. 

Dublin Track Club coach Feidhlim Kelly – in Cathal Dennehy’s excellent piece on Kiernan in the Irish Examiner – added: “He was brash, charismatic, opinionated, and the sport has a dearth of that now.  

“He had a bit of everything the sport lacks. He’d stand up to establishment. He had a great line about the Olympic Council being a glorified travel agency — he called it as it was. 

“After a major sporting event, people would always wait for Con Houlihan’s words in the paper and no matter what everybody said, everybody waited to see what Kiernan said after the nationals, whether you agreed or not. He established that position as the voice of athletics and he did it better than anyone.” 

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