Go Netzo: Raheny superwoman balances running with being a barrister

by Stephen Findlater

Raheny Shamrock stalwart, Annette Kealy, is now a World or European Masters Champion over road, track and cross country as well as being a busy barrister and hands on Mam. How does she do it ? Her husband, Eoin, tries to explain.

Annette Kealy packs more into a day than most of us do in a week. Up at seven, she tackles the ever present mountain of laundry, lays out her legal papers for the days work and has a bowl of porridge and a coffee. Annette loves her coffee. She then calls the four kids ; three teenagers all in Malahide Community School and the eldest, Lia, now in third year of college.

She takes a few minutes to sit and have the banter with the kids while they breakfast. Lunches are wrapped, ipads charged and school socks found and then the gang all leave together. Yours truly teaches in West Dublin, was up earlier and is long gone.

The three amigos walk the mile to school together, Lia runs for the 32 bus and Annette heads off on her run. Spoilt for choice, she often takes a right at the entrance to our estate and drops down onto the beach for an eight mile run on the velvet strand. If there is a high tide she’ll take a left and slip into Malahide Castle onto the wonderful five mile grass lap pounded by many great Irish athletes over the last few decades.

Rushing back into the house, Annette breaks the National record for showering, changing, grabbing her court briefs and gown and jumping into the car. Our girls marvel at their Mam’s ability to get ready and made up so quickly. They rate this far higher than any international athletic success. The barrister game is tough. Annette was a PE teacher for ten years before deciding to study law. No contacts. No family legal eagles. She has a mixed practice of crime, family law, land law, medical negligence etc. sometimes all in the one day. She gives far too much time to her clients and often faces the wrath of the judge when arguing their cases.

Moving from a secure pensionable job to being self employed Annette has a unique insight into the demands of both. Most people think that all barristers are handsomely paid but a large percentage of them are scraping by. They can spend months or years chasing payments and have no job security. On arrival home , Annette grabs a snack ( goats cheese and banana on toast is a favourite ) and then hits the study to do her returns. Every case that she has handled that day in court requires a detailed ‘return’ to the solicitor. She may have up to a dozen of these to do.

Then there’s whatever draughting is required for ongoing cases and legal research for pending work. A pure academic, Annette loves this stuff. The more detailed the legal jargon becomes, the better she gets. I’ve tried deciphering some of it but I may as well be reading Latin. As the evening approaches, Annette emerges, usually back in running gear. She orchestrates homework and a range of housekeeping matters. Then it’s usually a second run, a Yoga class or a swim. In recent years she has added one or two Yoga classes per week to her schedule and it has had a hugely positive impact towards injury prevention and general wellbeing.

At about eight, depending on the kid’s training times, we all sit down for dinner. Often, Annette and I will sit with the kids but not have dinner.This allows me to get to the gym at about 8.30 for some cross training or swimming. Annette returns to the study for a couple of hours of preparation for the following days cases. With the kids heading to bed and eleven o’clock approaching Annette and I sit down to dinner. We eat and talk and sometimes have a glass of wine. We never get up the stairs before midnight. In fact, We’re often still eating after midnight. We take a bit of slagging from friends and family for this late

night dining lifestyle but it works for us. Annette has always been a night owl and over the years she just wore me down. Now, I’m as bad as her. The beauty of running is that there is no magic formula for success.Certain training programmes and lifestyles can work for some but not others. You just have to find what suits you best.

Annette started running when she was twenty. I had ran through school and was a proud member of Raheny Shamrocks. She was very sporty and played basketball at a decent level so I kept asking her to join me on an easy run. She loved it straight away and dragging her out for a run became easier and easier.

She made the cross Country team in college and was soon leading them home. Her first taste of international duty was at the World Intervarsity Championships in France in 1990. Our great mentor and coach, Liam Moggan came on the scene soon after and Annette’s running career really took off. Liamo and Netzo are a formidable team and Annette has benefitted hugely from his care and expertise.

Through pregnancies and career changes and life’s ups and downs Liam has been a constant positive source of inspiration to both of us. Annette’s running mantra is that ‘ you have to put the work in ‘. She puts this into practice everyday. She trains hard, eats well, lives well and keeps things nice and simple. Sounds easy but it’s not.

We went altitude training for a month every year for seventeen years. Annette returned and ran some thrilling autumn races ; twice first Irish woman in the Dublin City Marathon, 16 minute 5k’s and Intercounties cross country medals. The kids have wonderful memories of hiking the Rocky Mountains and still pester us to return.

Raheny Shamrocks has been an extended family for Annette. She has spanned several ladies teams since the 1990’s and finds an extra few percent when she pulls on the green and white.

2019 has been a remarkable year for Annette. In February she successfully defended her W50 National CrossCountry title in Dundalk finishing seventh overall and mixing it with the younger girls.She then embarked on a block of training that included speed sessions on the Abbotstown indoor track. Early March saw annette in Athlone winning the national Masters Indoor 3000m.

She then travelled to Torun in Poland, came second in the World Masters 3000m but won the 8k cross country race. Another training block included a warm weather stint in portugal. Time then for the National Road Relays. One of Annette’s favourite races and on home soil. She ran the two mile leg and led her team home to the gold medal. Only a handful of senior athletes ran faster. Annette hit the roads and won the Masters title at the inaugural National 5K road Race.

She broke 18 minutes for 5k in the local Parkrun and at the St Coca’s Kilcock 5k. Her 94.7 % age graded record for the Parkrun leads the illustrious list just ahead of Catherina mcKiernan. On to the Womens Mini Marathon and Annette broke the National 10k record with a 37.25 effort. This laid the foundation for her trip to Venice for the European Masters track and Field Championships. She picked up a virus just beforehand and was run out of the medals in the 4k cross country race.Returning to Ireland for a few days work Annette was devastated. But she is made of stern stuff and returned to Venice for a weekend double of the 5000m on the track and the 10k road race.

Annette won both turning over her earlier victors making her a current World or European Masters Champion over road, track and cross country. All this without a sign of an ego or arrogance. Netzo is steely and determined in the heat of battle but meek and humble in life.

She has had a wonderful running year and it’s not over yet.

Related Articles