For Patsy McGonagle, the Finn Valley AC Manager of Ireland’s Olympic athletics team it’s either the beginning of the journey within the next few hours as he boards a plane for Heathrow or possibly it’s the end of a journey that began with the World Championships in Seville in 1999.
In between then and this flight to London, he has seen the plane touch down in Beijing, Sydney, Osaka, Berlin, Moscow, Daegu, Izmir, Barcelona, Gothenburg Helsinki and many more, all urging Irish athletes to glory.
Perhaps this last flight before standing down is best described as the beginning of the end of a journey really; the four-year Olympic cycle coming to an end.
Thoughts immediately turn to London 1948 the last time the Olympics were held in London to his father then Lt. Patsy McGonagle who all those years ago was assembling with his soccer team squad to catch the boat and ultimately the train to post-war London- one of two Donegal Olympians on that team.
They were the first ever from the area; the other Frank McLaughlin a Carndonagh man and a medical student at UCD whom they met at a train station along the way in England.
Interesting that these two men grew up just miles from each other as Patsy was a Ballyliffin man then stationed in the Curragh and playing with Bohemians.
Different times but surely exciting and the link with father and son being Olympians is noteworthy if not unique.
Patsy senior, now deceased, had played soccer and won honours with Drumcondra, Shelbourne, Bohemians and ultimately Derry City in addition to playing inter league for both the North and the South .
Patsy Junior, the Finn Valley man, sets off for London and will settle in with the team at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham for a number of days before moving to East London and the village that will become home for the competition period as athletes come in from the camp at intermittent intervals based on their competition programme.
St Mary’s again has a link as it was here that Patsy studied physical education, graduated and headed back to a brand new job in Glenties before returning for a further study year and another new challenge the then new Regional College which was to evolve to LYIT as we now know it.
The Olympic athletics programme begins August 3rd while the team will travel from their training base to join in the opening ceremony Friday next before returning to Twickenham.
The added bonus for Patsy on this Games’ experience is that three Donegal athletes are on the athletics team, Brendan Boyce, Caitriona Jennings and Tori Pena.
With Strabane man Stephen Maguire on the coaching staff plus the large number of local people travelling to take advantage of a ‘Home Games’ Patsy is encouraged by the many goodwill messages from the immediate community and will do occassional personal reports during his busy sojourn in charge of Ireland’s elite at the greatest sports festival on earth.
No doubt there will be thoughts of his father, 1948 and all the years he has given to athletics at Finn Valley, in Co Donegal and to Ireland.
It’s going to be special. And our wishes go with him and his team, especially Brendan, Tori and Caitriona.
Let the Games begin!Tags: