Athletics Ireland have paid tribute to the late Fr John O’Donnell, a native of Kilmacrennan, who has died.
Fr John was a real champion of athletics and was based in County Cavan since the 19990s.
He was elected Vice President of Bord Luthchleas na h-Eireann at the 1975 Congress and succeeded the late Bill Coghlan as President at the Congress in Sligo five years later. He served in this position for three years and handed over the Presidency to the late Paddy McGovern in December 1983.
Born in Kilmacrennan in 1938, he was ordained in 1964 and appointed to teach at St Michael’s College, Cootehill, in 1965.
In 1973 he was moved to the Comprehensive School in Manorhamilton and in 1984 he became a curate in Teemore, County Fermanagh.
In 1995, he became parish priest in Blacklion, County Cavan, where spent the remainder of his days.
“A tireless worker in the cause of athletics he was prominent in the leadership of the Ulster Sports Council which promoted athletics in Ulster following the formation of BLE in 1967 and was involved in numerous meetings, discussions and activities in the early years leading up to total athletics unity in 2000,” an Athletics Ireland statement said.
“In Leitrim he was prominent in the setting up of the North Leitrim Club and was first Chairman of Leitrim County Board in 1974.
“His abiding legacy in Manorhamilton is the all weather track at the Community School which he masterminded in the mid 1970s and with Claremorris and Lanesboro was among the first all weather tracks in Connacht.
“He also played a prominent role in the Connacht Schools Athletics Association during his time in Manorhamilton. An avid fan of International Athletics he attended the ten Olympic Games between Munich in 1972 and Beijing in 2008 and was sorry to have had to miss the London Games due to ill health.
“A very conscientious and hard working priest he was also prominent and indeed prime mover in many areas of social and community activities in the two parishes in which he served and he left behind him a legacy of visible achievement in both.”
Fr O Donnell’s remains are reposing at his home in Blacklion (Belcoo Road) until this evening when they will be removed to St Patrick’s Church, Killinagh, Blacklion, Co Cavan at 8 00 p.m. Funeral Mass Saturday at 12 noon