Patsy McGonagle today announced that he is stepping down as team manager to the Irish Athletics team, 25 years after first managing the team at the World Junior Championships in Seoul, South Korea.
During the quarter of a century at the helm of the national team, the Donegal man oversaw unprecedented success including Irish athletes winning 2 Olympic medals, 9 World Championship medals and 27 European Championships medals.
Patsy, who is Highland's Athletics Correspondent, spoke with Kenny Harkin today following his announcement today...
A graduate of St Mary’s College of Physical Education in London in 1972, the Ballybofey man was one of the early pioneers of full time PE teachers in Ireland.
It was from this base that saw McGonagle selected to manage the national team on a record 68 occasions including 4 Olympic Games, 6 World and 6 European Athletics Championships.
These experiences saw him manage Irish teams on 4 continents and in 28 countries.
To give his time at the helm some context, only one man, Jack Charlton, has managed the Irish football team on more occasions while similarly only one man, Eddie O'Sullivan, has managed the Irish rugby team more regularly.
Although McGonagle was recently re-offered the post by Athletics Ireland until Tokyo 2020, after careful consideration he felt the time was right to step aside and allow new blood to take over the duties.
“It was a huge honour for me, especially being from rural Ireland in Donegal, to have been appointed to manage the National team on so many occasions” said McGonagle.
“I was always so proud to wear the Irish tracksuit and to fly the Irish flag abroad at major athletics event and I am forever indebted to the Irish athletes I managed who put in so much effort to represent their country with such distinction abroad at the highest levels”
“I have so many highlights - the Olympic medals won by Sonia O’Sullivan in Sydney 2000 & Rob Heffernan in London 2012 and the World & European Championships championship medals also won by Olive Loughnane, David Gillick, Derval O’Rourke, James Nolan, and more recently from Mark English from my own county and Ciara Mageean.”
“I never tired of seeing the Irish flag raised for a medal ceremony and hearing Amhrán na bhFiann being played in stadiums around the world.”
Following his last selection as team manager at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 in August, he has been approached by numerous people to record the many stories he has lived through and is currently considering compiling them for a book.
His experiences building the Finn Valley Athletics Club into a world class community sports facility, in addition to a lifetime spent working at the highest levels of sport encompassing training the Donegal football team in their golden era in the 90s and noughties as well as being an Commandment in the FCA and founding member of Donegal County Board in the late 60s would all make for a fascinating book from the straight-talking Donegal man.
After 25 years managing Irish Athletics Teams he is probably the longest serving Irish Team Manager in any Sport.
He will continue to devote his energy to his beloved Finn Valley Athletics Centre and has plans to expand the facilities beyond the existing athletics track, swimming pool, astro turf, and indoor facilities in what is a great example of coordinated sports facilities for the community.