Eamonn Coghlan’s winning shirt

I was out in the infield as Eamonn Coghlan ran a blistering 3.53.48 mile in Belfield 33 years ago. History now records this as Eamonn’s last sub-4 in Ireland and among the top 750 miles ever run anywhere in the world.

It was a calm, dry, grey Saturday afternoon at the Donore Harriers Coca-Cola International Athletics Meet at Belfield. As a member of the organising club, I was given a small job of helping athletes moving their sports gear around and so on.

Eamonn Coghlan was in great form that day. He had come off a fantastic indoor season with a new world sub-3.50 mile record (to this day the second fastest ever recorded).

So, being in the right place at the right time was all so important that Saturday afternoon.

Moments after crossing the line Eamonn gargled some Coke for the photographers. He then shared his instant reaction with the sports media. As he was walking along the infield, he exchanged some banter with a group of us from Donore. I cheekily asked him if I could have his shirt to raise some money for sports for the blind and visually impaired. “Of course,” he says, “ring me in a few days as I need to have it washed, it’s yours!”

Three days later I rang Eamonn from an old phone coin box at the CIE Coldcutt Club in Ballyfermot. ‘Where are you, Joe?” When I told him I was at a function to find money to send our team to the European Athletics Championships for the Blind Eamonn says “I’ll be right down, let’s present it now!

I had no media ready, not even a pocket camera at hand, so I asked Eamonn to hold off. He reluctantly agreed.

As it turned out, we never got a formal presentation arranged with Eamonn. A week later I collected the shirt from his mum’s house in Cooley Road, Drimnagh. I then passed it on to Eamonn Coghlan’s number one fan, and our best supporter, Mick Kelly from Limerick, See bottom of this article for more on Mick.

Mick, the late dad of Pat Kelly, one of our first, and greatest, visually impaired Paralympians and a member of the VSI Hall of Fame, framed the shirt. He then put it on display, on a rota basis, in various public houses in Limerick City. Mick Kelly asked that customers buy tickets for a raffle with just one prize: Eamonn Coghlan’s shirt!

Within weeks of taking the shirt off his back this time, the piece of clothing grew in value as Eamonn Coghlan famously won the 5000m at the inaugural World Athletics Championships in Helsinki.

Mick Kelly loved the Coghlan shirt, but soon the time came for him to part with it. Mick held his raffle and raised a staggering 3,000 punts, which is equivalent to close to €15,000 in current currency. The proceeds went to send seven blind and visually impaired athletes to the 1984 Paralympic Games in New York.

We are delighted to say now Senator Eamonn Coghlan still keeps in touch with us and was MC at the launch of Vision Sports Ireland three years ago.

Mick Kelly passed away at the age of 82 in March 1998. He was one of our best supporters – his many talents meant that aside from raising massive funds he quite often raised the roof!


While discussing the above article with my good friend Pat Kelly he mentioned that his dad Mick was a founder of St Mary’s RFC in Limerick. Pat wondered if his dad’s founding of the club is recorded on the net. Here’s the proof: www.stmarysrfc.ie

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