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24 Jan 2022

Then & Now: Ronnie took the road less travelled

Then & Now: Ronnie took the road less travelled

Ronnie Long speaking at the launch of The Long Road in Thomond Park in May

THE LONG ROAD the sport and life memories of Ronnie Long is a very interesting read over two hundred pages. I always enjoyed listening to Ronnie on local radio bringing the athletic news to a great listenership on the sports show.
He had an engaging way with the listeners and his enthusiasm always shone through in his delivery. From the days of the pirate stations to his retirement he gave a great service keeping all informed and up to date with events.
In August 2008 I published a book titled Ahearne Brothers Athea Olympic and World Champions. It was to mark the centenary of Tim's gold medal win at the 1908 Olympic Games held in London. Tim won the Hop Step and Jump event with a mighty leap of 48 feet 11¾ inches. The Athea Community Council had erected a wing foot bronze sculpture to the brothers’ achievements in 1996, but it was never officially unveiled. I had been in contact with Ronnie Long about my book beforehand and met him in Ballinvreena Community Centre, at the Kilfinane Coshlea Historical Society Lecture on the Olympics by Tony O'Donoghue. Ronnie came to Athea for my book launch held that August and he unveiled the Wing Foot Monument earlier in the evening.
Ronnie who was born in England and grew up in Ballingarry, Killaloe and Mungret, has given a lifetime to promoting athletics in Limerick and beyond. Ronnie was also a good racing cyclist and, as a member of the Limerick team that rode Rás Tailteann in 1955, he led a breakaway group through Limerick city. He was a strong advocate for the founding of Board Lúthchleas na hÉireann (BLE) in 1967 as the national governing body for athletics; he served on its board for 19 years and was PRO for the then national association for 12 years.
Ronnie was Irish team manager for the Olympics in Montreal in 1976 and again for the World Indoor Championships in Indianapolis in 1987 when Marcus O'Sullivan and Frank O'Mara won double gold (1,500m and 3,000m respectively), and Paul Donovan silver (3,000m). Ronnie was elected president of BLE in 1994 and was awarded a National Award for Voluntary Lifetime of Service to Irish Sport in 2012.
Frank O'Meara wrote in the book: I am reminded of the quote attributed to Alexander Hamilton:
“If you don't stand for something, you could hang for anything”. At the great age of eighty six, we can declare that Ronnie Long never suffered from that malady. He was highly principled and always had a strong opinion. He was not afraid of a fight. He was most often on the side of the underdog or the under-represented.
Eamon Coghlan wrote: Ronnie Long gave his life and soul to athletics in Limerick and Ireland. His contribution over many decades gives him an unique authority of our sport. He led many Irish teams at Olympic Games and other major championships, Ronnie cared for his athletes as if he parented us. His memories are to be cherished. The book cost € 20 and is available around the city and beyond and is a lovely recall on a sporting life well lived.

GAA Grassroots
GAA GRASSROOTS book, stories from the heart of the GAA Volume 1 is compiled by Offaly native PJ Cunningham, and features three Limerick people Michael McDonnell, Mae Leonard and John Cummins. PJ is a former deputy editor of the Sunday Tribune and Evening Herald and sports editor of the Irish Independent. He is the author of five books, and he has compiled and edited with Joe Kearney three collections of books on rural life stories -Around the Farm Gate, There was Light and From the Candy Store to the Galtymore. It was always his intention to publish this GAA collection and work got underway in step with Covid-19.
President of the Gaelic Athletic Association Larry McCarthy writes as follows: The exercise undertaken by PJ Cunningham with the blessing of the GAA , sought to safeguard the future of some of the most colourful memories as well as bringing local stories beyond their traditional confines. The GAA Museum is already home to the GAA Oral History Project, and this is another piece of work that will serve us well, not least for future generations. The spread of stories, from both a chronological and geographic perspective, is a strength of the book and it should be a great source of pride to all of those whose submissions made the cut given the level of interest that the project generated.
I have the pleasure of knowing Michael Mc Donnell for close on 30 years. A native of Croom and a former District Inspector with the Office of Public Works. Michael has served the GAA in many capacities both as a player and administrator with his club and county since 1949. Last Charge of the Bike Brigade is the heading for Mikes story about attending the Munster hurling championship match between Cork and Limerick played at Thurles in 1946. He was only 15 years old and along with his friends he cycled the 55 miles to the match and the same distance home again. He describes the journey and the excitement experienced of being present at such a thrilling contest which unfortunately Limerick lost, over three pages.
Mae Leonard is a proud Limerick woman who has lived all her married life in County Kildare. Once upon a time she played camogie for Limerick and captured the heart of a Limerick hurler. The well known journalist is also an award winning author of short stories and poetry. I have been aware of her work for many years and over seven pages she presents a very interesting story. The title of her story is: There is an Isle of Hurling Though I didn't Know it Then.
High Spirits See Galbally Home is John Cummins story about a football challenge match in 1994. The Galbally team travelled by bus to play Doonbeg of Clare a week before playing Father Casey's in the County senior football final. After the match several stops were made for food, drink and dancing on the long journey home. The night had no negative impact on the team which won its first senior title a week later.
A green map of Ireland with a white light spot representing the GAA clubs is on the front cover. The hardback cover has 400 pages and 136 individual stories from people all over Ireland and beyond. Volume 2 will be published in the autumn of 2022, and I will have a story included in it. The book costs € 19.99 and is available in bookshops all over the country. I got my copy in the Crescent Bookshop and it will provide plenty of laughs over the festive season.

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