If the word ‘Legend’ has any shred of its original meaning left, it can surely be applied in its organic, raw form to John Lenihan.
The Ballymacelligott athlete has achieved everything he set his determined mind to in the course of a punishing if rewarding career in singlets of club and country.
His high points have all been chronicled in newspapers and on film clips and many of them were very high points indeed. John Lenihan was a mountain runner from a small, hilly town-land between here (Castleisland) and Tralee.
Welcome Home Lorry
A mountain runner who became a world champion in Switzerland in the autumn of 1991. A world champion who stood on the back of a ‘welcome home lorry’ on Castleisland’s Main Street with a world gold medal on a ribbon around his neck.
He stood there for long enough for a celebrating crowd to get a decent and rare look at him. Up to then it was only a few lucky, rare glimpses around the top of the Maam and through Wren’s bog with his trademark, long black hair trailing behind him.
His story is a remarkable one. It’s one of determination and grit and an iron will to win. A will which separates people who become true legends from the rest of us. A will which has them trampling fields and roads in their locality daily and nightly. A will that earns them the right to stand apart and stand up for us and represent us and wear our colours. A will that takes them away to bring home All-Ireland and world championship titles.
Round That Last Bend
A will that brings lumps to the throats of old men as they stand in fields and on streets and applaud the heroics of the likes of Lenihan as they round that last bend for home. Covered in sweat from the toil and often spattered with mud and legs fit to buckle – only for that will and the colours they carry and the sight of the line.
A book on the life and times of John Lenihan was well due. Currow man, Con Dennehy found himself in a position to step up to the challenge its creation posed. A contemporary and club-mate of John Lenihan’s, Con had a better-than-most insight into the highs and lows of his subject’s incredible career.
Much of what he and we didn’t know about the gentle and quiet giant of Irish athletics, Con has teased out in the course of the book.
1960s Childhood to Today
The 220 page publication Tough as Leather – The Story of Sporting Legend John Lenihan traces the athlete’s life from childhood in the 1960s to today.
The respect John Lenihan enjoys in Irish athletics is well reflected in the foreword by former World Cross Country Champion and 1984 Los Angeles Olympics Marathon silver medalist, John Treacy. And with that, another vision of a heroic, mud spattered, Irish athlete comes to mind.
John Treacy has his readers by the hasp on the first line and it gets better: “John Lenihan had that wild look about him. The long hair, the big eyes and the huge smile. He gave the impression that he was different, almost not tame. The rugged look of a man from the Kerry Mountains.”
A Thousand Words
Con’s and John’s book carries a photograph by Valerie O’Sullivan on its cover and, as is usual with her work, it does paint a thousand words.
The greatly anticipated launch is on at Gally’s Restaurant in Tralee on the coming Friday, June 12th at 8-30pm with International adventurer and Cork woman, Clare O’Leary. Ms. O’Leary also co-unveiled (with Mike O’Shea) the ‘Lenihan’s Hill’ monument to her friend’s remarkable achievements at An Riocht last September.
There’s a Castleisland book signing in the plans too and that will be at Griffin’s Newsagents and Lucky Lottery Shop on Killarney Road on Friday, June 26 at a time to be confirmed.
Tough as Leather – The Story of Sporting Legend John Lenihan can be ordered directly from the author through the live link here: https://www.facebook.com/con.dennehy.58?fref=ts