McNamara’s passing marks a huge loss for Donore and Irish athletics

By Stephen Leonard

DONORE Harriers Athletic Club and Irish athletics lost one of its great servants with the passing, recently, of Jim McNamara at the age of 76.

A former Olympian and a multi European and World Masters champions, McNamara was a vital cog in the dominant Donore cross-country force of the 1960s and 70s, helping them land no less than 16 National Cross Country team titles.

Jim McNamara Sports Awards  041

Representing Ireland in the marathon at the Summer Games in Montreal, he later captured seven European and four World Masters Track Championship titles.

He was never beaten over 5000m in these compe-titions with arguably his greatest success coming in the 1989 World Masters Championships in Oregon.

Jim McNamara Tribute  05

There he captured both the Over 50 5000m and 10,000m titles while also finishing runner-up in the 10,000m Road Race and 1500m.

It was a clean sweep in the 1984 European Games in London with McNamara first home in the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m.

Along the way he set a number of World Masters records including the M50 10,000m when he clocked 31:51.40 in 1989 as well as the O45 1500m (3:59.9).

He gave so much back to his club, particularly as a coach with the women’s section, helping Donore achieve success at very grade.

Paying tribute to possibly Ireland’s greatest masters runner, Donore stalwart Maurice Ahern said “Jim epitomised everything that Donore Harriers stood for.

v Paudi Lavelle Frank Murphy Tony Murphy Tom ORiordan

“A fantastic competitor and Olympian in the marathon. Modest in everything he achieved.

“He passed on all his knowledge in coaching our women's teams on a voluntary basis for 20 years to fantastic success.

“Above all a beautiful man who cared for everyone and took life's ups and downs as they came. A man apart. 
“Jim Mac loved going to Croker to see his beloved Dubs and celebrate with a pint after. Jim was a very special man” he added.

Donore Vice President Tony Murphy knew him both as a good friend and a fierce competitor, telling The Echo “I knew Jim an awful long time and while we were great pals and members of a great team [in Donore], we were also great rivals.

“The main thing about Jim was that he was never beaten, he’d just never give up. You never had him beaten until you crossed that finish line and that’s the way he was in his personal life too.

“He had some difficult times in his private life, but he was a real fighter while at the same time being very easy going. He was just a terribly likeable guy” he stressed.

A winner of novice, intermediate and senior team titles under the guidance of McNamara, Donore’s Mary McDermott underlined just how influential he was as a coach of the ladies.

“He was a fantastic coach from meet and train novice right through to national senior.

“And he was such a gentleman. It didn’t matter if you were a five-minute miler or a ten-minute miler. He had the same time for everyone.

“I won a National Senior 10km team medal back in 2008 and I would never have dreamt that I’d be able to achieve something like that.

“But Jim gave you that sense of belief and I know I’m not the only one. There are plenty of women in the same boat who wouldn’t have thought they could have achieved all that they did had it not been for him.

“He was really inspiring, even in our personal lives. We all encounter problems in life, but Jim was always there for you and we’re all just heartbroken in the club right now” she said.

Awarded the IAAF Jubilee Gold medal in 2013 for his services to the sport, McNamara stands as one of the Irish athletics most influential figures with former World 5000m champion Eamonn Coghlan tweeting “I’m so saddened to learn that the great Jim McNamara has passed away. He was a huge inspiration to me.”

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