Mick Molloy

In his own words

Mick Molloy from Oughterard sets out how he as an average athlete went on to set a world record, was selected to represent Ireland more than a dozen times in International races all over the world from Mexico for the Olympic Games, to Athens for the European Championships, the World Cross Country Championships in Morocco and competed in several other countries even inside the then Iron Curtain, while at home winning 15 All Ireland Gold Medals from 5 miles on the track all the way up to the marathon. Now having turned 80 years old this year, Mick reflects on this lifetime of achievements.

I want to encourage any young athlete at any sport, the only one vital requirement is the determination to succeed regardless of setbacks along the way.

As a school boy living in Birch-hall, which is situated 4.5 miles from Oughterard my main interest was Gaelic Football. That partly changed when my oldest brother John came home on holidays from St. Marys College Boarding School in Galway. He had been introduced to Athletics there and during the holidays he organized races for the 4 brothers on the farm.

When I was finished in the local national school, I didn’t go to secondary school like my brothers due to the untimely death of my father. I had to remain at home to work on the family farm with my Mother and Uncle Pat. For the next four years I played football and did a little running to be able to compete in the local Ross sports. At age 18, that changed one Sunday afternoon in a football match. As a fast forward I was heading for goal when two defenders made a head first charge on me, I  just about dropped my head when the two of them smashed their heads into each other, with blood everywhere I realized I had a lucky escape. On the following Thursday I read in the Connaught Tribune there was to be a 4-mile cross country race for novices in Dunmore East Galway. My only mode of transport was a bicycle so after returning from Mass, I headed to Dunmore which was a 100 miles round trip and lined up with about 45 other runners, I finished in 8th place.

At that time, the late Willie Morris who passed away at the age of 99, was not only Galway and Connaught Cross Country Champion but also Irish Champion. I then set myself a goal to reach Willies standard over the following 3 years. I had the disadvantage of having no one to train with, as there was no middle-distance runner West of the Corrib at that time, there was no coach to advise me, my two brothers who were close in age to me were away from home, John in a Seminar and Murt in St Marys College. So, I turned to my little brother Chris, who was a 10-year old school boy at the time. He turned out to be my secret weapon in my quest to achieve my goal.

After the farm work was finished each day, I would run 5 miles around the farm and then get Chris to cycle fast for 3 miles on the road, while i tried to keep up with him. That 8-mile training per day continued for 3 years. The 5 miles around the farm was 60 percent effort and the 3 miles on the road was 80 percent effort. I also competed in every middle distance race in Connaught during that time.

In 1960, aged 22, I lined up with about 65 other athletes, for the Co Galway 9-mile Cross Country Race around the Agricultural College Fields near Athenry. I not only beat Willie Morris, the favourite but I won the race by over 300 yards.

Later that year I completed in the 10 mile track race in Dublin and won my 1st Irish Title. In the previous three years I also got training assistance from my brother Murt when he was on holidays from Boarding School. Murt also had many successes in Athletics including winning the Connaught Marathon before he went on to have a career as a Secondary School Teacher in Dublin.

I set up an Athletics Club in Oughterard in 1964 and got many young people to train and compete. In 1966 on a wet and windy day in the grounds of Dromoland Castle, Co Clare, I won the All Ireland cross country and captained Galway to win the inter county team event. Later that year I compete in my first Irish Marathon  that I won in Banteer Co Cork in a time of 2 hours and 24 minutes. My second marathon race was run in Galway in 1968 that I won by over 2 minutes, as well as winning another Irish Title in my home country, that qualified me for the Olympics games in Mexico of that year. In the following year the Irish Marathon was held in Thurles that I went on to win again and it qualified me to compete in the European Marathon in Athens.

After competing in serious competitions for 18 years, I decided that 1974 would be my last year in International competition. So I increases my training to double that of earlier years. After my successes at home that year, I was selected to compete in two international events. The 1st one was the Belgian Internationals Marathon and I went there with a full Irish team. I was leading the race at 15 miles when the official car turned down a side road for petrol and i followed. Not understanding the language I lost about 1.5 minutes by the time I got back on the correct road and I was back in 8th place. I eventually got up to the leaders at 21 miles and went on to win by over 2.5 minutes. My time for that marathon was 2 hours and 18 minutes and 22 seconds, despite loosing 1.5 minutes. As well as winning the race I lead in Ireland to victory in the team event.

Two months later I competed in the 30 miles track race at Walton on Thames, London.. As there was a mix-up with accommodation, I had to hitch a lift from a nearby town, getting there minutes before the start. I told the starter I was going  for a world record and to announce the times every 5 miles where I was in relation to the record. I took the lead after a few miles and it wasn’t long before I was lapping all the field of about 90 runners. I was in the 2nd lane most of the time, frequently lapping runners. I probably ran an extra half mile in the 120 laps. I was inside the previous record at every 5 mile point and took 2 minutes 45 seconds off the previous time. My record time for the 30 miles was 2 hours, 44 minutes and 47 seconds. The race was run on a Saturday afternoon in London and with my youngest brother Chriss’ assistance, I got back in time to take my mother to 1st mass Sunday morning in Oughterard.

Chris was talented over shorter distances, when he lived in Wales he won several mile races there. Home on holidays at aged 20 years he won the Connaught 1500 metre championship. He had an accident during a race in Cardiff shortly afterwards and had to retire from Athletics. He returned to Dublin and concentrated on business, one of his companies sponsored the Irish Marathon for 5 years. I always relied on him to let me know when the right time was to stay with the leaders in a marathon race or take the lead.

I was awarded the Galway Sport Star award 5 times between the years 1966 to 1974 and the Hall of Fame award in 1999.

I look back at the goals I have achieved and shown what was possible. I hope the above will inspire some young Galway Athletes to follow their dreams and set themselves even higher goals in whatever sport they pursue.

Many thanks to The Molloy family for their generosity in sharing Mick’s collection of trophies, medals and photos. The article was written in in 2018.

Transcribed by Niamh Higgins 5th Year Student – St. Paul’s Oughterard 2024

This page was added on 13/02/2024.

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