From the Archive

A ruff ride

Sat, Jul 6, 2013, 01:00

Published on
December 29th, 1986
Photograph by
Jack McManus

There would be a touch of “man bites dog” about this picture – if it wasn’t for the fact that there’s nothing amusing about those bandages. The photograph shows one of our most admired Olympians, Eamonn Coghlan, “resting in the Mater Hospital, Dublin” in December 1986 after being attacked by a marauding canine.

If it was a cartoon, it would be hilarious. Dumb dog chases hapless human: the human in question being, as it happens, one of the fastest men on the planet. It would give the phrase Road Runner a whole new meaning.

On the other hand, if you happen to be a world-class athlete, and both of your legs – plus one of your arms – are banjaxed in what was, presumably, a pretty scary incident; or if the person who has been attacked happens to be your husband or your daddy, well, that’s a different story altogether.

Check out the expressions on the children on the right of the picture. Suzanne Coghlan, aged eight at the time, and Eamonn junior, a baby-faced five, are definitely not amused by what has happened to their dad. Coghlan himself, however, is as relaxed as if he was lying on a sun-lounger by a pool somewhere. His wife Yvonne is also smiling.

Which is probably why the picture, despite the potential seriousness of its subject, conveys a cheerful – even jaunty – mood. Kudos to the photographer: Coghlan’s legs are the main focus of the image. But the strong diagonal line created by those sinewy shanks is softened by the way the three visitors are leaning, at an angle, towards the man on the bed.

Thankfully, this story does have a happy ending. Coghlan went on to another Olympic appearance, making it to the semi-final of the 5,000 metres at the 1988 summer games. He is now a Fine Gael Senator and fundraiser for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital.
Arminta Wallace
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