Former Irish athletics manager Seán Naughton dies, aged 88

Naughton’s vision helped to build Ireland’s first indoor athletics arena in Nenagh

Nenagh Olympic Athletic Club have announced the death of co-founder and former Irish athletics manager Seán Naughton, a name perhaps most synonymous with the building of the first indoor running arena in this country.

Against the backdrop of all the calls, pleas, and Government promises that Ireland build itself a proper indoor running track, Naughton opened the facility in Nenagh in 1990, which served its purpose, although never fully purposely built, until Athlone IT added the next indoor facility in 2013.

Following a battle with lung cancer, the 88-year-old died peacefully at his home. Nenagh Olympic described him as “a legend in both Tipperary and Irish athletics for over 60 years. Seán lived and died less than 100m from his beloved indoor arena which came about mainly because of his vision and drive.

“His likes are one in a generation but he can rest in peace knowing that his legacy is in good hands with the current generation.”


In 2009 Naughton was recognised by Athletics Ireland with a lifetime achievement award, and in 2014 he was among those honoured at the National Volunteer in Sport Awards in Dublin. As Irish team manager, among his many highlights were the 1987 World Indoors in Indianapolis, where Marcus O'Sullivan and Frank O'Mara both won gold, and Paul Donovan won silver.

Pierce O’Callaghan, currently head of competition management at World Athletics, recalled some of the lasting influences Naughton made on Irish athletics, and the influence on his own rise through the sport.

“Seán fulfilled many roles and wore numerous hats in the sport – athlete, coach, administrator, statistician, Irish team manager, Irish team coach and Sydney 2000 Olympic coach to name a few. Of course, on top of that he was a loving husband and father and successful businessman.

“Following a competitive sprints career winning Munster and National medals he was delighted to be promoted to team coach for the 1987 and 1989 World Athletics Indoor Championships, a remarkable period when Ireland won three gold and one silver medal.

“It was also during this period that he was showing his true tenacity, vision and relentless hard graft in building Ireland’s first ever indoor athletics facility, in his home town of Nenagh of all places and it is for that he will be longest remembered.

“He is the last of a breed, one of the old-school of Irish coaches and officials, and the sport will be much poorer without Seán’s integrity, enthusiasm and passion. To his wife and kids we extend our deepest sympathies and hope that the sport will find a way to honour Seán’s memory by naming an award or similar in his honour.”