Is Mick Clohisey the second best athlete to come out of Raheny this year?

Ian O'Riordan: Unbeaten Brian Fenton has another All-Ireland medal but the marathon man has had a real journey

Raheny Shamrock’s Mick Clohisey was the winner of the Irish National Marathon title last Sunday. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Raheny Shamrock’s Mick Clohisey was the winner of the Irish National Marathon title last Sunday. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

 

“Remember, Bob. No fear. No envy. No meanness.” So Liam Clancy told the young Dylan when he first arrived on the New York folk scene back in 1961, and there’s still some good advice in there for us all. Especially around this time of year and what is generously hailed as the sporting achievement and awards season – that annual and often futile process of defining the sometimes indefinable.

One week in and already there’s plenty of envy and a little meanness. Part of the fear is that everyone has their own definition of sporting achievement, not just in winning a GAA All Star award, in football or hurling, and things get even more envious when trying to compare one sport with another.

Still there’s nothing wrong with some healthy debate, even when trying to argue over something as narrowed down as who exactly is the best athlete to come out of Raheny this year: Brian Fenton or Mick Clohisey?

There’s also that athleticism about Fenton’s football which could easily be applied to another sport, especially distance running

Fenton being a Dublin footballer and Clohisey being an international distance runner that might not be as close a contest as it seems, although they both share a lot of the qualities associated with proper sporting achievement: consistent, durable, reliable, and most of all humble, they’ve also had probably the best seasons of their careers to date, all while offering a constant reminder that talent is nothing without hard work.

There’s also that athleticism about Fenton’s football which could easily be applied to another sport, especially distance running. Fenton remember came into his debut season with Dublin in 2015 with no great reputation other than having been a champion underage swimmer, and finished it with a man-of-the-match performance in the All-Ireland final. As inconceivable now as it would have sounded then, Fenton is now 25 and has never lost a championship match for Dublin, and if not everyone’s choice for footballer of the year he certainly was mine.

Close attention

Fenton was also our “player watch” in this year’s All-Ireland final against Tyrone – the task of following a single player over the course of the game, for better or for worse. This was made was easier by the fact it was hard to take your eyes off of Fenton, especially as Tyrone’s Conor Meyler, a late replacement for full forward Richard Donnelly, straight away went in on him – or rather into Fenton’s face and ear and everything else within reach of it, on and off the ball and everywhere else in between.

Only Fenton never once fell for it, ending up with two neat souvenirs as proof – and not just his two points from play, but two bright beaming bruises, directly above and below his right eye. Rather than complain about the close attention the Raheny player considered it a compliment, and promptly heaped praise on his team-mates Paul Mannion, Ciarán Kilkenny and Jack McCaffrey for also keeping their heads when Tyrone got a run early on.

Raheny’s Brian Fenton: still unbeaten in the championship for Dublin. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Raheny’s Brian Fenton: still unbeaten in the championship for Dublin. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

It’s the sort of attitude and behaviour which invariably complements any sporting achievement, and Clohisey also showed plenty of it after winning the Irish national marathon title on Sunday. This is the prize which comes with being the first finisher in the Dublin marathon, his home town race, Clohisey’s sixth place overall in 2:15:58 actually the fastest by any Irish man in Dublin since Gerry Healy ran 2:15:37 back in 1999, finishing second overall.

It was also Clohisey’s third marathon this year, after running a personal best of 2:14:55 in Seville back in February, then finishing 18th at the European Championships in Berlin just 11 weeks ago, running 2:18:00. At 32 the Raheny runner has also been a model of consistency over the last five years, winning a national cross country title and 10,000 metres on the track in 2014, before moving up to the marathon in his bid to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

Clohisey has quietly gone about his running business – for club and country – clocking over 100 miles a week in training, with no grant or shoe contract

In fact he ran the qualifying time twice, only for his Olympic dream to turn into a nightmare – an infected blister first undoing some critical training, before a virus left him looking and feeling like a pale shadow of himself on race day. He ran himself to an absolute standstill to finish 103rd, his 2:26:34 over 11 minutes outside his best, and still there was no fear, no envy, and certainly no meanness.

Gentle throwback

Instead Clohisey has quietly gone about his running business – for club and country – clocking over 100 miles a week in training, with no grant or shoe contract, working and coaching part-time to pay the bills. He came back to finish 22nd in the World Championships in London in 2017, a gentle throwback to the days when more Irish athletes competed without any fame or fortune.

Don’t just take my word for it: his national marathon win on Sunday was also a neat salute to his coach and former three-time Dublin winner Dick Hooper, who first spotted his talent when Clohisey was part of the St Paul’s team who won an Irish schools cross country title in 2003. Clohisey was only the third best runner on that team and while the others promised more, one going down the US scholarship trail, now Clohisey is leading the way, and there’s some good advice in there for all runners.

“Mick wasn’t the standout junior,” says Hooper, “and actually drifted away from the sport for a while in his early 20s, went travelling. But he never stopped running completely, and once he got his hunger back, just stuck with it, kept improving bit by bit. And I definitely think his best is still to come.”

More than that Clohisey’s attitude, never complaining about any lack of media coverage, or cursing any perceived prevalence of doping, means he’s nothing to fear: the second best athlete to come out of Raheny this year?

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