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22 Jan 2022

International athletics star's talents were nurtured in Offaly village

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Athlete Pauline Curley

Born in Newtown, Killeigh, my mother is Bridget Gorry from Ballykeane, and my father the late Billy Gorman. They had nine of us in family, Bridget, Alice, Ann, William, Christina, Philip, myself, Veronica and Thomas. Three of us were born at home, Christina, Philip and myself and delivered by Nurse Meehan. I had the pleasure of being the heaviest of us all coming in at a whopping 9lb. All of us live close by which is great for my mother. I lived in Newtown until I got married to Adrian in 1995 and now live for the past 26 just down the road in Annaharvey and have one son Emmett.

Growing up in Newtown, we had great fun once our chores were done. We all got a good start on how to fend for ourselves with regards cooking and cleaning and how to be a worker and grafter and that has stood to us all growing up. My mother kitted all our school jumpers going to school and every St Patrick's Day she would also knit the girls green jumpers, two big ponytails tied up with green ribbons stood on all our heads and we were as proud as punch.

I recall learning to ride this famous brown bike that belonged to the eldest Bridget. We would go up and down the road, many a tumble I got before I mastered it. We had concrete at the front of the house and you’d be hoping there would be frost that night so we could pretend it was skating ring. As youngsters we would ramble across the fields to visit Ned and Lilly Cleary where Lilly always had a treat or two for us. Returning home before it got dark she would tell us to put sticks down our socks for fear a badger would be in waiting maybe that was the start of the running for me, we would run like lightning not stopping for dear life until we made it to the back door.

Most of us went to Killeigh NS and my earliest memory was a teacher by the name of Mrs Murphy and when we were in senior infants she would teach us how to make sandcastles in a wooden box filled with sand that was placed on a table in the hall where we use to hang our coats. In 1st or 2nd class after Mrs Higgins had her cup of tea all of us would put up our hands anxiously to be picked to wash her china cup and saucer if only to get out of class for that few minutes. From there, I headed to the vocational school in Tullamore and finished out my school days.

As we got a little older, myself and Veronica joined the Killeigh camogie team and we would be seen anxiously waiting at the gate for Amanda Kelly and Tina to come cycling up the road at 7 o clock and off we would head to Killeigh for training. We had great fun and maybe it was a reason to get to go to the shop after. Mary Berry was a trainer at the time I think.

This brings me on to Killeigh sports day in August. Myself and Veronica would walk to the village to take part in every race we could and we would win nearly every race we entered in our age group, let it be three legged or spoon race, all done in our bare feet, I think the others began to hope we wouldn’t turn up! Once the sports were finished, we looked forward to going to McEnroe’s shop or Walshe's shop at that time and spend your few bob on sweets and walking home after as proud as punch with our trophies and medals.

Clodiagh Valley athletics club was then formed with Mick Horan and Peter Dunne and once again we joined just for the social aspect really and a chance to meet up with the girls from school. From there, we got into the community games competitions and actually, I competed in the high jump competition, coming second so missed out going to Mosney where the national finals use to be held. But the pride was when all the clubs in Offaly parading up the town to the Tullamore Harriers where the county finals would be held and all the participants parading behind their club banner, the excitement I still remember so well.

I continued to run for the vocational school under Tom Donohue, our P.E teacher and also winning his all Ireland hurling medal with Offaly in 1981.He was an inspiration to have him as a coach but at that time I never took it too serious. I finished school but continued to run at home with Ann up the Rath Hills. Ann at that time had joined Tullamore Harriers so she was more involved. I went in one evening with her and that was the start of the journey really. Then one evening I met this long tall fella and that happened to be Adrian and that was that. So it really took off from there but Ann my sister was a big influence on me. In the beginning, I never took it serious I enjoyed it and ran a few races but the turning point was teaming up with Robert Denmead. He was a huge influence on me and brought me on to the next level, introduced me to cross county racing and after some time, that’s where myself and Ann started competing at a higher level and resulted in both of us representing Ireland up in Mallusk up north as 2 sisters. From there, a few more years and I began to move up the ranks and represented Ireland on the European and World competitions travelling all over to compete in cross country. I ran in Turin and we came home with a bronze medal and my team mates were Sonia O’Sullivan and Catriona Mc Kiernan. I also competed in road relays in Japan. I guess that introduced me into road racing and marathon running and Mick Haydon was now on board with me and after winning a few 10km, the great Gerry Keernan then advised me to run the marathon and that was the start of my marathon days.

Roll on the years to 2004 when I ran my first Dublin City marathon and became national marathon champion finishing in a time of 2.42 and retained it the following year and was pipped at the post in 2006. I had hit the wall with 3 miles to go and all that awaited me was a wheelchair at the finishing line as the power was completely drained from my legs and Adrian was there to lift me to the car. I remember Mick Hayden saying to me on the way home “You will never put your body through that again” he forgot that it was a Gorman that he was talking to and we don’t give up easily.

Over the coming months I regained my strength and headed to Rotterdam and finished a personal best by 3 minutes at 2.39 and first in the over 35 category. It was enough to secure me a place to represent Ireland in the Bejing Olympics. I had little time to prepare but off I headed and then the “Bejing 10” decided to come and support me too. Yep, lock stock and barrel most of the family decided to take the long trip to Bejing. They included my mother, Adrian, Emmett, my sisters Ann, Breda, and Alice, my sister- in-laws Martina and Marie and Mick Hayden and his daughter Sharon.

On the day of the race, they were dotted along the route of the race supporting me – all dressed from head to toe in tricolor. On the morning of the race, I stood in Tinaman Square amazed at how it was unfolding. Professional athletes warming up, time going so quickly to what was going to be my biggest adventure. My aim was to finish the race and to live the dream. I savoured every moment of the race and seeing my family around the route kept me going. As I entered the stadium the hair stood on my arms to hear the cheers of 90,000 people chanting and roaring and I had said if I finished the race I would kneel down and kiss the ground like the Pope done when he came to Ireland and that’s what I did. When I rose from the track, I heard the familiar whistle and there was Adrian and Emmett swinging the flag high in the air, Pure magical it was. I finished in 63rd place and think I was the oldest competitor at 39 yrs old.

I had fulfilled a dream that many a person would have given their right arm for and I’m so grateful to have represented by parish, town, county and country. What a homecoming reception I got, I will always treasure and my work colleagues in Cafe 4 U and my boss Christy Maye. Everywhere I travelled through Killeigh and beyond there were banners wishing me luck.

Now in recent times, I enjoy running as a hobby and am still very much involved in many groups mentoring them to achieve their goals and pushing them a little bit out of their comfort zone which I love and of course, the local nursing homes where I visit weekly to keep the patients active. I’m proud to be born and reared in Killeigh and I look forward to get a community centre for the local people so we can build on the community spirit that I was so fortunate to be part of and wish all the committee the very best.

Please visit www.winahouseinenfield.com if you would like to buy a ticket and be in with a chance of winning a fantastic prize whilst supporting the fundraising efforts of the Killeigh Community Centre Development Association.

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