In recognition of his lifetime achievements which inspired and continue to inspire the Irish nation and Irish people worldwide, O’Connell Secondary School, in the heart of Dublin’s north inner city were proud and delighted to honour in 2011 one of their most eminent past pupils, Olympic Gold Medalist, Dr. Ronnie Delany. A newly constructed and floodlit All-Weather Sports Facility in the school is named after one of Ireland’s greatest ever sportsmen and ambassadors on the world stage. The facility, to be known as the Ronnie Delany Arena, was officially opened by Ronnie at a ceremony in the school on Friday March 11th, 2011. The 65 metre by 35 metre outdoor facility has a polytan synthetic turf surface that is surrounded by a 7 metre high ball retention fence and also includes a 50 metre hurling wall. Being the only facility of its type in the immediate area, the Ronnie Delany Arena is used as a coaching and training centre for gaelic games, soccer and other sports. Not alone does it serve the two schools on site but it also serves the many local primary schools and youth/community groups that have little or no sports facilities in this part of the city. The cost of the Arena was met through the provision of a number of grants from the Sports Capital Unit of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the Department for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs and various school fundraising projects that have taken place in recent years.
Ronnie attended O’Connells from 1943 to 1951 and recalls how he used to run from Amiens Street Station to the school via the steep hill on the top of Buckingham Street. During his time in O’Connells, Ronnie enjoyed participating in many sports including gaelic football, hurling and athletics. Indeed, his first running success was in Croke Park when he led a school relay team which included Niall Brophy, later to become an Irish and British Lion, to victory in the primary school games. Ronnie’s late brother Joe was also an outstanding athlete who won many titles during his time at school.
Ronnie Delany was 21 years old when he won the Olympic 1500m Gold Medal in Melbourne on December 1st, 1956. His record time of 3.41.2.setin Melbourne’s cavernous Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), announced the arrival of one of Ireland’s greatest ever sportsmen and ambassadors on the world stage. His Olympic victory remains one of the greatest of Irish sporting achievements. To put Ronnie’s Olympic achievement into context he was competing in not only the blue riband and most keenly contested event in the Olympic programme but he was also running during a golden age for middle-distance running. Only two years earlier England’s Roger Bannister had achieved what many thought was impossible – the first sub-four-minute mile. And as a measure of how far the event had progressed by June 1956, Delany had become the seventh man to dip below the magical barrier at a meeting at Compton, California. By the Melbourne Olympics he was primed to take his opportunity.
Though most famous in Ireland for his Olympic win, Delany pursued his running career in the US, where from March 1955 through March of 1959 he ran thirty-four major indoor mile races against all kinds of opponents, domestic and foreign, and won them all. He broke the indoor world record for the mile three times. His achievement in American Collegiate athletics also remains unsurpassed, he won numerous American NCAA and IC4A titles including ‘Delany Doubles’ in half-mile/mile and 1000 yards/two miles. In 1961, representing Ireland, he was World University Games Champion at 800m, Ireland’s first ever Gold Medalist at this level. In 1958, at Stockholm, he was the first Irishman to win a medal in the European Championships in the 1500m. He was one of the participants in the legendary ‘Miracle Mile’ at Santry on August 6, 1958 where the first four home all broke the existing world mile record. The excitement of indoor racing was enhanced by an orchestra; When Irish Eyes are Smiling was a popular number during Delany’s incredible forty race winning streak.Ronnie Delany was awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin in 2006 and hewas conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by University College Dublin at a ceremony in O’Reilly Hall, Belfield, in December 2006.
The flood-lit All-Weather Sports Facility is available for hire and can be rented by groups that have appropriate insurance in place. A Contract of Usage is required as part of the hiring agreement and this is available at the school. Please contact the School Principal by telephone on 01-8748307 or e-mail the school at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.