Clonoulty Rossmore parishioner Declan Ryan, who ran his 11th marathon in Dublin in October in a time 2.51 - knocking eight minutes off his personal best has been described as an inspiration in his athletics club, Thurles Crokes.
A Thurles Crokes athlete who has been described as ' the biggest inspiration in the club' has been lauded for his bravery and his ability to leapfrog the many obstacles life has thrown at him.
Clonoulty Rossmore parishioner Declan Ryan, who ran his 11th marathon in Dublin in October in a time 2.51 - knocking eight minutes off his personal best - is an integral part of the Thurles Crokes club team which won county championships in novice, intermediate and 10 mile road championships while he has also competed in cross country championships in extremely mucky and rough terrain.
So, what makes Declan so inspirational? Why are his achievements even more noteworthy than normal? Quite simply because a genetic eye disorder has rendered him practically blind, but the heavy cross he carries has not been allowed to weigh him down.
Back in 1997 when the former Gairm Scoil Mhuire, Thurles student, was 18 and was studying in his first year in UCD for an engineering degree, he was diagnosed with Lebers Optic Apthropy, a genetic eye disorder which left him with 8% vision.
He tried to continue with his studies but at the time it proved to be too difficult so he returned home to reassess his situation and figure how what to do next.
At the time his father was a licensed horse trainer and Declan always had a love of horses so he started working with him.
He would spend so much time with the horses getting to know them and the training area, that he ended up doing most of the riding of the horses which to this day continues to amaze all his family and friends.
In 2006 he was successful in securing a place as a mature student in the University of Limerick and in 2009 he graduated top of his class with a first class honours Degree in Equine Science. His thesis from that degree was chosen to go forward for a competition representing the University of Limerick, incorporating Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, where he had to present to a panel of judges. Remarkably, he won first place in this.
At this stage he applied for his own horse trainers licence with a view to training a winner at a race meeting which he succeeded in doing in 2014 - this was greeted with huge congratulations from everyone who knew him and knew how hard he had worked to achieve this.
It was now time for the next challenge in his life so in 2014 he applied to the Michael Smurfit School of Business to partake in a Masters Degree in Business Analytics. He received an offer for a place on this Programme however it was conditional on Declan receiving an 'A' in Leaving Certificate Honours Maths. He applied to resit his honours Maths as a mature student in his former secondary school.
At the time his sister asked him what would happen if he didn't get the A. 'Don't worry, I'll get it," was his reply to Aisling. And of course, he did. He accepted the place on the course and started in September 2016 and has just completed his Masters Degree.
"Declan has an incredible ability to set goals for himself and he always manages to achieve them no matter what obstacles are in his way. And, he does all this with only 8% vision. Running was something he took up after his diagnosis. He ran his first marathon in 2009 which was the Dublin Marathon and since then he has completed eleven marathons, six Dublin, 1 Cork, 1 Edinburgh and 2 in Los Angeles and he has done all these with no guide. He is a very active member of his local running club, Thurles Crokes AC and this year was nominated as senior team captain.
"Declan is a huge inspiration to my daughter who at seven joined a running club simply because Declan had joined, and she looks up to him so much. She has had several days out competing and always the first person she wants to talk to when it's over is Declan to tell him how it went," Aisling said in a submission for a Lord Mayors medal for Declan.
Unfortunately, Declan didn't win that medal, but in the eyes of those who know him, he a winner anyway. Those who have seen him in action are amazed, not just by his abilities and talents, but also by his application to his work, training, schedules etc. He lives by striving to achieve his goals and that single mindedness and ambition is certainly a driving force within Thurles Crokes.