Paul Donovan

OLYMPICS: 1984, 1992

OLYMPICS: 1984, 1992

SPORT: ATHLETICS [1500m, 5000m]

Paul Donovan was born on 11 JUL, 1963 in Co. Wexford - and was still very young when the family moved to Glenina Heights, Galway City. His parents’ names were Paul Donovan and Mary Maher, and his mother was a native of Templemore, Co. Tipperary. Paul Donovan went to school at Coláiste Iognáid, in Galway and though he played Gaelic football, soccer and rugby he had no interest in athletics or running until jogging was introduced as part of the training for the school Gaelic football squad. As time went on he found himself enjoying the running and before long he turned his attentions entirely to athletics. He went on to win numerous Irish Schools Athletic Championships on the track, steeplechase and cross country with many records to his credit. Remarkably his 800m junior schools record of 2 minutes flat still stands to this day, more than 30 years later! He also won many races with his local Pearse AC, and in the community games he won the marathon [approx 6 miles] in the national finals at Mosney, Co. Meath in 1979.

He went to the University of Arkansas, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA in 1982 on a three-year athletic scholarship and studied accountancy and data processing. At the time the head coach at the University was John McDonnell, a native of Crossmolina, Co. Mayo and Tommy Moloney from Thurles had started an athletic scholarship there the year before. Tipperary Town’s Dessie O’Connor was the first Tipperary athlete at University of Arkansas in 1972, but he moved on after a year - and another Tipperary athlete who attended the University of Arkansas is Aisling Ryan, of Moycarkey. Paul Donovan, a member of Galway City Harriers was 21 when he competed in the 1500m on 9 AUG, 1984 at the Los Angeles Olympic Games but finished 4th out of 9 runners in his heat and did not qualify for the semi-finals. The inaugural World Indoor Championships took place in Indianpolis, USA between 6 and 8 March 1987 and four Irish athletes competed - with Sean Naughton, Nenagh the coach & Ronnie Long, Limerick the manager. Marcus O’Sullivan won gold in the 1500m [3:39.04], Frank O’Mara won gold in the 3000m [8:03.32], Paul Donovan won silver in the 3000m [8:03.39] and the 4th Irish athlete was Eamonn Coghlan, he fell in his 1500m heat on the first day and failed to qualify for the final by an inch or so. Later in 1987 Paul Donovan suffered a catastrophic knee injury and was out of action for a full three years, thus missing the 1988 Olympic Games.

He made his comeback in 1990 and won his place on the Irish team for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. He ran in the 5000m but once again he did not get beyond the first round. Paul Donovan has won 2 Irish 5000m titles [1990, 1993] and 3 American Collegiate Indoor [NCAA] titles; 1500m in 1985, 3000m in 1986, and was also a member of the University of Arkansas medley relay team that won in 1986 - he was inducted into the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honour in 1998. He ran his first sub-4 minute mile in Cork on 3 JUL, 1984 in 3:55.82 and at home he has won the classic road race Streets of Galway 8k in 1990, 1992, 1993 and 1994. He is presently involved with and treasurer of the Titans Basketball Club in Galway. His younger brother Richard Donovan is one of Ireland’s greatest ultra-runners having competed in ultra events throughout the world. He holds the world record for completing seven marathons on the seven continents in four days, twenty-two hours and three minutes.

Next Week: John Doherty, Olympic 5000m athlete.

©Michael O’Dwyer

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