Peter Maher

OLYMPICS: 1988, 1992

OLYMPICS: 1988, 1992

SPORT: ATHLETICS [MARATHON]

Peter Maher was born on 30 MAR, 1960 in Ottawa, Canada – his father was from Kildare Town, and his mother was from Lurgan, Co. Armagh. His grandfather Colonel Paddy Maher was native of Knockearl, Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary and had fought in the War of Independence serving with the Tipperary No. 1 Brigade, 3rd Southern Division, IRA and joined the National Army at it’s foundation [1922]. Colonel Maher was involved in the negotiations for two years leading up to the handing over of the three ports, Berehaven, Co. Cork; Cobh, Co. Cork and Lough Swilly in Co. Donegal. The port at Cobh was handed over on 11 JUL, 1938 when the British troops handed over the forts on Spike Island to Colonel Maher on behalf of the Irish government [the other two ports were handed over later that year]. He became the manager of Foynes Seaport, Co. Limerick on 1 DEC, 1942 and when Shannon Airport, Co. Clare was opened in October, 1945 he was the airport’s first manager – and remained there till he retired in 1960. In Ottawa, his son Brendan Maher was manager of the Lord Eglin Hotel, and when Peter was just two years old the family moved to Co. Kerry where his father became the manager of the Great Southern Hotel in Killarney. After his father went to manage the Great Southern Hotel in Galway, Peter started primary school there at Taylor’s Hill School, and after the family moved to Dublin he attended Ballyroan Boy’s National School and Coláiste Éanna CBS, both in Rathfarnham. Peter Maher started to run with Brothers Pearse AC in Dublin and later when his father became manager of the Great Southern Hotel in Parknasilla [just outside the village of Sneem, on the Ring of Kerry] he joined Iveagh AC with whom he won a number of juvenile titles. In Kerry he attended Holy Cross College, Kenmare and St. Brendan’s College, Killarney - and he later competed for Clounalour AC in Tralee where he was coached by Brother John Dooley [native of Nenagh] who was teaching in Tralee.

In September, 1979 Peter was to leave for America to take up an athletic scholarship at East Tennessee State University but he had ruptured his Achilles tendon and had to forgo any thoughts of the scholarship. He just drifted out of athletics completely, and eventually weighed over eighteen stone, smoked 60 cigarettes a day and regularly drank up to fifteen pints of stout on a daily basis. It was on 1 AUG, 1983 that Peter started to jog again – at the time he was living in Cork and, having been encouraged by Fr. Liam Kelleher of North Cork AC, he decided to go for a run at the Mardyke track in Cork City. He jogged his first 400m in three years and it nearly killed him but he persevered and his weight slowly but surely declined. It was the following year after he moved to Co. Tipperary when his athletics career began to kick off – doing much of his training with Liam Naughton, Cahir and Christy Ryan, Cashel. He lived in Cahir, and later at nearby Poulmucka where he was based when he won his first national title in September, 1985 when he won the Irish ten mile title in Blackrock, Co. Louth in 49.52 - John Fitzgerald [Clonmel AC] was second and Tony O’Connell [Clonmel AC] was fifth. In January, 1986 the 6’ 5” Peter Maher was a member of the Tipperary team that won the Munster Cross County Championship held in Tralee, Co. Kerry. All of Tipperary’s scoring athletes finished in the top ten; 2. John Fitzgerald [Clonmel AC]; 3. Tommy Moloney [Thurles Crokes]; 4. Pat Heffernan [Thurles Crokes]; 5. Peter Maher [West Tipperary Harriers]; 7. John Daly [Nenagh Olympics]; and 10. Myles McHugh [Premier AC]. The winning club was Thurles Crokes after excellent displays from Tommy Moloney, Pat Heffernan, Joe Tobin [18th] and Sean Hughes [20th].

Peter’s first marathon win was on 7 DEC, 1986 when he won the Barbados Marathon in 2:24:54 at Bridgetown, Barbados. He had emigrated to Canada [country of his birth] earlier in 1986 – and his next marathon win was on 10 MAY, 1987 when he won the Ottawa Marathon in 2:12:58 at Ottawa, Canada. It was after this performance Peter declared for Canada, swapping the shamrock for the maple leaf, and represented Canada in the marathon at the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games, and at the 1987, 1991, 1993 and 1995 World Championships – his best performance at the Olympics was 46th in 1988, and at the World Championships was 10th in 1993. His best time for the marathon is 2:11:46 in London [1991] and for the half marathon is 1:02:30 in Toronto [1990], and on 12 OCT, 1991 he set a world record for a 25km road race when he ran 1:14:29 in Indianapolis, USA - his split times at 5 mile was 22:57, 10km was 29:05 and 10 mile was 46:29 [his record was beaten by a runner from Zimbabwe in May, 1993]. Peter had wanted to compete for Ireland in the marathon at the 1996 Olympic Games at Atlanta but it didn’t work out for him. In Canada he won 2 national titles, 10,000m [1987] and marathon [1989], and he also won the Road Runners Club of America [RRCA] 25km National Championship at the City of Lakes 25k in Minneapolis, USA in 1990, and won an Irish National Marathon team title with St. Finbarr’s AC [based in Cork City] at Sligo in 1999. He has competed in some 50 marathons worldwide with a total of 19 victories. Peter Maher now runs his own physical therapy business in Carrigaline, Co. Cork – and often writes for the Irish Runner magazine. He once famously said, “Running is a big question mark that’s there each and every day. It asks you, are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?”

Next Week: Terry McHugh, competed in javelin and bobsleigh at Olympics

©Michael O’Dwyer

If you would like to contact Michael please email: tipp-olympians@hotmail.com