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Dublin: 9°C Thursday 25 February 2021

Ciara Mageean pays tribute to 'friend, mentor and father figure' Jerry Kiernan

The former Olympic long-distance runner from Listowel in Kerry has passed away at the age of 67.

CIARA MAGEEAN DESCRIBED the late Jerry Kiernan as a friend, mentor and father figure in an emotional tribute this evening.

Mageean was one of the many successful Irish athletes coached by Kiernan, whose death at the age of 67 was announced earlier today.

ciara-mageean-running-in-the-the-womens-1500m-final Ciara Mageean (right) has paid a heartfelt tribute to Jerry Kiernan. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

A native of Listowel in Kerry, among Kiernan’s most notable achievements as a long-distance runner was a ninth-placed finish in the 1984 Olympic men’s marathon.

“He was more than just a coach to me,” a tearful Mageean said on RTÉ Drivetime. “To everybody else he was my coach, but he was more than that. He was a friend and a mentor and, to be honest, he was like a father figure to me in Dublin.

“He had this special ability to meet anybody at their level. He was a humble man, a tough man – I’d say people from the outside thought he was very hard and stern, but anybody who knew him closely knew that wasn’t the case. He was a big softy.

“He called me his regazza. He has two lovely sons who I know are going to miss him dearly, and I felt like part of his family. I felt like a daughter and he was like a father to me. There was something special there with Jerry.”

Mageean spent four years working under Kiernan, before the Portaferry native – a 1500m European bronze medallist – relocated to Manchester in 2017.

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She said: “It was the hardest thing in my life actually, leaving Dublin and coming to Manchester – it was a really tough decision for me in my athletics career.

“It wasn’t necessarily tough leaving Ireland to move to England… my boyfriend might be upset to hear it wasn’t hard leaving him in Dublin and coming to Manchester, it was hard leaving Jerry.

inpho_01086050 Jerry Kiernan, RIP. Source: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

“I felt like I broke his heart a little bit and it broke my heart a lot leaving him as my coach, but also as my friend. The bond we had as coach and athlete was something special. He spoke so passionately about the past but he didn’t live in the past at all.”

The 28-year-old added: “He took me under his wing and nurtured me, and made me believe in my ability. He was a special man, he definitely was, and he’s going to be missed by many.

“There’ll never be another Jerry Kiernan, that’s for sure.”

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Paul Dollery

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