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EMMA RYAN: Sinead McConnell – back and breaking records

Sinead McConnell with Patsy McGonagle

Sinead McConnell with Patsy McGonagle


After being out of competing for almost 30 years, Sinead McConnell is back on track and breaking records. The Finn Valley athlete took home a gold medal in the 3K walk from last weekend’s National Masters Indoor Championship and set a new master’s record with a time of 15:44:19.

Sinead travelled to Athlone with Finn Valley AC and took park in the National Masters Indoor Championship for her second competitive competition since deciding to return to the track. Going into the event on Sunday was particularly difficult for Sinead, but she was able to overcome her emotions, do herself proud and take home the gold medal.

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“I knew I was going to be nervous which is very normal but I had just lost my sister in-law Lisa on the 5th March. As you can imagine, my emotions were all over the place. I was trying to keep up with training and there were days when I just fell apart and couldn’t train but thanks to my coach Patsy he never gave up on me. He brought me through a very tough time.” said Sinead.

In February, Sinead made her debut in Championship Athletics and finished 4th in the 3K walk and set an Irish M45 Indoor record. The athlete had been missing from the track for 30 years but has since returned to Finn Valley Athletic Club to compete in the walking events.

“Shauna Carlin, a coach with Finn Valley A.C contacted me at first about returning. The club takes part in numerous events over the year and one of them is National League, which is a team effort with athletes taking part in different events. One of the events is the race walking and the club didn’t have a walker so I said I’d give it a go, sure I’ve got nothing to lose. I won my first competition back on the track, and I was delighted to be able to give something back to the club. After this Patsy McGonagle contacted me asking me would I think about coming back which takes me to where I am today. I am proud of myself for winning but I never expected to be breaking records so I’m delighted.”

Now that Sinead is back competing, she has had to adapt her lifestyle to ensure that she is top of her game. Sinead trains six days a week and is a member of the Castlefinn running group. The athlete also meets with her coach Patsy McGonagle who puts her through her paces two days a week.

“I count myself really lucky as I’ve got two coaches; my brother Dermot who is always there for me and of course Patsy has been fantastic as he keeps in regular contact with me all the time. When some of my sessions didn’t go to plan and I’d feel awful about them I could say to him and he would reassure me that everything was normal.”

After 30 years away from athletics, it would be unrealistic to believe that an athlete would come back and break records in their first two competitive outings, but that is exactly what Sinead McConnell has done. The athlete is encouraging anyone who is thinking on taking up athletics to give it a go as it may change their lives, like it has done Sinead’s.

“The great thing about running and athletics is you are never too old to take it up. There are so many fit-4life groups out there now so go join up believe me you will love it. It’s become a real social event. Some women who joined fit4lfe groups have discovered that they had a talent and are now competing for their club. It has really changed my whole lifestyle.”

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