Another new writer for you.  Luke Coleman is something of a scholar when it comes to the Irish Athletics scene with a great passion for the sports rich history as well as a keen eye for upcoming talent.  He mixes this with a coaching schedule and still manages to train hard enough to be a very competitive runner in his own right.  Yes, I’m jealous…!  Here he gives us a run through of the Irish men’s marathon past and present.

Ireland has a rich tradition of marathon running. Most of us grew up to (or were around for) such famous marathon names as Dick Hooper, John Treacy and Jerry Kiernan. But how do the current crop of marathon runners compare to these greats? If we look to the all time top list we see that only three of the top 50 marathon times have been set in the last decade. This year the Irish record is entering its fourth decade making it older each of the current crop of athletes who take part in the event. Even more shock is that the last two decades have seen a continuous decline in the standards. The table below shows a break down of the top 49 all time Irish marathon times. Interestingly nearly 70% of these times were set before the 90s

Top 10 Top 20 Top 30 Top 40 Top 49
1970s 3 5 7 10 14
1980s 5 6 12 16 19
1990s 2 6 8 11 14
2000s 1 3 3 3 3

The goal posts seem to have somewhat shifted as a result of this decline. Since 2007 only two men have managed to go under 2.20; Martin Fagan in 2008 and Chris Cariss in 2009

Current Crop of Irish Marathon Runners:

Martin Fagan

Martin Fagan

Since his stunning debut in Dubai becoming the first Irish man to qualify for the Olympics since 1992 (Tommy Hughes, Andy Ronan and John Treacy), Fagan has battle with injuries which have made his debut his one and only marathon finish. If he can manage to overcome these injuries there is no doubt he will be able to book his place for London.


Joe McAllister

The 30 year old Belfast man is beginning his fourth year in marathon running. Since his Debut in London in 2007 (where he clocked 2.27 after suffering in the closing stages) has steadily brought down his time running 2.24.46 in 2009 and last year was the number 1 ranked marathon runner in the country clocking a solid 2.21.05. He will look this year to improve again and hopefully dip under the 2.20 mark.

Thomas Frazer

The 29 year old club mate of Joe McAllister (St Malachy’s) is fresh off a solid 2.23.11 in Tokyo. His pedigree is obvious from looking at his résumé. Thomas has placed 24th in Boston marathon and 16th in Chicago. If he can improve his times he could be a good addition as a team member in major championship races

So what is being done to try and boost elite marathon running in Ireland back to its glory days of the 80s? Do our hopes lie in the current crop or are their any runners coming through? The answer is yes. In my opinion I reckon we are on the cusp of a rebirth of Irish marathon running and should see more sub 2.20 marathons this year than we have seen in the last decade. There are a group of top quality who are making their debuts at the distance who, if they can convert their recent form on the shorter distances, will be banging on the door of qualification standards and better

Alistair Cragg

The current 10,000m Irish record holder has seemingly made a strong transition to the roads running his third Half Marathon recently inside Alistair CraggMartin Fagan’s National Record in a time of 60.49*. If he can translate this form to the full distance we could see the first genuine threat on John Treacy’s record in the next year or two. Cragg is set to debut this month in Boston and will be looking to go sub 2.10 at least

*IAAF refused to recognise this as a national record due to the New York course being deemed slightly downhill

Mark Kenneally

The Clonliffe man is best known for his 2009 8th place finish in the European XC in Dublin being top Irish finisher. Though he failed to translate this achievement to the track (failing to qualify for the European Championships 10,000) he has steadily been training away for the marathon and has clocked some impressive times winning a 15km race in Florida in 43.33 followed by a 4th place finish in a 20km in Holland in 59.30 equating to roughly 62-63 half marathon time. His final tune up race was the Dunboyne 4 miler where he cruised to victory in a time of 18.26 some 22 seconds ahead of the field. Kenneally will be eyeing a performance in the sub 2.14 region in preparation for London next year if he can achieve the qualifying standard.

Sean Connolly

Boasting a 13.48 5k PB Sean (Tallaght AC), like Mark is debuting in the distance this month. Sean’s preparation couldn’t have gone better with PBs in 5 mile, 10 mile and Half marathon (64.40). Connolly is debuting in the marathon next week in Rotterdam and will be looking to break 2.18 at least depending on conditions on the day

Joe Sweeney

Though focusing on the track this year he saw a glimpse of his potential over the longer distances recently winning a 30km race in Holland back in February in a time of 1.34.04. What makes his time even better is the fact that he finished this run over 4 minutes ahead of the next competitor, a clear indication that there is more to come from the DSD man.

All in all the marathon in this country is looking like we are in store for a rebirth of the golden era of the 80s and hopefully this will have a knock on effect to the younger generation as there are some young talented 10k runners who seeing these athletes will hope to emulate their progression.

Best of luck to all the lads debuting this month

Top 49 times and which decade they were set
2 2.10.54 Mark Carroll
13 2.14.06 Martin Fagan
19 2.15.07 Jamie Lewis
3 2.11.27 Andy Ronan
9 2.13.25 Roy Dooney
12 2.13.59 Tommy Hughes
14 2.14.37 Gerry Curtis
15 2.14.42 John Griffin
20 2.15.20 Gerry Healy
22 2.15.28 Noel Berkeley
29 2.16.32 John Fitzgerald
34 2.17.05 Tom Maher
35 2.17.17 John Bolger
40 2.17.48 Tom McGrath
42 2.18.05 Tom O’Gara
45 2.18.12 Gerry McGrath
1 2.09.15 John Treacy
4 2.11.30 John Woods
5 2.12.19 Dick Hooper
6 2.12.20 Jerry Kiernan
7 2.12.21 Louis Kenny
11 2.13.55 Kingston Mills
23 2.15.54 Maurice Cowman
24 2.16.07 Eamonn Tierney
25 2.16.08 Alan Harding
27 2.16.28 Paul Craig
28 2.16.30 Brian Keeney
30 2.16.37 Gerry Staunton
31 2.16.41 Paddy Murphy
33 2.16.54 Ray Treacy
37 2.17.22 Robert Costelloe
38 2.17.29 Jimmy Fallon
43 2.18.08 Michael Byrne
46 2.18.20 Gerry Deegan
48 2.18.24 Jim McGlynn
8 2.13.06 Danny McDaid
10 2.13.39 Neil Cusack
16 2.14.53 Pat McMahon
17 2.14.54 Jim McNamara
18 2.15.03 Sean Healy
21 2.15.21 Donie Walsh
26 2.16.16 Des McGann
32 2.16.50 Brendan O’Shea
36 2.17.20 Tony Brien
39 2.17.48 James Craven
41 2.17.54 Willie Dunne
44 2.18.11 John Sheridan
47 2.18.22 Michael Molloy
49 2.18.26 Eddie Leddy

(All time list compiled by Pierce O’Callaghan, Liam Hennessy, Sean Naughton, Peter Coghlan, Killian Lonergan at


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