The Leinster Athletics Star Awards was a big night for Ardee & District Athletics Club last Saturday night in Carlow – with stars of the present and past honoured for their acheivements in the sport.
While Jonathan Commins was awarded for his 2016 by sharing the Leinster Star Juvenile Male award, he was joined on the list of award winners by Sean Callan who took home the 2016 Leinster Athletics Outstanding Service Award. But – for those who don’t know – who is Sean Callan?
Now based in Dublin, Sean was one of the first members of what was once the Ferdia Athletic Club. Born in Ardee in 1938, Sean was aged 17 in 1955 when he joined the newly formed club.
In a bygone era, long before young Jonathan’s time, Sean was a young star on the Ardee athletics scene. The Ardee man’ first ever race was the Louth Novice Cross country where he finished fourth, leading the club to their first ever team title.
The outstanding local athlete of his generation, his athletics career went from strength to strength. Just two weeks later, Sean finished second in the Louth Junior, with Ferdia AC again taking home a team title. A year after taking up athletics, the teenager excelled to a point where he was attracting national attention.
He won a hat-trick of Leinster Cross Country titles as well as triumphs in the youth, novice and junior sections. He also was the first Louth man to win an All-Ireland title when he claimed the NACA cross country youth championship.
And, yes, there was more. Sean would go onto win the All-Ireland Junior title, whilst finshing third in the senior championship for a bronze medal. In 1958 – like many people of his age at the time – Sean emigrated to London but returned two years later.
Now living in Dublin, Callan continued to represent Ferdia AC before eventually joining up with St Augustines. Huge success also followed Sean there – he won three Dublin team cross country titles amongst other accolades between 1960 and 1967.
In later years, he ran for the Civil Service Harriers. An Athletics man through and through, his Outstanding Service Award last week came off the back of his continued support and contribution to athletics at all levels.
Sean, alongside friends Matt Rudden and Harry Gorman, travels the world regularly to follow the fortunes of Irish athletes. His first Olympic Games was way back in 1976 in Montreal
Described as “one of the great unsung heroes of Irish athletics”, Sean continues to be one of the most recognisable faces in Irish athletics as a supporter, an official – and once, famously for Ardee, as an athlete.
Thanks to Deidre McMahon, Martin Commins and Leinster Athletics for their help in obtaining the information used in this article.