Monday 11 December 2017

Frank has run full gamut of emotions in his eventful life

Alan Aherne - Book Review

The book, Running Full Circle
The book, Running Full Circle

Most people with even a passing interest in athletics will be familiar with Frank Greally's name as he has done more to publicise the sport than arguably anyone else in this country.

And to those of us in the journalism game, there's a certain admiration for the Mayo man given that he has managed to successfully publish his 'Irish Runner' magazine without fail since its establishment in 1981.

That's a considerable achievement given the lack of a ready-made market for specialist sports publications in this country. Have a quick look at the shelves on your next visit to the Book Centre and you won't be able to buy a monthly G.A.A. magazine for example, because all previous attempts ended in failure.

Therefore, Frank deserves immense credit for his Trojan efforts in the publishing world, and it's borne out of a deep love for athletics and his desire to keep the sport to the forefront.

Among the writers and helpers he namechecks for their assistance over the years are two men well known in the local community: Dave Dempsey and Mick McKeon.

There is so much more to Frank Greally than his beloved magazine though, and his eventful life is explored in depth in 'Running Full Circle - Footprints on a rocky road to redemption'.

The man from just outside Ballyhaunis was blessed with a precious gift for long distance running from an early age, and he was rewarded with a scholarship to university in Tennessee in the early 1970s.

While there he was part of a group fondly known as the 'Irish Brigade', led by Neil Cusack and the Leddy brothers, but early promise in year one quickly faded and Frank gradually wavered down a different path.

His love for writing and poetry saw him drawn to the more creative types in college, and this led to an over-dependence on alcohol which was to haunt him in later years.

He was also crippled by the fear of failure, and didn't want to return home to Mayo having let down his parents. His father had been a long-time victim of depression, and Frank followed in his footsteps as his dreams of Olympic glory quickly faltered.

He didn't graduate from college and, though he managed to secure employment on his return to Ireland and also married Marian and had five children, the early years were extremely tough for his wife who had to contend with Frank's regular absenteeism.

It eventually got to a stage where he left the marital home as his downward spiral reached new depths. And were it not for the intervention of one of his best friends, Ray McManus of the Sportsfile photographic agency, Frank might never have got his life back together.

Ray spotted his buddy driving down Harold's Cross Road in Dublin one night with the lights off, and used some clever reverse psychology to arrange a meeting.

From there he set about the process of helping to rid Frank of his demons, and the author has since managed to turn his life around.

He is well over ten years sober at this stage, and he has also re-discovered his love for running which deserted him completely during his alcohol-fuelled years.

This was prompted largely by an innocent request from his grand-daughter, asking him why he didn't run any more if he enjoyed it so much.

Frank Greally's life has been a roller-coaster of mixed emotions, and it's a tale honestly told in this well-written book which happily ends on an uplifting note after exploring some difficult situations.

Visit The Book Centre on Wexford's Main Street for the very best selection of sports books.

Wexford People

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