Lar Byrne
(1928 - 2009)

Profile:
Lar Byrne

Birth:
December 29, 1928

Passing:
February 3, 2009


Memorial
LAR BYRNE RIP

It is with great sadness that Clonliffe Harriers announce the death of Lar O’Byrne at 1 a.m. this morning at St. Francis’s Hospice, Raheny after a long illness borne with great dignity and bravery. Laro dedicated his life to Irish athletics and Clonliffe Harriers. For well over 50 years Laro served Clonliffe Harriers as an athlete, coach, club captain, Club Honorary Treasurer, Club Honorary Secretary, Vice President and President of this club. He was to a great number of our members a great friend and father figure. As a coach the peak of Laro’s career was being coach of the Irish Men’s Cross Country Team at Limerick in 1979 and Olympic Coach at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. He will be sadly missed by all his clubmates in Clonliffe Harriers and his friends and colleagues in the athletics world. Rest in peace. Funeral arrangements will be announced shortly. As a mark of respect training in the Morton Stadium Santry tonight has been cancelled.

Clonliffe Harriers (Club Secretary) Feb 3, 2009




LAR'S WEBSITE HAS BEEN SET UP AS A TRIBUTE TO SOMEONE WHO WAS MUCH LOVED AND RESPECTED

"I met Lar through athletics and many of the accompanying photos and memorabilia are associated with his love of sport. I have also come to know some of his siblings and their families, and also some of his friends and work colleagues. He will be missed by many but never forgotten.

Lar saw it as an honour to coach, advise and encourage young athletes in their pathway to optimising their athletic as well as their human potential. The privileged few achieved considerable success and fame but it can truly be said that all who came into contact with Lar were privileged in encountering someone of rare integrity and vision.

His unique perspective on the responsibilities of a coach of young athletes is reflected in the quote he sometimes used of the great philosopher Aristotle, “Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope”. In his selfless application to youth development he allowed and encouraged us to hope but made sure we were not deceived.


Having Lar as a coach and mentor to my fellow athletes and myself was indeed a privilege as we progressed through our respective athletic and personal careers.

In many cases, Lar also became a close friend and confidant.

The many holidays abroad, weekends away and trips to athletic events both here and abroad bring back warm memories. My only regret is at times not having had more time to spend with him. However, I am profoundly grateful that I was able to be one of the primary carers throughout his illness. It was a remarkable and enriching experience for all who were involved.

As we gathered in the weeks and months preceding Lar’s death, we were conscious that Lar, who loved to travel, was beginning his most important journey – one where he was leaving and not returning. As the author John O’Donoghue wrote “At birth the journey here creates the traveller, the invisible becomes the visible, at death the return journey recreates the traveller, the visible becomes invisible again” as the traveller ventures to the “undiscovered country”.

I sincerely thank all those who contributed material for this site. I hope the site gives some comfort to those who cared for and loved Lar, and to those who may not have been able to travel to his funeral services. Assembling this material has been personally helpful in coming to terms with my own sadness at losing Lar.

I cannot thank my wife Madeleine enough. She meant so much to Lar and he to her. They were well-suited travellers. Her support and intensive help throughout his illness was remarkable,much needed, and appreciated. My sincere thanks also to all the others who cared and shared in Lar’s final journey. Any meaningful suggestions for additions or alterations to the site are most welcome."

Frank Murphy





PASSING OF LAR BYRNE – “The Matt Busby of Clonliffe Harriers”

Lar Byrne, an icon of Irish athletics, died early today at Francis Hospice, Raheny after a long illness. He had just turned 80 last December.

A native of county Wicklow, Lar was a rare and wonderful character. He was an inspiring coach and a pivotal force for many years in the ongoing development and success of his beloved club, Clonliffe Harriers in Santry, where he coached many of the great stars of cross country, track and road during the late 1960s, through to the 70s and early 80s. He also served in all of the club’s honorary volunteer positions, including Club President and Club Captain.

It is poignant too that Lar’s passing comes just over a month short of one of the most successful occasions in Irish athletics – the famous World Cross Country Championship victory at Limerick Racecourse in 1979 by John Treacy, the current CEO of the Irish Sports Council.

Lar Byrne played a central role as Irish team coach on that occasion and he served in the same capacity a year earlier when John Treacy won his first World Cross Country title in Glasgow. In 1984, Lar was involved in another John Treacy triumph – this time at the Los Angeles Olympics where he was Irish Track & Field Team Manager when Treacy won his silver medal in the marathon. It was an occasion made all the sweeter for Lar by the performance of Clonliffe’s Jerry Kiernan who finished ninth in the same event.

“Lar Byrne was always very special to me and he was always on my lucky side,” said John Treacy. “He had great wisdom and he was always of great help to me over the years.”

Another memorable day for Lar was a Sunday in Ballinasloe in 1976 when the Clonliffe Harriers’ team of Gerry Finnegan, Jerry Kiernan, Frank Murphy and Padraig Keane combined, under Lar’s guidance, to win the club’s first senior men’s national cross country title.

A successful long distance runner in his younger days, Lar also ran the demanding London to Brighton ultra-distance event. He was also present as a spectator at Iffley Road in Oxford on May 6th, 1954 when Roger Bannister became the first man in history to break four minutes for the mile.

Always bright, cheery and upbeat with a warming smile, Lar O’Byrne made an indelible impression on several generations of Clonliffe Harriers’ athletes, including Olympians such as Danny McDaid, Jerry Kiernan and Frank Murphy. In later years, he was also made an Honorary Life Vice President of Athletics Ireland. He was described by Clonliffe stalwart Padraig Keane as “the Matt Busby of Clonliffe Harriers”.

“Sweat is the nectar of good health,” was one of Lar’s favourite sayings, of which he had many. He lived by his Clonliffe Harriers’ motto – Nil Desperandum (Never Despair). He will be greatly missed by his family, many friends and by all in Irish athletics. A man of unique vision and spirit has now gone to his final rest.

Frank Greally - Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009



EULOGY FROM BURIAL SERVICE

My name is Frank Murphy and I wish to say a few words about the late and much loved Laurence Noel Byrne or “Laro” as many of his friends and colleagues called him. I can almost feel Lar looking down right now and saying with his hand outstretched in his trademark fashion....“Murphy... don’t embarrass me now...keep it short and simple.”

Words in general will not adequately express the depth of sorrow and the enormous mountain of good will, that exists towards Lar - much less my words.

I was fortunate to meet Lar as far back as 1968 when I was 14 years old and he took me under his wing and provided invaluable coaching and guidance. My fellow teammates and I were totally unaware at that stage of the significance of this relationship. Some athletes coached by Lar have gone on to pursue coaching careers themselves, a testimonial in itself to his positive influence

We are gathered together from the three primary dimensions in Lar’s life.
First, his family of brothers and sisters from his much beloved birthplace in Aughavana, Co. Wicklow. Also his nieces and nephews, from both here and abroad. To all of them, our deepest sympathy for their loss.

The second dimension to Lar’s life was with his many close friends over the years. Indeed, many are here with us today. His work colleagues from Guinness, where he gave loyal service for many years and participated until recently in their social activities. Also his much appreciated neighbours on Blackhorse Avenue.

The third dimension to Lar’s life was his passion for athletics. Amongst his many achievements I would particularly highlight his legendary and inspired coaching at Clonliffe Harriers, which spanned three decades. Also his remarkable service as a committee member, Club Captain and Club President. A highlight was in 1976 when his Clonliffe team won the club’s very first “All Ireland” Cross Country Championships.

Amongst his proudest international achievements were his inspired leadership as coach to the Irish team which won team silver in the 1979 World Cross Country Championship in Limerick, when John Tracy also won the individual gold medal for the second consecutive year. This unique achievement is unlikely to be surpassed.

Lar was also national team coach for the European Championships in Prague in 1978 and shared in the pleasure of witnessing Eamonn Coghlan’s silver medal achievement. This success was made all the more unique in that Lar shared it with the late Bill Coghlan, Eamonn’s father, who was team manager for these games. It was indeed a proud moment for all concerned.

In 1984 Lar’s proudest ambition was fulfilled when he led the Irish Olympic Athletics Team to Los Angeles. He experienced great joy and pride with John Tracy’s silver medal in the marathon and the outstanding performance of Lar’s fellow club man Jerry Kiernan who finished 9th in the same event.

These highlights to Lar’s international coaching career were the culmination of years of supporting club athletes for domestic competition and time spent coaching and mentoring juveniles at his own club and at various coaching initiatives around the country. Lar gave his heart, soul and wisdom to the many athletes he coached and to many others who were not necessarily under his care. He asked for nothing in return and relished everybody’s success. When performance was not up to expectation, he was there to support and encourage. He gave tirelessly and unselfishly of himself. Everything he did was characterised by integrity and the pursuit of excellence. His dedication was an inspiration to generations of young aspiring athletes.

During Lar’s final months where he battled his illness with his trademark stoicism and determination, he received great support from the doctors, nurses and carers at the Beacon Hospital and also during his lengthy stay at the Elmhurst Nursing Home. Finally, the unique and compelling compassion experienced during his short stay at St. Francis Hospice in Raheny should be acknowledged. And just as importantly I would like to acknowledge the body of friends, carers and family who tirelessly provided Lar with the loving care and attention which he so richly deserved. I know that Lar appreciated this greatly and looked on it as a gift rather than an entitlement.

I’m sure many of you have fond memories of the anecdotes, quips and sayings that Lar used to unique effect. One of my favourites was his toast, “May the hinges of friendship never rust”.

For us, a life as big as Lar’s, leaves a void that cannot ever be filled. We can take some comfort in knowing that the pain will subside but the happy memories will live on. I will miss him in my life. Finally I would like to read a short poem penned by Lar himself called “Final Farewell”.

Frank Murphy - 5th Feb 2009



FINAL FAREWELL

Here's to you and I
Let's raise our glasses high
For closing time is nigh
And so tomorrow who knows why
May not be for you or I
For only God knows why
Our well of life ran dry
And so return we must
From hence we came DUST

Nil Desperandum
Lar Byrne


Guest Book Wall (What is this?)

Hover your mouse over the wall images to see each guest book entry.

Guest Book (7 entries)
seldom a day goes bye that i dont think of lar.I am so proud to to have known him ,So lucky to have had him as a friend .We will meet again my friend
Richard Mulligan
October 27th, 2010
“The All-Ireland Schools Track and Field Championships were privileged this year to have introduced the Lar Byrne Memorial Trophy for the Athlete of the Championships in memory of an icon of Irish athletics. This trophy was awarded to the athlete who produced the most outstanding performance the Schools’ All-Ireland Track and Field championships.
The inaugural trophy was presented to Ciara Mageean on 30/05/2009 in Tullamore, for her outstanding performance in setting a new record in the Senior 800m (2:05.38) and also winning the Senior 1500m.
The Lar Byrne Memorial Trophy is a contribution to the Schools’ championships, along with some other events that are being planned to acknowledge the lasting legacy of a much love and missed coach.

Frank Murphy
Frank Murphy (Friend)
June 5th, 2009
I met Lar when he became ill here in Portugal in september 2007.When his friend Frank had to return home and Lar was still in hospital I visited him every day.He was fantastic company and he told me lots of stories about the athletics and his work at Guiness.He did recover enough to come for another holiday last year abnd we had a barbi with Madeline and Frank,I have never had a hang over like it,but I remember him saying the poem that Frank said at his funeral and I will never forget it.
I anly knew Lar for a short time but he was truely a wonderful man.I believe he has gone to a better place and may god bless him.
Helen Sedman (Friend)
March 25th, 2009
What a person what a life and a great friend with memories of santry,prague & limerick never to forget. may he rest in peace
noel spellacy (friend)
March 18th, 2009
He inspired many a young athletes growing up during this time. His life and legacy and love of sport will be remembered forever. Rest in peace my friend.
Ted Macaulay (fan)
March 16th, 2009
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"I bet those debates are getting heated up there now Lar with Padraic joining you all.Always fondly rembered and sadly missed"
richard mulligan
December 7th, 2017
"lar I hope you are having a good chat with jim and frank sr you all are sadly missed"
richard mulligan
January 16th, 2017
"Always in our hearts and prayers."
Una Byrne
January 16th, 2017
"I think of those hill sessions with lar waiting with the stop watch at the top and the chat on the way home .gone but not forgotton"
richard mulligan
February 4th, 2015
"Amazing and one of a kind. Impossible to forget. RIP."
Mick and Mary Jo Byrne
February 3rd, 2015
"Great Man! Six years on and you are still in our thoughts. X Nil Desperandum!"
Margaret Murphy Mulligan
February 3rd, 2015
"Great Man!..6 years on and you are still in our thoughts. X Nil Desperandum!"
Margaret Murphy Mulligan
February 3rd, 2015
"So dearly missed by your sister Una and family, Ballagh, Wicklow.Always in our memories."
Veronica Byrne Campbell
March 20th, 2014
"another year goes bye you are still on our minds and missed forever"
richard mulligan
March 20th, 2014
"Your memory lives on in our thoughts and prayers. Noreen and John O'Leary."
Noreen O'Leary
February 11th, 2013

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