Former Olympic silver medallist John Treacy believes Ireland’s future can be bright in track and field events but wants expectations to be kept to a realistic level

Treacy was the guest for this week’s episode of Different Class to look back one on of the greatest careers in the history of Irish athletics.  

The Waterford runner claimed World Cross-County Championship titles in successive years and competed in four Olympic Games.

“Being realistic, if we have one or two in a decade, we are doing okay."

Speaking about Ireland’s prospects now, the chief executive of the Irish Sports Council said: “I think 213 countries compete in track and field. It is hugely competitive. If you look at the history of track and field, since the turn of the last century, we have had one or two [top-level athletes] in various decades.

“Being realistic, if we have one or two in a decade, we are doing okay. We were strong in distance running in our time. The Kenyans, Ethiopians and other African countries have taken it over.

“To a large degree I think a lot of the European nations have kind of left it aside and said they can’t compete against them. I think that is a wrong analysis.

“The Americans have started to compete against them. The British have. I think we will emerge as well, sometime in the future, to compete at that level. We have Mark English doing very well at the moment.

Speaking about English, Treacy praised his tactical ability and his talent, but warned that the competition is fierce.

“We will be looking to him but we wouldn’t want to be putting too much pressure on him because he is in a hugely competitive 800 metres. It’s a phenomenal race really and truly.

“There is so much drama in 800 metres. He is a fantastic talent and needs to be nurtured.

“Rob Heffernan has had world success as well. So if we have one or two competing as the highest level, I think we are doing exceptionally well in track and field.”

In an extended interview with RTÉ’s Dave Kelly for the podcast episode, Treacy described his emotions in the aftermath of winning an Olympic medal in 1984 as “firstly huge relief and then pure joy”.

But he feels he was at his best in the build-up to the games in 1988 in Seoul despite winning the medal in the previous Games in Los Angeles.

He said: “Some of the best running I ever did was in 1988. I ran 1:01 for a half-marathon. I ran 42 flat for a 15k. I was really, really running well on the roads in the States and I was absolutely flying. I probably peaked too early 1988 and I didn’t have anything in the final.

“I was third in the Boston Marathon in 2:09:15, which is still an Irish record to this day as well, so my form going in was good. But I peaked too early and by the time the Games came around I had missed ‘it’ and that was it. 

“In Barcelona, I pulled a muscle. I had won the LA marathon in 1992. I actually pulled a muscle training in Albuquerque about six weeks beforehand. I pulled my hamstring. At one stage I wasn’t going to go and then I said I would go.

“It was torture. The slowest marathon I ever ran was in Barcelona and it was pure punishment. I was beyond my prime at that stage anyway. I had three opportunities, 80, 84, and 88. In 88 I probably ran some of the best races of my career but I just did it all too early.”