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Steeplechase Legends Meet at Antrim International – Guest Article by John Walshe

Steeplechase Icons O'Brien, Quinn & McColgan Meet

Antrim International, Dundonald, Belfast

Saturday January 19th 2019

Guest Article by John Walshe


steeplechase legends o brien mccolgan quinn meet antrim 2019

 Peter McColgan with Liam O'Brien - Brendan Quinn with Peter McColgan

Photo Credit: Peter McColgan


There was a unique meeting, at the Belfast International Cross-Country, on Saturday last, of the three fastest Irish (North & South) 3000m steeplechasers of all time – and the remarkable fact is that they all achieved those times more than 30 years ago.  

Posting on his Facebook page, Northern Ireland record holder Peter McColgan said: “Met these two former Irish steeplechasers yesterday at the Belfast Cross-Country International, making up the top three fastest Irish of all time. Brendan Quinn, Liam O’Brien and myself. A good wee piece of history to have!”

The Athletics Ireland rankings for 2018 show just two Irish steeplechasers under 9:00 for the year, a statistic that is a repeat of the 2016 and 2017 lists. The fastest last year was Adam Kirk-Smith, with his 8:44.98, achieved in Belgium in July, while Tipperary-man Sean Tobin was the only other Irishman to go under nine minutes, having run his 8:53.09, in California, back in April.

all time irish 3000m steeplechase records january 2019


Yet, one must go back over thirty three years, to August 1985, when Brendan Quinn, from Waterford, set the still-standing Irish record of 8:24.09, achieved at Brussels on August 30th. This improved on Liam O’Brien’s 8:27.24, which he ran at Crystal Palace, in June 1984, a time which qualified him for that summer’s Los Angeles Olympics, where he reached the semi-finals in the event.  

The third and fourth fastest on the Irish All-Time list are also from Cork clubs. Kieran Stack (North Cork), at 8:29.60, and Joe Hartnett (St Finbarr’s), with his 8:34.52, again achieved in those times in respective years of 1985 and 1984.

Peter McColgan from Tyrone, who ran the steeplechase for Great Britain, at the 1991 World Championships, in Tokyo, achieved his Northern Irish record of 8:27.93 that same year, at Hengelo, in Holland.

Liam O’Brien is now the Technical Director of the Cork City Sports, and it was at this meeting that he achieved two of his other impressive track times – 4:00.8 for the One Mile and 13:36.19 for 5000m.

Of course his record in local road races is legendary, having won 59 out of the 67 Ballycotton Summer Series Five-Mile races that he competed in. He also won the Ballycotton ‘10’ on four occasions with a fastest time of 47:57 from 1988.


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