THE family of Ballyvarley man Dan Lennon who carried the Olympic torch said the day will go down in family history as one of the best of their lives.
Former marathon champion Dan brought the flame on its Gilford leg as hundreds gathered in the village to cheer him on.
The 88-year-old was surrounded by his children and grandchildren on the day, including son John who nominated his father for the honour following his running achievements in his younger years.
“My father was one of the greatest runners in Ireland in his day,” John told the Leader following the nomination. And this week he said he was delighted to watch his father take his place among some of the world’s best athletes as he carried the torch in his home village.
“It was an absolutely fantastic day - it couldn’t have gone any better,” said John. “Despite the rain the whole family turned out to support him and it was a day we will remember for years to come.”
Dan’s daughter Bernie McGrath said her father, who along with his late wife Joan had 10 children, was over the moon at the opportunity and the support he had from neighbours and other villagers.
“Daddy was grining from ear to ear the whole time - from he got off the bus to later on that night when the whole family went out for dinner,” said Bernie.
“He went off like a rocket from the village square round the corner up to the old police barracks - he hasn’t lost it!
“We had people cheering ‘Come on Dan’ and so many wanting to have their picture taken with him and the torch afterwards - it was just brilliant and very emotional too at times.”
Dan, a founder of Aghaderg GAC and former footballer and hurler, was a champion runner in his time having twice won the Dublin marathon.
John said his father came close to competing in the Olympics during his youth, but missed out because of the way his running association worked.
“In 1956 he was fourteenth best in the world and it is my strong belief that daddy should’ve had the chance to compete in the Melbourne Olympics at the time.
“But there were problems with politics within the running association he was part of and it is a great shame he never got the chance to represent Ireland at that level.”
The well-known runner has become even more of a local celebrity following his Olympic feat, with people calling to have their pictures taken with himself and the torch.
John said, “We are more than happy for people to have a look at the torch and get their picture taken - and all the better if anyone who does makes a donation to Chest Heart and Stroke as that is something close to our hearts.”
Another of Dan’s sons is now in the process of creating a presentation box in which to place the torch - something that will be treasured by the family for generations.