STEPHEN SHANNON – An Appreciation
by Joe Quinn, East Down AC.
Running events over the weekend were overshadowed by the news on Friday night of the tragic and untimely death of former East Down club stalwart Stephen Shannon. The entire community was shocked and deeply saddened at the loss of the “big lad”. And Stephen was a big man, 6′ 3” to be exact, and one we all had to look up to. But if ever a man deserved the accolade “A Gentle Giant” it was him.
Stephen only took up running seriously about four years ago but, possessing a natural ability and a keen turn of foot, he rapidly established a reputation as one of East Down’s top men and as a competitor to be reckoned with. I don’t think he realised just how good he was but I have no doubt he could have gone on to establish himself as a top quality club runner and a force to be reckoned within his age category for many years. Sadly, however, it was not to be.
Stephen was a quiet, easy going individual with a ready smile and instantly likeable personality. He was held in the highest regard by everyone who knew him, even rivals from other running clubs. He was invariably good humoured and became an extremely popular figure around the club while remaining modestly dismissive of his achievements. But his outward persona disguised an inward battle with the blackness of depression which he fought for many years.
It is a cruel irony that if he could have been convinced of his popularity and standing among his peers and indeed by all who knew him, he could perhaps have overcome the demons which tormented him. But unfortunately it was not possible for anyone to reach into his mind to the same extent that he reached into the hearts of others, as evidenced by the deep and genuine sadness which surfaced as the news of his death spread, and was manifested so poignantly in the huge attendance at his wake.
We would all like to think that when we die we would have someone to mourn our passing. But to be mourned and respected by everyone who knew us we would have to be unique. Such a person was Stephen Shannon.
He was also a noticeably devout and conscientious member of his church and attended weekly Mass. So we console ourselves in the knowledge that he is in a better place now, at peace, where we will continue to have to look up to him.
The thoughts and prayers of all at East Down AC are with Stephen’s heartbroken parents Harry and Maura and the entire family at this very difficult time.
Perhaps his legacy is best summed up by Terry Eakin from North Down AC, one of the best and most consistent 10K runners for many years, who wrote:
“Very sorry to hear about this.(Stephen’s death) Although we didn’t know each other that well and were from different clubs, Stephen and I ended up running the 2011 Castlewellan Christmas Cracker together. He was a lot faster than me but was happy to wait for me on all the big hills and was full of encouragement. All in all, we had a fun day out. Stephen was a fine runner and a really great person. RIP.”