STEPHEN SHANNON – An Appreciation
by Joe Quinn.
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. He only took up running seriously about 4 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”
BANGOR, ANTRIM and CASTLEWARD
During the week the McCartan father and son act was in action in windy Bangor on Tuesday with Neil taking 3rd place in his 600 metres race in 1.28 and Stephen a splendid 9th in the 3K in 11.49. Two nights later Neil won the senior Mile challenge at Antrim Forum in 4.45 while Stephen clocked 5.49 in the same race. Although pantomime season is long over the much used warning chant “He’s behind you “ could easily be aimed at Neil.
On Saturday Michael McKeown placed 10th in the Castleward half marathon clocking 1.37 with Michael Cultra in 13th on 1.38, a similar time to last year, in a race won by last year’s runner up Don Travers from Newry City Runners.
In the 10K staged at the same venue Catherine O’Connor won the ladies race in a vastly improved time of 41.04 and will be keenly watched in the new season. James Savage impressed again taking 4thplace in 36.54 while Dermot Cahill was 11th in 39.12. A splendid return all round.
News next week on how some of our Juniors got on in the first Hill and Dale race on Thursday night and the inspirational performances of others in the Rising Stars Outdoor Competition at Mary Peters Track on Saturday.