HAVING grown up on a farm in Ballineen, Phil Healy was never going to be knocked off stride by hay bales strewn across the M7 on Saturday afternoon as the returning Olympian made her way home to West Cork.
There was a long traffic jam to endure on the motorway, after a tuck carrying hay bales collided with a fly-over, but as soon as the road cleared the Ballineen Bullet was back on track and homeward bound.
There, lining the streets of Ballineen and Enniskeane were proud locals, including family and friends, who gave the returning Olympian the hero’s welcome that Phil deserved after her exploits in Tokyo. At the Games, Bandon AC star Phil competed in an Olympic final with the 4x400m Irish mixed relay team that also set a new Irish record in their heat. In her 200m heat Phil ran a season’s best of 23.21 and she ran 51.98 in the women’s 400m but missed out on the semi-finals by 0.07 of a second.
Phil, the current Celtic Ross Hotel West Cork Sports Star of the Year, was also the first-ever Irish woman to compete in three track and field events at the same Olympics.
It was fitting so that a large crowd – including her grandparents Philomena and Declan Hurley – turned out in numbers to welcome home their local hero who was chauffeured through Ballineen and Enniskeane in a red Opel Astra convertible car driven by Annette Spillane, who was accompanied by her grandson Adam. Margaret O’Donovan, of Ballineen and Enniskeane Tidy Towns Committee, was hands-on in organising this homecoming. Then it was on to home in Knockaneady as Phil was back in familiar comforts, surrounded by her family, parents Phil and Jerry, sister Joan and brothers Diarmuid and Padraig, as well as dogs Lily and Fred.
There’s little rest for the Ireland 100m women’s record holder who will be back in action the weekend after next as she continues to put her parish on the map. From Ballineen to Tokyo, it’s been some adventure so far, and Phil’s not finished yet.
Enjoy this slideshow with all photos by Martin Walsh.