You could say he walked it! The man who won Ireland’s first gold medal at the World Athletics Championships in 18 years has been crowned Cork Person of the Year.
It came as little surprise to the 250 guests at the awards ceremony in Rochestown Park Hotel yesterday that the judges had chosen Rob Heffernan as the winner.
The 35-year-old was always going to be a frontrunner after his triumph in the 50km walk in Moscow last August.
Yesterday’s announcement was greeted by huge applause.
And as Heffernan walked up to the podium to receive the award from Lord Mayor Catherine Clancy and the Mayor of County Cork, Noel O’Connor, the last moments of his historic achievement in the Russian capital were replayed on a big screen.
Heffernan, who was nominated by Cork City Sports chairman Tony O’Connell, said he was “genuinely humbled” to be recognised by his fellow countymen and women.
“Irish by birth. Cork by the grace of God, honorary or otherwise,” he said, cracking a joke in the direction of special guest Jeremy Irons.
Heffernan added that the only thing that could make his day better was if his trainer and wife, Marian, went into labour.
She is currently full term and is set to give birth soon to the couple’s second child, who will be company for their eight-year-old son, Cathal.
Meanwhile, Heffernan is back in full training for the World Race Walking Cup which will be held in China in May.
This year marked the 21st anniversary of the Cork Person of the Year awards. Its founder and organiser, Manus O’Callaghan, thanked all those who had helped over that time.
“We want to continue to shine a light on Cork’s greatest asset: Its people,” said Mr O’Callaghan.
“People are inspired by individuals like Rob Heffernan and Jeremy Irons, and, hopefully, by honouring achievement and celebrating success, others may be inspired to follow.”
Before the guests sat down to a meal, Bishop Paul Colton and Bishop John Buckley blessed the food the attendees were about to eat.
Bishop Buckley, continuing the sporting theme, also asked whether God could see if he could do anything to ensure that Cork get revenge in this year’s All-Ireland hurling championship against rivals Clare, who won a dramatic final replay last September.
Needless to say, that brought the house down.
The event was sponsored by the Irish Examiner, RTÉ, Southern Advertising, Lexus Group, and C&C Gleeson.
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