Ciarán O'Lionaird hits comeback trail to 'repay debt' to himself and Cork

The Macroom runner says he has unfinished business at the highest level of his sport
Ciarán O'Lionaird hits comeback trail to 'repay debt' to himself and Cork

Retired Cork middle-distance runner Ciarán O'Lionaird is making a comeback after four years out of competition — and is targeting next year’s rescheduled Olympics.

Now 32, the Macroom Olympian has resumed training in the Flagstaff mountains in Arizona and has signalled his intent to get back to the highest level of his sport.

"I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking now of what coming back would look like,” he told RTÉ Sport.

"I have submitted my anti-doping whereabouts, so I’m back on drug testing, which I would need to do if I am coming back to race.

"So I think that is one stake in the ground to say, ‘yes, I am serious about this’."

Achilles problems caused O'Lionaird to miss the Rio Olympics and forced his early retirement from the sport.

But lockdown has sparked a rethink and he has reregistered with Sport Ireland’s Anti-Doping programme.

“I don’t think that anyone has come back from four years off before – especially the four years that I have had, as I have half-treated my body to death.

"I’m sure it would draw a bit of scepticism, especially if I want to achieve what I think I can achieve, which is not just making the Olympics, but doing something there," he added.

O'Lionaird, who won bronze in the European Indoors in 2013, suffered disappointment at London 2012 when he went out in his 1,500m qualifier, having been hampered by injury in the build-up. In the aftermath, there was a famously emotional interview with RTÉ.

"I’d be lying if I wasn’t saying that a big part of the reason that the Olympics is starting to come into view is that I want to right the wrongs of 2012.

"I want to right them, performance-wise, but I also want to right them in terms of how I approach representing my country and representing myself.

"You only live once, so to be able to go back and do right by Cork, and do right by Ireland and do right by myself is something that feels like a calling.

"There is some business that has been left undone, and I feel like I owe a debt to myself and I feel like I owe a debt to Ireland to do a little better, because I know what I'm capable of when I am healthy."

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