Ronnie Delany: Irish Olympic legend learns of Strabane streets named after him 63 years on

Ronnie Delany pictured in 2016
Ronnie Delany is set to have a reception in his honour from Derry City & Strabane Council

Irish Olympic great Ronnie Delany plans to travel to Strabane post-lockdown after learning the Tyrone town named two streets in his honour 63 years ago.

The legendary 1956 Olympic 1500m champion, now 85, was only informed over the weekend of his Strabane link.

It was gently pointed out to the local Derry City & Strabane Council that Delaney Crescent in the Northern Irish town was misspelt with a second 'e'.

Council Mayor Michaela Boyle has now undertaken to rectify that.

The weekend saga over Delaney Crescent and Olympic Drive - named by the old Strabane Council in 1957 - began when local Strabane Sigersons GAA stalwart Aodhan Harkin posted pictures of the two streets on an Irish Athletics History Facebook page.external-link

"Aodhan, who is a great community activist in Strabane, shared a photograph on Saturday evening and it just took off very, very quickly from there," Irish athletics historian Pierce O'Callaghan told BBC Radio Foyle.

Derry City & Strabane Council now plan to correct the spelling of the street named after the Irish Olympic great
Strabane man and British Athletics coach Stephen Maguire on the incorrectly spelt Delaney Crescent on Sunday afternoon

"I immediately got in touch with Aodhan and asked him to take a photograph of the street sign and said I would send it on to Ronnie.

"So on Sunday afternoon, Aodhan and another great athletics man, Stephen Maguire, who is from Strabane and is coaching the British Olympic team, went out and took a photograph of Delaney Crescent and Olympic Drive although there was an extra 'e' in the spelling of Ronnie's surname.

"I sent it on to Ronnie and he said he was never aware of that and was very, very proud of it.

"I understand that moves are afoot to get the spelling corrected and Ronnie is very much looking forward to going up to Strabane at some point this summer or beyond."

Delany 'Ireland's greatest track & field athlete'

Ronnie Delany crosses the finish line to win the Olympic 1500m title in 1956
Delany produced a sensational final lap to clinch a dominant victory in the 1956 Olympic 1500m final

While searching through old Strabane Council archives, Harkin discovered that the two streets were named in Delany's honour just a few months after his stunning Olympic achievement in Melbourne.

"I would imagine there were housing estates being built and somebody came up with the name," added O'Callaghan.

"Probably nobody ever thought of letting Ronnie know and he was living in the States at the time."

Changing the street name will not just be a simple matter of putting up a new street sign, but the Derry City & Strabane mayor has vowed that it will be done.

"They are going to have to go through the whole postal system and change the whole network but it's going to be done and they want Ronnie to go up to the unveiling."

Some 64 years on, Delany remains the last Irish track and field athlete to win an Olympic gold medal.

"Ronnie Delany is the greatest Irish [track and field] athlete that ever lived," added O'Callaghan.

"He won the Olympic 1500m title which was the blue riband event of the Games in Melbourne way back in 1956. He really is the elder statesman of Irish sport."

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