The sound of Irish footsteps coming from the course of the annual Manchester Road Race just grew a little softer. Patrick James Tierney, the man who is credited with injecting life and competition into the race and making it an international event, died on Tuesday from cancer. He was 82.
According to an obituary posted on the John F. Tierney Funeral Home website, P.J., as he was more often called, was considered to be the godfather of the Irish Connection, a group of world renowned Irish runners who competed in the Manchester race for nearly a decade.
In the 1970s, Tierney had grown tired of Boston Marathon winner Amby Burfoot's perennial domination of the Manchester race, according to a history of the race. Through his connections, the Irish-born Tierney was able to recruit athletes John Treacy and Eamonn Coghlan, two Irish Olympians, to compete in Manchester. Treacy set the nearly decade-long Irish domination of the race in motion in 1978 with his first win, going on to reach the finish line first on three occasions to Coghlan's two.
Tierney's influence and his drive to recruit champion runners to the course helped to transform the race from a small town event to one of international fame through the late 1970s and late 1980s, according to a history of the race.
In the words of the history book:
In 10 years, the “Irish Connection” runners won at Manchester nine times, and stirred up considerable excitement at the Road Race. “It was terrific,” Tierney said. “It truly made it an international race. And it generated some great crowds and wonderful friendships.”
According to his obituary, Tierney stayed remained devoted to the race and provided race-day coverage via WDRC radio.
Calling hours for Tierney will be held Thursday, Sept. 27, from 4 p.m. - 8 p.m. at the John F. Tierney Funeral Home on Center Street. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Friday, Sept. 28, at 10 a.m. at St. Bridget Church on Main Street, followed by burial at St. James Cemetery.
For more information about services and memorial donations visit the funeral home website.