The community of Ratheniska was left mourning the loss of Will McEvoy over the weekend, after he passed away on Sunday, January 2 at the age of 94.
Will was a hugely popular member of the Park-Ratheniska GAA club, and indeed the wider atheltic community in Laois and beyond, having made indellible marks in both during an incredible life.
Born in 1916, he won his first race as a ten year old while attending Aughnahila National School, next to the Rock of Dunamaise. That sparked a lifetime passion for running and athletics, and he set numerous national records for a variety of distances and in a number of age groups, as he continued to run right up into his nineties. One of his most remarkable runs came back in 2009, when he ran six miles as part of the Clare Burren Marathon at the age of 93, completing it in just over two hours.
In GAA, he made his biggest contribution with the Park team of the fifties as team trainer, winning back to back Laois SFC titles with them in 1952 and 1953. His background in athletics saw him implement a training regime well ahead of it's time, and that Park team reaped the rewards as a result.
Speaking on behalf of Park-Ratheniska GAA, club chairman Jim Morrin admitted McEvoy was a hugely popular member of the community. "The likes of him will never be seen around the place again.
"His contribution (to Park-Ratheniska) was immense. Even in later years, when you would expect a man his age to be at home in front of the fire, he was always at matches, in the dressing room beforehand to see how the lads were and if they were fit. He always said he knew by looking at them whether they were going to win or lose a game."
Morrin also recounted a story from McEvoy's time in charge of the Park team, in which Laois GAA legend Tommy Murphy was particularly impressed with his abilities after Graiguecullen had defeated Park in a semi-final in 1951. "Tommy Murphy said to Ned Mansworth, one of the Park players, after the game that 'with Mac in charge, ye will definitely win a county final.'" Murphy's prediction rang through just 12 months later.
It will be his achievements in athletics which will live longest in the memory, and indeed the record books, as he continued to be actively involved until recently. As well as the Burren Marathon he took part in, he also ran in the Castlecomer Wellie Race last January.
Perhaps his most impressive achievement, and indeed one the one he was particularly proud of himself, was that he won a competitive race in every decade of his life, starting with that first race as a ten year old while in primary school.
He is survived by nephews, niece, relatives, and many good neighbours and friends. His burial took place on Wednesday morning in Ratheniska.