Thursday, September 19, 2019

Moira (O'Boyle) O'Neil - 1956 - 2012

The entire athletics community has been saddened to hear of the death on Wednesday of former Belfast and Dublin marathon winner Moira (O’Boyle) O'Neill who passed away at her home after a long struggle with cancer.  O’Neill only last week celebrated her 56th birthday. Daughter of famous Donegal athlete Cyril O’Boyle, Moira was prominent in the sport as a teenager in Scotland, to where the family had moved in the late sixties.  She won the Scottish Intermediate (U17) and Scottish Senior cross country titles in her first year in the grade.  Her father had been Irish mile champion on a number of occasions while her mother Noreen also took up the sport late in life.

The family returned home to Glenswilly in the 1980s and Moira took a job as a community worker in Belfast and through her work was well-known in the Markets area of the city.  She was also for a period the manager of the Whiterock Leisure Centre.

Despite beingMoira O'Boyle or O'Neill successful on the track and cross country, it was the marathon that brought the former Victoria Park, Glasgow athlete her greatest successes.  She made a winning debut over the 26.2 mile distance in Derry in 1982 before going on to claim victories in Belfast (1985 & 1986) and Dublin (1988). Her time in Dublin of two hours, 37 minutes and seven seconds is still the second fastest ever by a Northern Ireland athlete.

She had come to prominence in January 1972 when she was part of the Victoria Park Intermediate Girls team that won the Scottish Womens Road Relay and later that year became Victoria Park's Ladies Captain.

That same year, at only 16 years of age she won the Intermediate 1500m at the SWAAA Championships with a PB of 4:44.1 and followed that achievement with a bronze medal in the SWAAA 3,000m with a time of 10:21.6.

A major triumph for Moira came in 1973 when she won the SWCCU CC Championship in Edinburgh and was over a minute ahead of the rest of the field.

She represented NI at two Commonwealth Games taking eighth in Edinburgh in 1986 and twelfth in Auckland four years later.  Earlier she had also run for Scotland at the International Cross Country Championships in Monza, Italy.  She was a member of the British team that took gold medals at the World Student Games Cross Country.

Moira is survived by husband Gerry O’Neill from Portrush, a former marathon runner, her father Cyril, mother Noreen and sister Pat.
Thanks to information found on
A Life In Athletics and the Inside Track Blogspot.