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Historic Kilkenny
Maeve Kyle

Maeve Kyle was born in Kilkenny on the 6th of October 1928. She paved the way for female athletes in a time where it was considered unseemly and almost dangerous for a woman to run. It’s been 60 years since Maeve Kyle competed in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, making her mark on the history books as the first Irish female athlete to compete at an Olympic Games and later as Ireland’s first triple Olympian at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964.

Maeve competed at three different olympics; Melbourne, Rome and Tokyo. In Melbourne and Rome, she competed in the 100m and 200m (These were the only events open to women at the time as they didn't think that women would be able to run much further). In Tokyo, she ran in the 400m and 800m, reaching the semi-finals of both. In the 400m at the 1966 European Indoor Athletics Championships in Dortmund, she won a bronze medal with a time of 57.3 seconds. She briefly attended Kilkenny College, before attending Alexandra College and finally, Trinity College, Dublin. Her father, C.G. Shankey was headmaster at Kilkenny College from 1917-1953, but he also has a far more interesting connection to Kilkenny, he was the engineer for the current John's Bridge.

Growing up in Kilkenny, she witnessed her grandmother's distress when the family of her cousin had been captured by the Japanese near the end of the war and held in a prison camp. They had been living and working in Tokyo, and were rounded up along with other westerners as the tide began to turn against Japan in the war.

"My grandmother had even written to De Valera to try to see if he could help," she says. "I still have the handwritten response from De Valera. Thankfully, despite the Irish government being unable to secure their release, they survived the camp. But because of what happened I just thought the Japanese must be very cruel people. As a result, she had very mixed reactions upon embarking for the Tokyo Olympics of 1964.

In hockey, she gained 58 Irish caps as well as representing three of the four Irish provinces (Leinster, Munster and Ulster) at different stages of her career. She was named in the World All Star team in 1953 and 1959.

She was also a strong competitor in tennis, swimming, sailing and cricket and now works as a well-regarded coach to many athletes. She is chair of Coaching NI. In 2006 she was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of the University from the University of Ulster.

Maeve Kyle was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2006 Coaching Awards in London in recognition of her work with athletes at the Ballymena and Antrim Athletics Club. Earlier in 2006 she was one of 10 players who were initially installed into Irish hockey's Hall of Fame.

She was awarded an OBE in the 2008.

In hockey, she gained 58 Irish caps as well as representing three of the four Irish provinces (Leinster, Munster and Ulster) at different stages of her career.

Kilkenny College where she studied and where her father was headmaster.

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