Leitrim's Greatest Sporting Moments

Frances surprised and delighted to top poll

Frances Cryan's 1980 Olympic exploits voted Leitrim's Greatest Sporting Moment

John Connolly


John Connolly



Frances surprised and delighted to top poll

Frances Cryan voted Leitrim's Greatest Sporting Moment. Photo by Willie Donnellan

Frances Cryan was a winner in her sporting career but there is no doubting that the 1980 Olympian was more than a little surprised to win the Leitrim Observer’s Poll to find Leitrim’s Greatest Sporting Moment.

With so many wonderful moments included in our list over the last 50 years, Frances’ incredible achievements as a trailblazing oarswoman and Olympian in Moscow 1980 are clearly fondly remembered by the Leitrim sporting public.

Many expected Leitrim’s 1994 Connacht Senior Championship triumph to romp home at the top of the poll but apart from an initial surge in the first few days, the vote was dominated by the Carrick-on-Shannon woman.

With the rowing community in Carrick-on-Shannon and Ireland literally “rowing-in” behind the campaign to recognise Frances’ wonderful achievement, the vote to find Leitrim’s Greatest Sporting Moment quickly became a landslide with Frances’ 1980 Olympic appearance, where she missed out on a final by a mere 15 hundredths of a second, claiming an incredible 50% of the vote!

But when it comes to the woman herself, there is nobody more surprised than Frances herself when the Observer visited at home with the good news - “Totally a surprise. Definitely, people are awful good, they supported me back then and, as you said, they still support me, they remember me - they are unbelievable really.

“It is a great surprise to have won it but I kind of feel I have won it for the rowing club more than for me.”

And Frances, who spoke glowingly of the other nominees in our Leitrim’s Top 10 Sporting Moments Poll, and Breege Connolly’s achievements in particular, admitted that she felt that Leitrim’s 1994 heroes would win out.

“I thought the footballers would walk it because the whole town closed down, the whole county closed down for a week. They were on every radio station for a week. There were loads more others you could have put into the list of  Leitrim's Sporting Moments.”

And typical of anyone who knows her, Frances was quick to thank everyone who voted for her, even attributing her success to the knock on effect of the O’Donovan brothers from Skibbereen - “What can I say to the people except a huge thank you because it is unbelievable, it was a long time ago.

“I’d say it is the two lads and the whole group in Skibbereen brought a different dynamic to rowing, even people who never knew anything about rowing or sport. The two brothers are brilliant, they are a breath of fresh air and I think that might have helped. Skibbereen have done wonders.”

You can read more of Frances' memories of Moscow 1980 in this week's Leitrim Observer.