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'full of energy' Sonia O'Sullivan pays tribute to runner Gillian Ryan after tragic death on Comeragh mountains

"So sorry and so very sad to hear this news. I met Gillian last year at our running camps in Kerry, so much fun full of energy and loved her running"


Sonia O’Sullivan has paid tribute to mother-of-two Gillian Ryan

Sonia O’Sullivan has paid tribute to mother-of-two Gillian Ryan

Sonia O’Sullivan has paid tribute to mother-of-two Gillian Ryan

Olympic athletics medalist Sonia O’Sullivan has paid tribute to mother-of-two Gillian Ryan whose remains were found on the Comeragh mountains after going missing for 30 hours.

Gillian Ryan, from the Horse and Jockey, Thurles, Co Tipperary was a member of Thurles Crokes Athletic Club and her family is well-known in the area.

The 37-year-old’s husband Conor and children Conor junior and Amelia, are being comforted by their extended family. The popular young woman, worked as a hairdresser and was a very prominent member of the Athletic Club and had represented the club in local and national races on both the road and cross country circuit, winning many events over the last several years.

Throughout Tuesday, emergency services worked tirelessly through bad weather and extremely dangerous terrain.

O’Sullivan, who won a gold medal in the 5000 metres at the 1995 World Championships, and a silver medal in the 5000 metres at the 2000 Olympic Games and a mother of two children posted on the Thurles Crokes Athletics Club Facebook saying; “So sorry and so very sad to hear this news. I met Gillian last year at our running camps in Kerry, so much fun full of energy and loved her running.

“A big fan of our weekly podcast and will be missed by so many in the running community . RIP and condolences to family and friends at this very difficult time.”

Crew members of Coastguard Air and Sea Rescue helicopter 117 also paid tribute to a multi-agency recovery of Ms Ryan’s remains.


Gillian Ryan

Gillian Ryan

Gillian Ryan

Tributes have been pouring in for the “beautiful” young woman whose body was found on the extensive mountain range on Monday evening after going missing for almost 30 hours.

The Sikorsky helicopter crew posting a statement on their Facebook page said: “Our colleagues in South Eastern Mountain Rescue Association (SEMRA) are working tirelessly in a very complex recovery operation which today also involves Galway mountain rescue team.

“Since Sunday Kerry mountain rescue, Dublin Wicklow mountain rescue, Glen of Imaal mountain rescue, Search And Rescue Dog Association Ireland (SARDA), An Garda Siochana and Civil Defence have also been involved.

“Our thoughts are with the family at this time and with all of those who are working so hard since Sunday to ensure that this recovery can come to an end as soon as possible.”

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Gardai said Ms Ryan’s body was found at around 6.30pm on Monday. She was last seen at 12.45pm on Sunday. It is understood Ms Ryan died following a tragic accident.

Emergency services members remained with her remains for several hours overnight until they were removed from the Coumshingaun Loop trail. Her remains were found in a steep gully above the lake.

A post mortem examination is expected to be carried out at University Hospital Waterford.

Ms Ryan resumed competitive running in late 2018 after a gap of several years.

Thurles Crokes Athletic Club paid tribute to their “beautiful” member.

They said in a statement:"It is with absolute shock and heartbreak that we announce the untimely passing of our beautiful friend and and athlete Gillian.

"So full of love and positivity. Running with Gillian made the many miles fly by in laughter and chat.

"Our love, prayers and condolences to her husband Conor, daughter Amelia and son Conor at this time.”

While local Fianna Fail county councillor Sean Ryan added: “The community is in deep shock at the loss of such a wonderful lady. News of the accident and her untimely passing has sent shock waves through Thurles and Moycarkey Borris where she was best known and highly respected.

“All our thoughts are with her husband Conor, children, extended family and friends. What has happened is absolutely unspeakable. I knew Gillian and indeed her husband Conor who is originally from the nearby village of Dundrum. He too is a well-known runner.

“Gillian was a committed family person and adored her young children. I met her only three weeks ago and we exchanged pleasantries. You would always see her out running along the roads and she was a very graceful runner.”


Gillian Ryan. Picture: Thurles Crokes Athletic Club Facebook

Gillian Ryan. Picture: Thurles Crokes Athletic Club Facebook

Gillian Ryan. Picture: Thurles Crokes Athletic Club Facebook

Cllr Ryan appealed to people out on mountainous areas, such as the Comeraghs and the Coumshingaun Loop trail to be mindful of how quickly the weather can turn and cause problems.

The Coast Guard air and sea rescue 117 Sikorsky helicopter used a heat camera for several hours throughout Monday afternoon in a bid try to pinpoint where the married mother might have been.

Up to 30 highly trained members of mountain rescue teams took part in the search along the Tipperary/Waterford mountain range.

Gardai and mountain rescue located the married mother’s body close to an area where she had been believed to been last seen.

Ms Ryan, was due to return from her run along the Coumshingaun Loop trail at 2pm but when her husband did not hear from her he alerted emergency services at 3pm. She had been in constant contact with family members prior to 2pm.

The South Eastern Mountain Rescue Association (SEMRA) is leading the multi-agency search along with Search And Rescue Dog Association Ireland (SADRA), Rescue 117 of the Irish Coast Guard and local gardai are involved in the search operation since Sunday.

On Monday mountain rescue volunteers from other parts of the country including members of Kerry Mountain Rescue, Dublin and Wicklow search teams and the Glen of Imaal mountain rescuers. Civil Defence volunteers also began assisting in the search. Two SADRA dogs are also on the extensive mountain range helping with the wide ranging search.

Liz Browne, a SEMRA spokesperson said: “About half a dozen search parties continued their thrall of gullies along parts of the Comeraghs close to lake Coumshingaun throughout the day.

In a previous interview with Thurles Crokes Athletic Club Ms Ryan said running was her joy.

She said her running goal for the future was, “To get as many adventure runs as I can in. I love to run and feel blessed to be able to. I want to take my running to be able to join half marathons in beautiful places. What a dream to be able to run 22km along coast lines or scenic beauty spots.

“It's a huge gift and I want to enjoy it. This is my wish for my running. This is what makes me happy, I came to realise this is my dream for running. Not to burn out for the wins.

“If I come to do well in races that's an amazing high and I will always do my best but my love of running is to enjoy it and see beautiful places with amazing people along the way.

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