Danny McDaid and his wife Kathleen with members of their family at County House in Lifford.
Two-time olympian athlete Danny McDaid has been awarded the Freedom of the County at a civic reception.
The Newmills man, one of the county’s greatest sporting heroes, represented his country in Munich in 1972 and in Montreal in 1976.
He is also a four-time National Marathon Champion. He took part in nine World Championships, first competing for Ireland in the International Cross Country Championships in Madrid in 1969. He also captained the Irish Senior Cross Country team from 1975 to 1981.
His huge commitment to his community was also praised before a huge turnout of family, friends, and supporters at the County House in Lifford.
Addressing the civic reception said he was deeply honoured at the award.
“When I hear all the tributes I have to pinch myself about who they are talking about," he said.
"This has been a long journey and a pilgrimage. It’s has been a great journey, it has been journey, and I have met so many friends.”
From a family of ten, he said he has been in athletics for 57 years. “All I wanted to do was improve in athletics”.
Cathaoirleach Cllr Gerry McMonagle said while his sporting achievements are impressive, “what is even more impressive is Danny’s commitment to his sport, to his community, to his charity work and indeed to County Donegal”.
“Danny is a long time volunteer for Diabetes Ireland and is known to be relentless in his fund raising activity and I am sure that he will be selling a few more lottery tickets for the charity before he leaves the County House this evening.
“Danny was also relentless in his pursuit of a dedicated running track in Letterkenny and we were delighted during our time in Letterkenny Town Council to be able to fulfil his wishes with a state of the art track at the Aura Leisure Centre which was aptly named in his honour.”
He said Danny is without doubt one of our greatest sporting heroes in Donegal.
“He has represented his country and competed in the ‘greatest games on earth’ and brought great pride to the country, the county and most importantly to his friends and family.”
“He has dedicated his life to helping others through his voluntary and charity work with Letterkenny Athletics Club, Diabetes Ireland, the North West 10k and many other charitable causes.
“His sense of civic pride is admirable and his commitment, his dedication and his endurance to achieving the best he can be is inspiring and it is for all these reasons that it is a great honour for me, on behalf of Donegal County Council to bestow the county’s highest honour on Danny McDaid”.
Chief Executive Seamus Neely said sport has only been successful in the county because of the efforts of people like Danny.
He said Danny represented the county with an honesty and humility and he celebrated the place he grew up in wherever he went.
His achievement was all the more admirable because the grants and funding that exist today were not available when he was in his prime.
“Danny worked very hard to share that experience with others,” he said.
“He was competing on behalf of the people, competing on behalf of the place.”
Georgina Drumm of Athletics Ireland said he had a distinguished career “but the one thing that stands out is the inspiration he has given to the current crop who are coming through in athletics”.
“We need heroes like Danny and the many more who have inspired others along the way.”
Danny is the ninth recipient of a badge and pin specially commissioned by the Council. The badge (and lapel pin) is reserved exclusively for those on whom the Freedom of the County is conferred.
The badge, crafted by Ms Geraldine Hannigan, Designer Goldsmith, Letterkenny, and mounted on a background designed by Mr Fionntan Gogarty, Artworks, is a silver replication of the County Badge granted to the Council County by the Chief Herald of Ireland as part of a Grant of Arms to the County. The badge comprises the O’Donnell Cross enfiled by an Iunula. The Iunula on which it is based was discovered at Trentagh, Co. Donegal, and dates to the period 1500 -2,000 B.C. It is on display in the National Museum.
Other recipients of the Freedom of County Donegal include Seamus Coleman, Anthony Molloy, Phil Coulter, Shay Given, Patsy McGonagle, Daniel O’Donnell, Packie Bonner and the 28th Infantry Battalion.