Obituary: Mr Sean Kyle

One of Sean's proudest moments was when he was inducted, along with wife Maeve, into Ballymena's Sporting Hall of Fame. The couple are pictured at the ceremony with the then Mayor of Ballymena, Councillor Hubert Nicholl.
One of Sean's proudest moments was when he was inducted, along with wife Maeve, into Ballymena's Sporting Hall of Fame. The couple are pictured at the ceremony with the then Mayor of Ballymena, Councillor Hubert Nicholl.

Sean Kyle spent much of his coaching career guiding international standard athletes competing at the top level of the sport.

Yet the Ballymena man, who passed away last week at the age of 88, was equally happy mentoring a youngster in their first steps in the sport he loved so dearly and gave so much to.

That athlete will suddenly produce it in competition and you say to yourself ‘here, I’ve found another one’. You will feel chuffed. By George, we’ve cracked it again.

Sean Kyle

It was that sort of modest charm that made Sean such a much-loved figure, from athletics’ grass roots to the Olympic arena.

Together with his wife Maeve, whose athletics career he had initially developed from her formative sporting career as a hockey player, they created a legacy at Ballymena and Antrim Athletic Club which still stands proudly today.

It wasn’t just his wife who went on compete at the highest level under Sean’s tutelage - a host of other athletes came through the ranks of the Antrim Forum-based club to reach the international stage.

He became the first Irish coach elected to the Association of World Coaches and is 1974, Sean was presented with the Torch Trophy, a UK-wide recognition of voluntary work in sport.

Perhaps the ultimate accolade came from his peers when he was named UK Coach of the Year in 1987 - an accolade which covered all sports - by which time he had more than 40 years’ experience under his belt.

One of the attributes which stood out from Sean’s career was his versatility within the many and varied disciplines in the sport.

While modern-day coaches specialise on one aspect of the sport, Sean coached discus and javelin, distance running, sprinting, hurdling, long jump and shot putt.

In Denis O’Hara’s marvellous book ‘The Remarkable Kyles’, Sean outlined the motivation of seeing a competitor improve on the training ground and taking that improvement into the competitive arena.

“You cannot wait for the moment when that athlete goes into competition,” he said.

“That athlete will suddenly produce it in competition and you say to yourself ‘here, I’ve found another one’. You will feel chuffed. By George, we’ve cracked it again.

“You can be the greatest coach in the world, yet if athletes who want to progress and work hard have no talent, they won’t go to the top.

Through his early commitment to the sport and his instinctive and patient coaching, Sean laid the groundwork for Northern Ireland athletics.

But the fact that tributes poured in from throughout the world following the news of his death give a true indication of the esteem in which he was held in the sport on a global level.

Sean’s insatiable appetite for all aspects of track and field coaching and competition is richly illustrated by his unstinting devotion to the Ballymena and Antrim Club.

In a world where words like legends are bandied about increasingly frequently, it is certainly fitting when used to describe Sean Kyle.