Carroll, Noel (1941–98), athlete and public relations officer, was born 7 December 1941 in Annagassan, Co. Louth, second among four children of Paddy Carroll, farm labourer and fisherman, and Bridget Carroll (née Carroll) of Annagassan. He was educated locally at St Finian's national school and later at Scoil Uí Mhuiri in Dunleer, Co. Louth, where he began running with St Peter's Athletic Club of Dromiskin. His mother died when he was 13, and after school he worked briefly with the St John of God's school at Drumcar before leaving to join the Irish army as a private (January 1959). By this time he had already won Louth and Leinster Youth's cross-country titles, and under the tutelage of his coach Frank Duffy he won army titles in the 440 and 880 yards later that year. He went on to win the 800 m title at the World Military Championships in Brussels. In 1960 he ran the fastest 800 m in the world for an 18-year-old, and in 1961 he followed in the footsteps of other Irish middle-distance runners, such as John Joe Barry (qv) and Ronnie Delany, when he was offered the opportunity to attend Villanova University on an athletics scholarship; there he was coached by the legendary ‘Jumbo’ Elliot, and graduated with a degree in economics and accountancy (1964).
While at Villanova he won the outstanding athlete award at the prestigious Penn Relays and featured on the All-American athletics team (1964, 1965). In 1963 he was ranked fourth in the world in the 800 m and set a European record for the 880 yards, the imperial equivalent, as well as winning the first of three British AAA titles, the others coming in 1966 and 1968. In addition he was runner-up in the ‘three As’ on three other occasions to his arch-rival, Britain's John Boulter. In 1964 he was a member of the Villanova squad that set a world record for the 4 × 880 yards relay, becoming in the process the first Irish athlete to receive an IAAF plaque for a world record. That same year he competed in the Rome Olympics, finishing fifth in his heat, the first of two Olympic games in which he competed for Ireland. He never fulfilled his potential at the Olympics, finding the altitude difficult to cope with in Mexico in 1968, when he competed in both the 400 m and the 800 m, finishing sixth and fifth respectively in the heats. A fine indoor runner like many of his Irish compatriots, he won the first of three European Indoor 800 m titles in the inaugural championships in Dortmund in 1966, going on to retain his title in Prague the following year, and making it three-in-a-row in Madrid in 1968, all of which emphasises the scale of his underperformance on the Olympic stage. He was twice voted Texaco Sports Star of the Year in athletics (1961, 1967).
A fitness fanatic, he never officially retired from athletics, continuing to compete at the highest level well into his late thirties, and then subsequently at veteran's level, holding Irish, European, and World 800 m records and titles in his category. He dominated Irish 440 and 880 yards and 400 and 800 m running at his peak, winning fourteen national titles in total, as well as holding national record times in those events. In later years he was heavily involved in coaching athletes at UCD and was instrumental in setting up the athletics scholarship programme there in 1992. He also wrote two books, Sport in Ireland (1979) and The runner's book (1980), as well as being a regular contributor on athletics to newspapers and magazines. As a runner he is remembered as a great stylist, with the perfect build for an 800 m runner, and an ability to deliver a decisive late surge off the bend. He was an important link in the chain of Irish Villanova middle-distance runners, bridging the gap between the pioneers of the 1950s and the explosion of talent that attended the university from the 1970s onward.
After his US scholarship he initially became a systems analyst for an Irish-based computer company, and subsequently assistant manager of the Eastern Region Tourism Organisation. He was, for many years, the voice of Dublin corporation in his role as public relations officer (1972–96), featuring regularly on radio and television in that capacity. In 1996 he was appointed chief executive of the Dublin chamber of commerce, a post he held up to his death. Among many other activities, he was chairman of the executive committee of GOAL, the sportsperson's third-world development charity, and chaired, in the late 1990s, an advisory committee on millennium commemoration schemes. He had also been a prime mover in the establishment of the Dublin city marathon in 1979. Occasionally controversial in his views, he could give the impression of being dismissive of criticism, particularly when he felt it was unfair, but he was always honest and forthright in his opinions, and was generally regarded, even by those with whom he differed, as a man of sincerity and integrity. Describing himself as ‘eccentric’, he was not always at his ease with small talk, but there is ample testimony to his kindness and consideration to others. A devoted family man, he married (1964) Deirdre O'Callaghan, well-known singer and harpist; they had four children. A non-smoker and teetotaller, who enjoyed reading and the theatre, he died suddenly of a heart attack while on a training run at UCD on 23 October 1998.