The sport of athletics is very much a minority sport in Ireland today and Athenry is no exception in this regard.
However, the sport does promote physical fitness and offers a non-contact activity with equal opportunities for both male and female participants. A commitment to training and achievement of a basic level of physical fitness is the key to enjoying satisfactory participation in the sport, particularly at a time when there are so many negative counter attractions available to the youth of today.
There are two organisations which promote the sport of athletics in Athenry parish at the present time: the Athenry Community Games Committee and the Athenry Athletics club.
Athenry Community Games
The committee of Athenry Community Games organises the annual Parish Sports in the month of May. Community Games offer a limited range of athletic, track and field events to boys and girls from under 8 to under 17, with each group participating in a set number of events. For example, under 10 athletes compete in 100m and 200m, under 12 athletes have 100m, 600m and 4 x 100m relay, under 16 athletes compete in lO0m, 1500m and high jump. Athletes progress from the Parish Sports to the County Games with one athlete eligible to compete in each event. The winners of the County Games held over two days in July qualify to compete in the National Finals in Mosney on the first Sunday in September each year.
Community Games also organise a Cross Country Competition for boys and girls with the first five boys and first five girls in the County Championships going forward to compete in a National Final in Mosney in May each year.
The present officers of the Athenry Community Games are as follows:
Chairman, Walter Burke;
Secretary, Breda Kelly;
Treasurer, Jimmy Somers;
PRO, Eileen Lyons;
Tom Page, who trains and coaches the Athenry athletes, also holds the position of Community Development Officer with Galway Community Games.
Athenry Athletic Club
Athenry has a long association with the sport of athletics. In the sixties there were two adult clubs located in the parish, Athenry De Wetts and the famed Derrydonnell A.C.
In late 1989, Marion Freeney and Pat Melia were instrumental in starting the present club. From small beginnings the club has grown to be one of the leading clubs in the entire western region. The club is affiliated to BLOE, which is the juvenile branch of BLE, the National Athletics body affiliated to the International Amateur Athletics. To enable it to compete effectively with the bigger clubs in the region and to offer some challenge to the big clubs nationally, e.g. D.S.D, Leevale, M.S.B., etc., the club has to recruit athletes from outside the parish.
Present membership is drawn mainly from the Newcastle and Derrydonnell areas of Athenry plus Oranmore, Renmore and the Aran Islands.
The present officers of the club are:
Chairman, Tommy Quinn;
Secretary, Dermot McNamara;
Treasurer, Marion Freeney;
Sprint Coach, Mary Kelly;
Middle Distance Coach, Tom Page;
Hurdles Coach, Dermot McNamara;
Bernie McCarthy, Oranmore; Jarlath Fahy, Tiaquin; Martin O’Donnell, Aran Islands; Tom Page, Derrydonnell; Dermot McNamara, Athenry; Mary Kelly, Renmore. Dermot McNamara also acts as PRO for the Galway County Board of BLOE.
The season for competition in BLOE is broken down a follows:
September to December — Cross Country; January to March – Indoor Championships; April to July – Field and Track Athletics.
All three branches of the sport are organised at County, Regional and All-Ireland level. Qualification for the A1l—Ireland is from the Regional Championships. In addition, Galway County Board organises a track and field Inter—Club League in June and July each year. In 1995 Athenry Athletic Club were runners up in this competition to Galway City Harriers.
Co-operation – The Key to Success
In a small community it is vital that duplication of expenditure is avoided and that resources, where possible, should be shared by different bodies with similar objectives. For this reason there has always been close co-operation between
Athenry Athletics Club and Athenry Community Games, with the end result being the advancement of both organisations. A special word of thanks is due to Tom Page for his all-year—round commitment to coaching the athletes.
Having conducted two or three training sessions weekly plus weekend competitions for BLOE from September to July, Tom then devotes the month of August to preparing the local Athletes who have qualified for the National Community Games in Mosney. This year most of this preparation was done at the Regional Sports Centre in Dangan, Galway, on the new synthetic track. Athletes from Athenry, Craughwell, Monivea, Oranmore, Westside and Renmore, all working under a variety of officials from various areas, with each discipline grouped together.
Another example of co-operation was the recent staging of the County Cross-Country County Championships in Raheen. The field was provided by kind permission of Kathleen Bane. Gerry McNamara, Tommy Quinn and Jimmy Fahy found time to make over 100 flags for marking the course. Edddie Fox cut the grass. Various clubs made their changing facilities in Raheen available plus the room upstairs available for the medal presentations.
Being a minority sport there is little revenue, so all monies for necessary expenditure must be raised through some form of fund-raising. The main expenditure is sending athletes to compete in Mosney and this is raised through local churchgate collections.
The budget for Athenry BLOE Club would run to over £5,000 per annum at present. This was raised through: churchgate collection, £800; bag packing at Super Value, Eyre Square, £2,400; BLOE club draw, £500; plus member’s contributions towards transport £l,300. The club wishes to thank the people of Athenry for supporting the churchgate collection, the management of Super Value and all who supported the BLOE club draw. A most sincere thank you is due to Mary Kelly for organising the bag packing at Super Value and also to Martin Somers, who was always available to transport athletes to the regional sports centre for the weekly training sessions and to various locations for competitions during the summer.
Roll of Honour – Community Games
The following have qualified from Athenry since 1990 to represent Galway in the National Finals in Mosney:
Sharon Kelly won an All-Ireland medal with the Galway Marathon team in 1995
The following members of Athenry Athletics Club won All-Ireland medals in
Cross-Country, Indoor and Track & Field:
Paul McNamara, Margaret Page, Nicola Nally, Claire Morrissey, Elaine Kelly,
Breda O’Donnell, Martina Finnerty, Martina Coffey, Jarlath Fahy, Sharon Fahy, Martina McCarthy, and Conor McNamara.
Written by D McNamara
Published here 08 Feb 2021 and originally published November 1995
The Swingtime Aces
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