With two Irish Senior International Athletes, Paul Hession, and Paul McNamara, the past year has been the most successful to date for the club.

Many individual titles both National and International were won and the Club also had teams competing in National marathon, half marathon and road races throughout Ireland.

Track and Field

The season concluded with Paul Mc Namara taking the silver medal in the 10,000m in 30.14.6 at the National T&F Championships at Santry in July and Paul Hession taking the gold medal in the 200m in 21.43 sec in blustery conditions at the same competition. For Paul Hession, this was the completion of a season in which he strove to achieve the Olympic qualifying time of 20.59 sec for 200m.

In June Paul won the 100m and 200m events at the AAI games in Santry. His time for the 200m was an excellent 20.96 sec. Competing at Celle Ligure in Italy on 29th June, Paul took second place in 200m in 29,90 sec. Four days later he took second place in 200m at the Cork City sports in 20.85 sec. The following day he won the 200m at the National U23 Championships in Tullamore in 21.52 sec. On 17th July, Paul won the 200m at the Flanders games in Belgium in 20.88 sec. in wet and windy conditions. Two days later, Paul competed at the Grand Prix meet at Thessaloniki in Greece where he won the 200m in 20.61 sec. an agonizing 0.02 sec off the Olympic qualifying time. The following weekend Paul competed at the National Championships in Santry as outlined above.

Cross-Country & Road Racing.

For Paul McNamara, this was his best season to date in road racing and Cross-Country. Finishing in the first five in all major National Championships, he was also selected on the Irish Senior men’s teams for the European and World Cross-Country Championships, and also represented Ireland at the Grand Prix Races in Belfast and Cardiff.

In August, Paul finished in 4th place in the National Half Marathon Championships in Castlebar in a time of 67.45.5 in a race won by Seamus Power in 63.20.20. In November, Paul finished in 5th place in the National Inter-Counties Cross-County in Dungarvan and also lead home Galway to 2nd place in the team competition. On St. Stephens Day, he won the Fields of Athenry 10k road race in 31.11 with Gary Thornton of GCH in second place.

At The National Senior Cross-Country Championships held in Santry in February, Paul took the individual Bronze medal in the 12,000m event. In a sprint finish for the line over the final 100m, Paul overtook Joe Mc Allister of St. Malachys, Belfast who had beaten Paul into 2nd place in the 10.000m on the Track the previous July.

In March, Paul took 4th place in the National Short Course (4000m) Championship and also finished in 2nd places in the Connemara half Marathon run from Leenane to Maam Cross. The race was won by Kenyan athlete Lazan Kimutai who was the winner of the 2004 Dublin Marathon.

Paul finished the season by winning the National Senior 10k Road race Championship of Ireland, held at Cappamore in Co. Limerick, taking the Gold medal in a time of 30min.56sec.

Indoor Championships.

At the end of January, Paul Hession won the 200m at the Birmingham Games. His time of 21.12 sec in the semi-final was within the qualifying time for the European Indoor Championships to be held in Madrid. In February he took the silver medal in the 60m at the National Senior indoor Championship. In Sheffield Paul achieved one of the high points of his career, taking the gold medal in the 200m in a time of 21.01sec.

At The European Indoor Championships in Madrid, Paul achieved took second place his first round heat in a personal best time of 20.80 sec. In the semi-final, Paul finished in 3rd place in 21.03 sec. With two athletes from each heat advancing to the final, Paul’s time for the semi-final was the 8th fastest time for the round.

Juvenile Athletics

School All-Ireland Track and Field Championships.

In June, Claire Rockall took the gold medal in the junior girls 1500m in a time of 4.51.39 at the National Finals in Tullamore. Claire McNamara took the silver medal in the Intermediate girl’s High jump with a clearance of 1.60m while Sarah Connolly took the bronze medal in the junior girls 800m in 2.25.41. ln the junior girls Pentathlon (combined score in 75m Hurdles, Long jump, High Jump, Shot putt and 800m) Claire Rockall took the individual Silver medal with a score of 2777 points. This earned her automatic selection on the Irish Schools team for the Schools International Pentathlon, held in Grangemouth, Scotland in December, where Claire finished in 5th place over-all with a very good score of 3063 points.

AAI All-Ireland Track and Field Championships.

Maria Tuohy took the gold medal in the Girls U10 Ball throw. The U10 relay team of Maria Tuohy, Niamh Kindregan, Maria Cooney and Orlaith McGrath took the silver medals in the 4x50m contest. Rachel Shaw took silver medals in the Girls U13 60m hurdles and 600m. The girls U14 relay team of Rachel Shaw, Rebecca Nolan, Aoife Tuohy and Katelyn Duane put in a magnificent performance to take the gold medals in the 4x100m contest. Aoife Bannon, Karen Hession, Elaine Tuohy and Sarah Connolly took the silver medal in the 300m and the bronze medal in 800m. In the Girls U15 pentathlon Claire Rockall took the gold medal with a score of 2874 points. In the “B” Track and Field Championships, Christopher Lally took the bronze medal in the U14 long jump and Elaine Tuohy won the gold medal in the U16 800m.

Schools All-Ireland Cross-Country.

Claire Rockall took the individual silver medal in the Junior Girls competition which earned her automatic selection on the lrish Schools Team for the Schools International CrosI-Country Championships to be held in Northop in Wales where Claire finished in 13th place overall.

AAI All-Ireland Cross-Country.

Claire Rockall won the Girls ul6 Pentathlon in Nenagh in January with a score of 2981 points. Sinead Tuohy took the bronze medal in the girl’s U13 high jump. Rachel Shaw took the silver medal in the girls U15 60m hurdles. The girl’s U15 relay team took the gold medals in their 4x 200m contest with the winning team of Conor Caulfield, Kevin Madden, Liam Finnerty and Thomas Flynn. David Neary took the silver medal in the U18 60m sprint.

Paul Hession with his parents, Eoin and Geraldine and sisters, Emer and Karen

Paul Hession of Athenry Athletic Club is now one of Irelands’ top athletes competing in the 100m and 200m events in outdoor Track and Field competition and in the 60m and 200m events in the indoor arena.

In recent years there has been a decline in the standards and numbers competing in cross country and middle-distance events with a corresponding improvement in the sprinting events. This is due to better coaching and improved facilities and of course financial support for young athletes who have the potential to advance to compete on the international stage.

Paul won his first National title in 1996 when he won the 60m at the U15 indoor championships in Nenagh where he also took the silver medal in the 200m. In July of that year Paul won the 100m at the U15 championship of Ireland in Tullamore in a time of 12.04sec. In 1999 he won both the 100m and 200m in the U16 grade. In 2000 he won the 200m at the National U17 indoor championships in Nenagh and also took the silver medal in the 60m. At the U17 track and field championships in Tullamore he again recorded a winning double in the 1OOm and 200m events. In 2001

Paul, who by now was studying medicine at N. U. l. Galway, took the gold medals in 100m and 200m at the Irish Universities track and field championships. He was also eligible to compete in the U18 championship of Ireland in Tullamore where he had a winning double in the 100m and 200m events and this completed Paul’s career in juvenile athletics.

In 2001 Paul also took the bronze medals in the 100m and 200m at the National Junior U19 Track and Field championships in Tullamore. He completed the year by winning the 60m and 200m sprint double at the Irish Universities Indoor Championships in Nenagh in December.

In the year 2002 Paul made a big impact on the international stage. He started by winning the 60m and 200m double at the National Junior Indoor Championships in Nenagh where he set a new National Record for the Junior Indoor 200m with a winning time of 22.18 sec. He then travelled to Cardiff and won the 200m at the Welsh Indoor Championship in a new National Irish Junior Indoor record time of 21.61 sec. Paul then travelled to Birmingham where he took the gold medal in the British A.A.A. Junior indoor championship in a new national junior indoor record time of 21.61sec. He also finished in 5th place in the 60m in 7.01sec. He also took the silver medal in the 60m in 7.1O sec and the bronze medal in the 200m in 22.74sec at the national senior indoor championship in Nenagh.

Paul’s next objective was to make the qualifying time of 2l.54sec. for the 200m at the World Junior Track and Field Championship to be held in Jamaica. He won both the 2OOm in 21.59sec. and the 1OOm in1O.68sec at the National Junior Track and Field championship in Tullamore in June. Paul competed at a series of meets in Europe to make the qualifying time for Jamaica. At Riga in Latvia, he recorded 21 .67sec. At Tartu in Estonia, he recorded 21.62sec. and at Celle Ligura in Italy he recorded 21.47sec to qualify for Jamaica.

ln Jamaica, Paul recorded a time of 21.03sec in the first round of the competition. This was a huge improvement on his previous personal best of 21 .47sec. and was the 3rd fastest time recorded by a European athlete in the first round and was also the joint 4th fastest time in the first round. ln the semi-final Paul recorded a time of 21 .22sec. to finish in joint 8th, but because he was drawn in the fastest heat he did not qualify for the final. However, his time of 21.O3 sec. in the first round was well within the qualifying time of 21.10 for the European senior Track and Field Championships in Munich where Paul gained valuable experience for future contests.

Paul started the year 2003 by taking the bronze medal in 200m at the British A.A.A. Senior Indoor championships in Birmingham, recording a time of 21.33sec in the semi-final. ln April he won the 1Oom and 200m sprint double at the Irish Universities Track and Field Championships on his home track in Galway. In June Paul again travelled to Celle Ligura in Italy where he recorded a time of 21. 24sec for the 200m to qualify for the European U23 Championships to be held in Poland – the qualifying time was 21 .25sec. At the national U23 championships in Tullamore Paul won the 100m in 1O.64sec and the 200m in 21.28sec. He also travelled to Belgium where he was runner up to Paul Brizzel in the 200m in a time of 21 .01sec. At the European U23 championships in Bydgoszcz Poland Paul recorded a time of 2O.88sec. in the first round to set a new Irish U23 record for the 200m. In the final he again set a new Irish record of 2O.83sec to finish in 5th place.

In August, at the National senior Track and Field Championship in Santry Paul took the silver medal in the 100m in a personal best time of 1O.39sec. ln the 200m he took the silver medal in a time of 21.O2sec. missing the gold medal by one hundredth of a sec. in a race won by Paul Brizzel in 21.01sec.

At the world student games in Daegu, Korea Paul took the individual silver medal in the 200m. In the semi-final Paul recorded a new Irish U23 record for the 200m with a time of 2O.8Osec. And in the final recorded a time of 2O.89sec to take the silver medal home to Athenry.

Paul has now taken a year’s break from his studies to concentrate on achieving the 200m qualifying time of 2O.49sec. for the Olympic Games in Athens in August.

His achievements to date have been well recognized in Galway as he was recently presented with the Connacht Tribune, Bank of Scotland, Galway Sports Star Award for Athletics for the third consecutive year.

The sport of athletics is very much a minority sport in Ireland today and Athenry is no exception in this regard’ writes Dermot McNamara 

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;

Committee:
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.

Fund Raising

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:
Paul McNamara
Conor McNamara
Martina Finnerty
Margaret Finnerty
Margaret Page,
Nicola Nally,
Padraic Ward
Stephen Kelly
William Donellan
Jarlath Fahy
Michael O’Grady,
Niall O’Brien
Paul Hession,
Damien Rooney,
Joseph Hynes
Claire McNamara
Joanne Page
Aileen McNamara
Tomas Kelly,
Sharon Fahy
Eimear McNamara
Cormac Brady
Ian Prendergast.
Sharon Kelly won an All-Ireland medal with the Galway Marathon team in 1995

BLOE: 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.

See also – Paul Hession, International Athlete – Spring 2004 and Athenry Athletic Club 2023