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Athletics in Glenmore

By "The Runner"

we approach the dawn of a new millennium it is very appropriate that we look back on the past centuries of athletics and realise that those of us that are involved today are merely continuing a great tradition and writing another chapter in the history of local athletics. This last chapter would no doubt open with the founding of St. Joseph's A.C. in 1968, but where would we begin?

It was only about the middle of the last century that the sport of track and field athletics took on a form recognisable to us today. Yet for thousands of years, men have competed against one and other in running, jumping and throwing implements, and the satisfaction of winning has always been the guiding principle of their motivation. The Tailtean Games held each year at Tara, Co. Meath, and lasting for thirty days continued up to time of the Norman invasion.
The tradition of these great games continued to survive on a local level at the fairs and patterns. While these were of a spiritual or commercial nature, they often included exhibitions of athletic skill and numerous stories of great and wonderful feats of athletic achievement have been handed d[own the generations. One of he great stories handed down relaws to the AWCK
near Glenmore where many generations of jumpers congregated on Sundays for the laurels of victory. From far and wide they came to test their skills among large crowds of onlookers as to who was most proficient and best in jumping across the stream that flows at the spot.

In the early decades of this century athletics began to have a more formal look about it. In July 1934 at Weatherstown a sporting fixture took place in what was described as the largest and best attended event ever held in the area. The Bishopshall sports also attracted a large attendance. By the 1940's there was a need to put athletics on a more formal and solid foundation. In September 1943 a group of people from Glenmore, and one from Tullogher, met and founded what was to become the Glenmore Athletic Club. Thomas Fitzgerald of
Moulerstown was the first chairman and Bill Walsh of Cappagh was appointed as Secretary.

The club was run under the rules of the National Athletic and Cycling Association (NACA). The newly formed Glenmore Athletic Club held its first event, a cross-country trial, at Moulerstown on October 10th 1943 and on July 0 1944 it held its first sports at Robinstown. These sports attracted huge crowds and were held annually until the last sports fixture of the Glenmore Athletic Club was held at Cappagh in 1968.

This was a period on great interest in athletics in Glenmore and some of the men responsible for the interest include Bill Walsh, Cappagh; Thomas and Paul Fitzgerald, Moulerstown; Richie and Tommy Cotterell, Ballycroney; Stephen Walsh, Rochestown; Larry and Pat Roche, Haggard; John Joe Aylward, Parkstown; Richie Doherty, Ballinlammy; Patrick O'Connor, Ballyfacey; John Dillon, Rochestown; and indeed many more who gave of their time in the
interest of athletics. When the bicycle was the only mode of transport available these men travelled and competed successfully at various open sports throughout the South East, and indeed won the open relay race on several occaisons at the Waterford Gaelic Grounds in the late 1950's. It was also during this period of the 1950's/1960's that the next generation of athletics began to emerge. Names like Kieran and Pat Power of the Village, Pat Power of
Forristalstown, Tommy Sinnott of Jamestown, and of course the great Jolinny Mackey of Ballycroney, were about to play a major role in the next chapter of athletics in Glemnore.The Glemnore Athletic Club remained in existence for 25 yrs. in 1968 a new club was formed. As many of the athletes were from Tullogher the new "St. Joseph's A.C". had its base at Ballycurrin cross. This is a border area between the modem parishes of Glenmore and Tullogher, as it was between the old civil parishes of Ballygurrim and Listerlin.

The late John Gaule was the first chairman of St. Joseph's with Glenmore's Kieran Power P.R.O. Over the next thirty years many Glemnore people served as officers of the club. The second chairman was Jolinny Mackey, to be followed by Pat Power (Snr), Frank Boyle, Pat Power (Jnr) and Eddie Manning.
The spirit and enthusiasm of the old Gleninore A.C. was evident from early on in St. Joseph's. In their very first season they captured the novice, junior and intermediate county titles, while on a national level they began to compete in race walking, an event in which they had no equal in the 70's.

The first involvement of ladies in athletics came in 1970 and within a year the club had a juvenile section, the latter winning Leinster medals on their first outing. Success at national level soon followed. At Senior level St. Joseph's enjoyed huge success in the early seventies. They captured the senior ladies and senior mens double three years in a row. In 1972 they captured all six cross-country titles in Kilkenny: juvenile, novice, junior, intermediate, Snr.
men and Snr. women. Names like Mackel Power, Sinnott, Mernagh and Hennessey were to the fore of these successes.

Jolinny Mackey of Ballycroney was the outstanding athlete at club, county and national level during this period. Jolinny won nine national titles at race walking and the great Glemnore man wore the Irish singlet with distinction at international level. In 1972 he was Ireland's greatest walker. Jolinny won the 10,000 m national championships at Gormanstown and the 3100 m title at he Mardyke in Cork. Later in 1972 the Ballycroney man competed in a major
walking race at Trinity College Dublin. He hoped to set a new Irish record for the 3,000 m and this he did. Johnny became the first Irishman to break 13 minutes for the distance when he took the tape in 12:57:02. He went on to captain the Irish team in the 20 kin Lugand Cup in Sweden. For a twenty-year period in the 60's & 70's Jolinny Mackey was undoubtedly the greatest race walker in Ireland.

For a period in the early to mid eighties St. Joseph's produced outstanding teams in track and field. New young talent began to emerge and it was a great achievement for the club to host the county track and field championship on the Glemnore G.A.A. field. Martin Forrestal, Robinstown, designed a 300 m track and in May 1983 a full track and field event was held at Glenmore under B.L.E. rules. By 1985 St. Joseph's was capable of competing with the biggest clubs in Ireland in the Track and Field National League competition. This team was backboned by two outstanding Glenmore athletes; Pat Power (Jnr), Village, and Bill Doherty, Ballinlammy. Both of these athletes won the Paul O'Sullivan Trophy. This was presented to the best all round athletes in the five events; 100 M, 
200 M, long jump, high jump and triple jump. Bill Doherty was Leinster Snr. Men's 400 m champion in 1985 and also won the 400 m in the national league.

It was also during the 1980's that Fr. Michael Mernagh of Forristalstown introduced us to the art of long distance running as he competed in several marathon races in Ireland and abroad.

With Bob Saunders now at the helm, the mid to late eighties saw St. Joseph's begin a domination of cross-country in Kilkenny that continues to the present day. By 1999 they had won their 13'h county senior men's title in a row.

Backboned by a host of outstanding juveniles, St Joseph's also won the BishopShield for best juvenile cross-country club. By the mid nineties this was won three years in a row. Winning teams were made up of Codys, Murphys,
Fitzgerlds, Phelans, Jones, Aylwards Griffins, Dohertys, Grennans, Kirwans, with new names coming on stream all the time. The outstanding juvenile athlete of the 90's was Anthony Phelan who won numerous county titles and Leinster medals for his club and county. In Belfast 1997 Anthony won an All Ireland Silver medal at cross-country. Despite being the smallest of the eight competing schools, Ballyfacey won the inter-schools cross-country sports
in 1994, 1995 and 1996, with many of the above names competing and winning.

The century, indeed Millennium, closes on a high note for athletics in Glenmore. Bill Doherty, Ballinlammy, represented his parish, club and country in the World Veterans Athletics Championships held at Gateshead, England. Competing in the 400 m hurdles, Bill finished 2nd. in the quarterfinal, 3rd. in the semi-final and on Sunday August 1st. 1999 he finished 5th. in the world final in a record time for an Irish veteran athlete. Two weeks later at Tullamore Bill took the 400 m veteran title, again setting a national record.

As we look ahead into the early years of the next millennium we must be conscious of creating the right conditions whereby the athletics baton can be paced on. The tradition is strong and must never be let weaken. What we have received from the great men and women that have gone before us must be nurtured by us and paced on to the next generation of young athletes in Glenmore.