Midleton AC Celebrate 50th Anniversary
MIDLETON ATHLETIC CLUB CELEBRATE 50th ANNIVERSARY
Guest Article By John Walshe, as reported in Evening Echo, 21/10/2016
John Walshe reports on Midleton Athletic Club's 50th anniversary clebrations, with the launch, at a function in Fota Island Resort last night, of a 96 page booklet on the club''s history. The function was attended by Georgina Drumm, Athletics Ireland President, and John Treacy, Chairman, Irish Sport's Council, amongst many others.
"Fifty years ago this week, on Monday October 17, 1966, a meeting was held at the Midleton Arms Ballroom the intention being the formation of an athletics club in the town.
According to the minutes of that first meeting, ‘the attendance was very good considering the bad night of rain which we experienced.’
Now, a half-century later, Midleton Athletic Club with over 330 adult and juvenile members is one of the biggest clubs in the country with a rich heritage of sporting success at local, national and international level.
Tonight, those 50 years will be marked with a special celebration at the Fota Island Resort where the guest speaker will be Olympic silver-medallist John Treacy, Chief Executive Officer of the Irish Sports Council.
Also, a 96-page colour publication titled ‘Midleton Athletic Club – a celebration of the last 50 years’ will be officially launched containing contributions from many former and current athletes, along with a comprehensive record of the club’s juvenile successes over the past number of years.
The minutes of that first club meeting state that ‘after much speechmaking and lengthy discussion it was proposed by Joe Duggan to form a club in Midleton. The proposal was seconded by Phil Glavin and the name chosen for the club is Midleton Athletic and Cycling Club’.
The first secretary was Jim Leahy – who will be in attendance tonight – and the former Irish Schools three-mile champion recalls how he first got involved: “I came to Midleton in July of 1966. Athletics was my life and full of youthful enthusiasm I called Paddy Hartnett and told him I would like to start an athletic club in Midleton but needed people like him who understood athletics and was well known in Midleton and respected in the community.
“I then called Fr Anthony T Barry, CC, who was in Banteer prior to being appointed to Midleton and he also was most encouraging. Next call was Sydney Frazer, PE teacher. Again I was amazed with the enthusiastic promise of support”.
Paddy Hartnett, the first chairman, was a well-known sprinter in his youth winning the 100 yards and 220 yards at Munster level and he would go on to play a pivotal role in the development of the club and also at Cork County Board level where he served as chairman for a number of years.
In the second year of its existence, on Sunday May 19, 1968, the club staged an open sports meeting at the Cricket Field, which incidentally is the training venue for the current members. This bridged a 48-year gap since such an open sports had last taken place in the town.
The arrival in the town in 1970 of Fr Liam Kelleher would have a huge influence on the fledging club over the following years. His story in the book ‘The Tale of the Races and Fishes’ tell of his first contact with the youth of the town: “I arrived in Midleton as chaplain to the Presentation Convent in January of 1970 after spending a year-and-a-half in the parish of Treforest, Pontypridd, Wales in the diocese of Cardiff.
“My athletics involvement took off when I met Fr Browne home on holidays from Australia at Mass in the convent. He invited me out fishing in Cork Harbour. The mackerel were jumping that day and we caught hundreds.
“He gave me a bag to bring home and as I was passing the Council Field I saw some youngsters playing and decided to offload the mackerel. Now there were more that I bargained for so I decided to have races for them and so the running phenomenon took off.”
In the club’s first outing to the County C-C championships in Blarney, a number of medals were won and before the end of that season Midleton had really announced themselves on the national scene when capturing 25 All-Ireland medals in the under-11/13/15/17 age groups.
Juvenile success led to national and international honours gained at senior level. At the BLE National T&F Championships of 1980, four athletes from the club won an unprecedented five gold medals. Kathleen Glavin recorded a double, winning the 400m hurdles in 61.37 before taking the honours in her speciality, the long jump, with a leap of 5.58m.
John Hartnett took first in the pole vault when recording a height of 4.20m while Joe Brice – home on holiday from the University of Lowell where he was on scholarship - won the second of his four national discus titles with a throw of 53.32m.
Liam O’Brien won the 3000m steeplechase for the third year in succession in a time of 8:41.5 and he would go on to win this particular event on eight more occasions. His greatest year came in 1984 when he qualified for that year’s Los Angeles Olympics by setting an Irish record of 8:27.24 (still the second fastest by any Irish athlete) at the AAA Championships at Crystal Palace.
The club’s first Olympian was Mike Keogh who, although born in the town, moved with his family to America at a young age. He came back in 1972 to win the 5000m at the BLE championships in Banteer and would go on to represent Ireland at that event in Munich later the same year.
In all, a total of 24 Midleton athletes have competed for Ireland at various levels and all will be honoured at tonight’s function with a unique medallion. The organisers are delighted that Mike Keogh and Joe Brice, both now living in the US, are coming back specially for the celebration.
No doubt tonight’s occasion will recall memories for John Treacy as back in 1977 he was one of the star attractions at the Midleton International Sports, again another of the many stories featured in the publications.
On that July evening, through the persuasion of Fr Kelleher, Treacy – along with the likes of Eamonn Coghlan, Steve Ovett, Frank Clement and Gerry Deegan – graced the grass track at the local CBS grounds in front of a huge attendance.
Among the original founder members in attendance tonight will be a man more than any other who embodies all that is good about Midleton Athletic Club.
Tom Houlihan, the current chairman, attended that first meeting “just out of curiosity” and over the next 50 years he would be an ever-present member, acting as athlete, coach and administrator throughout good times and bad.
Tonight promises to be an occasion of nostalgic memories, but most of all a night of celebration for 50 years of athletic excellence in the town of Midleton."
* 'Midleton Athletic Club – a celebration of the last 50 years’ is a 96 page booklet and costs just €10. It can be obtained, from next week, at a number of outlets in Midleton town, or from John Buckley Sports, Musgrave Road, in Cork city.