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Saturday 25 February 2017

Thirty years of hard work pay off for Ireland's new tidiest town

Ryan Nugent

Maeve McGann, treasurer of the Skerries Tidy Towns committee holds the trophy alongside chairperson Anne Doyle. Photo: Mark Condren
Maeve McGann, treasurer of the Skerries Tidy Towns committee holds the trophy alongside chairperson Anne Doyle. Photo: Mark Condren

Two best friends were the driving force as seaside Dublin town, Skerries finally took home Ireland's Tidy Town award - after years of close calls.

Chairperson Anne Doyle and Treasurer Maeve McGann have been there for 30 years as Skerries won what people in Tidy Town's circles call the All-Ireland.

In its 58th year, the awards had a massive 859 entries, with Nationwide presenter and award host Mary Kennedy saying the Tidy Towns had become as synonymous with September as Liam MacCarthy and Sam Maguire.

The winning Skerries group said it was even more difficult a title to claim than an All-Ireland crown.

The town finished a mere two points adrift of Donegal town, Letterkenny in the 2015 awards, with Maeve insisting that they got straight back to the drawing board after last year's narrow defeat.

"About three years ago, we broke up all of the sections of the report and we gave each of the committee a section that they had to look after and they had a job to do on it," Maeve said.

"They all started to come together this year," she added.

A victory may have only come to fruition in 2016, but the group have long-standing friendships, thanks to their collective efforts.

"Anne and I when we joined, we just kind of seemed to get on very well together and we started working together as a team, the two of us," Maeve said.

She said the pair are attached at the hip "all year round".

"Every time when I get home from work I ring her and we usually meet up and we're all the time doing something together," she said.

"It's great that we did it, the two of us together and with everybody else," she added.

Neither of them knew each other before getting involved in the Tidy Towns.

"That's one thing about the committee, anything that's happened, and we've all had tragedies, but they've all been so supportive, they're really good friends," she added.

Chairperson, Anne declared the award as their greatest achievement.

"I'm very excited, very pleased," she said.

"It's a long haul, 30 years trying to get it, nobody gets it easy.

"That's one thing about Tidy Towns, winners have worked hard, no matter what town or county they're in.

"You get huge satisfaction, pride comes into it and you just can't resist keeping it clean," she added.

The group insist that they try not to single out anyone specifically for praise - that it's a collective effort that has got them over the line.

Minister for Regional Economic Development, Michael Ring was on hand to present the awards and mentioned a rivalry between different towns, neighbours and areas that drives each Tidy Town Committee onto better things.

Despite some Skerries members playing it down, Mary Conway - who has been involved 30 years - said it certainly plays a part.

"It does happen, you try to stay on top," she said.

When asked why, she said: "Why do the footballers do it."

The scorings for this year will be studied in the coming weeks as Skerries make an assault on holding onto their crown.

Other big winners on the day included Tipperary village, Birdhill, large town, Ennis in Clare, and small Kerry town, Listowel.

It was especially sweet for Listowel, who achieved the extremely difficult task of doing two-in-a-row and retaining their title.

"It adds huge value to the town and to the people in the town - it's very hard to do," chairperson Kieran Moloney said.

"You have to keep striving every year, you have to make a plan first of all, it has to be implemented and then it has to be carried out in a short period of time," he added.

"There could be about four definites (people) that could be up and out (cleaning at 4am)."

Irish Independent

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