Grassroots Club of the Week: Emerald AC
Its origins may date back more than four decades, but Emerald AC, a thriving club based at the University of Limerick with 140 members, has never been in better health. The Shannonside club has for years produced some of Irish athletics' brightest talents, with previous well-known members including Frank O'Mara, Gerard Hartmann, Olive Burke and Lena Barry.
It was founded in 1973, emerging originally as the juvenile branch of Limerick AC, before eventually separating fully from the senior club, which is still in existence today.
In recent years, some of the rising stars to bring the club success at national – and indeed international – level include Sarah Lavin, European Junior silver medallist over 100m hurdles last summer. She won countless national titles for Emerald over the last decade and was the club's most prominent athlete for many years. Since last September she has represented UCD, where she now studies physiotherapy and receives an athletics scholarship.
Before Christmas, Lavin was named the Junior Athlete of the Year at the Athletics Ireland awards, and her coach Noelle Morrissey, the former elite hurdler, was awarded Coach of the Year.
Other star performers include middle-distance athlete Amy O'Donoghue, whose mother is a first cousin of former club member Frank O'Mara, twice a world indoor champion at 3,000m.
O'Donoghue has won several national titles in the underage ranks, both at cross-country and on the track. In December, she finished 58th at the European Junior Cross Country in Belgrade and, in recent weeks, struck gold in the women's 1,500m at the National U-23 Indoor Championships in Athlone.
Kyle Larkin is another athlete who has brought much success. The Ardscoil Ris student, coached by Henry Kiely and Ann O'Mara, was victorious in the Munster Junior Men's Cross Country Championships recently and led the junior men's team – which also included Scott Brophy, Ruaidhrí Ó Conaill, Patrick Hayes and Matt Mitchell – to team gold.
Finn Looney stands out as a potential star. He won gold in the U-13 National Cross Country Championships before Christmas. In the sprint ranks, Roisin Harrison, daughter of elite sprint coaches Drew and Hayley, has won several national sprint titles in recent years.
Evan Crotty and Jenna Bromell are two athletes who have shot to prominence at national level over 400m over the past year. Bromell reached the final at the European Youth Olympic Festival last year. Crotty was a winner of a Munster Star Award for 2013.
Other emerging athletes include 400m runner Billy Cosgrave; sprinters Marie Heelan, William Murray, and Sean McCarthy; hurdlers Chloe Tobin and Ciara Neville; Mark Bromell (shot put); Ellen Larkin (pole vault); and Molly Looney and Zara Bolger.
Emerald AC has also had a number of successful relay teams at national level in recent years.
Dedicated coaches include Noelle Morrissey, Mary Nash, Ann O'Mara, Ger Lavin, Máire O'Sullivan, Henry Kiely, Philip Brady, Gemma Bolger, Mary Foley, Liam Looney and Janet and Tim Larkin.
Other key members behind the scenes include Mike Kirwan, Regina Donovan, Carmel Mitchell, Carmel Dennehy, Maeve Cosgrave, Conor Dooley, Derek Tobin, Vivienne Kiernan, Brendan Russell, Geraldine Tobin, Audrey O'Dwyer, and Emilie Lavin.
Chairperson: Michael Kirwan
Vice-chairperson: Marie O'Sullivan
Secretary: Carmel Mitchell
Treasurer: Mary Nash