Who will look after the Lourdes Stadium now
Good sports stories often stay under radar because the circumstances are not fully appreciated.
Masters Athletics is a big international sport, particularly strong in the US and Britain. Last week in Budapest 3,800 athletes gathered for the World Indoor Track Championships. From a field of 30 in their event two Drogheda runners, Mark O`Shea and Niall Donnelly, battled through their heats to qualify and finish 4th and 8th respectively in a hot 1,500mtrs M40 Final.
At the same meet Dundalk`s Brian Lynch, who set an Irish M60 record in Lourdes Stadium last summer, ran 4.26 to break the World record for the metric mile. These are magnificent achievements. Both Drogheda athletes ply their trade out of Lourdes Stadium under the tutelage of coach Liam Reilly. The stadium is becoming very important to the burgeoning track & field revival in town and the healthy lifestyle benefits ensuing.
After the May local elections Drogheda Borough Council will be no more and we will be dependent on representatives elected from the whole of south Louth based in a new local authority in Dundalk. We do not yet know who will be responsible for the hands on operation of Lourdes Stadium. It is essential that we have an input into keeping the venue the success that it is. Here are some facts not generally known for the athletic fraternity to consider.
The deal for the refurbishment of the stadium was signed in 2006 but the project looked to be a victim of the economic crash until Michael O`Dowd became Mayor in 2009. When all seemed lost O`Dowd, a keen athletics and youth activities supporter, used the clout of his office to winkle out an attractive quote for the track and then managed a generous donation from Coca-Cola to finance it. He further assisted at a sensitive time to ensure that the deal did not fall apart. His was a crucial contribution that allowed the Borough Council and the County Manager to proceed. We might be waiting yet.
I have not, and never will have, any allegiance to the political organisation that Michael O`Dowd belongs to but this is a Local Election, Local Issues and I do have an allegiance to a proven friend of athletics in Drogheda. He`s a course winner and can be trusted to support the future of our hard earned Lourdes Stadium. As the mediator of the deal between Lourdes AC and Drogheda Borough Council I am fully aware of the value of his efforts and I believe that we, the athletics fraternity, owe Michael O`Dowd a favour.
In conclusion my heartiest congratulations go to Mark, Niall and Brian for bringing remarkable sporting distinction to our county.