Boom time for Drogheda
THE year 2012 was the one when Drogheda & District Athletic Club began to fulfil its promise.
There have always been runners of quality togging out in the distinctive red singlet, but not in these numbers, and it was during these 12 months that membership broke through the 300 barrier.
It was the year our first director of training, Gerry O'Connor, was appointed and a formal training structure put in place for every member of the club from beginner to the regular podium achievers. It was, crucially, the year when the efforts of a few core campaigners like club president Joe Coyle and founder members Barney Flannery and Gerry O'Connor saw the reopening of the Lourdes Stadium, which is a prize of immense value to runners in the locality.
We have a club which transcends age, and 2012 was a showcase year for the talents of master athletes Nuala Reilly and Pat O'Grady. After a solid year's competition where each took age group titles on an almost weekly basis, both went on to represent Ireland at international level in CrossCountry last month.
Nuala, Ladies Club Captain, has inspired everyone with her boundless energy and good humour, often running - and winning - two races on one day. Anyone who saw her come home first lady in the inaugural St Vincent de Paul 5k in Drogheda in March would scarcely have believed she had already collected an age-group win at the Mansion House 5k that morning.
Paul Smith, who won that Vincent de Paul race and consistently collected prizes on both the road and crosscountry, is another member whose dedication to the club helps make it great. On Tuesday and Thursday evenings after training, Paul runs core training for club members, and personal bests keep tumbling as a result.
New coach Liam Reilly began mentoring top males and females in the club, and his charges are thriving. The likes of Maria Kieran, who won the Integral 10k, and Mary Leech, who ran a 3:13 marathon in Dublin, are happy to be under his tutelage.
Forty members took on the Dublin Marathon in October and produced uniformly gratifying results under the proud eye of distance coach Fran Egan. For some it was a one-off experience, a long-held wish realised. For others like Paul Barrell and Sinead Weldon, a chance to improve on a previous time. And no one does more marathons than Gerard Fay who has now completed more than 70 and will not cease until number 100 is reached in Dublin next year. Oliver Clare has also caught the marathon bug and on one weekend last May these two ran five marathons between them, raising valuable funds for charity.
The Boyne 10k was a huge success for the club in May. Ably directed by Gerry O'Connor and co, 1,545 athletes were released down Laurence Street by running legend Ronnie Delaney on a beautiful summer's afternoon.
Club chairman Declan Monaghan has steered DDAC through this remarkable period of growth and success and is a tireless source of enthusiasm. This spreads right through the ranks, and encouragingly the greatest growth in numbers is in the beginners Fit4Life section.