Friday 30 September 2016

Community Spirit

With so many sports and activities included in the Games, there's guaranteed to be something for everyone who wants to take part.

Kevin Egan

Published 16/08/2016 | 14:00

The cross-country runners get ready for action in the 2016 Community Games National Festival at Athlone Institute of Technology. Picture: Caroline Quinn
The cross-country runners get ready for action in the 2016 Community Games National Festival at Athlone Institute of Technology. Picture: Caroline Quinn

There was a triumphant return to the Community Games track for one Mayo man on Saturday afternoon as Philip Finnerty helped to guide the Mayo U13 cross country team to a bronze medal, 35 years after he won a bronze medal of his own in the very same event.

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"When I was involved, you ran the schools and then you ran the county," said an elated Finnerty as he watched his charges collect their medal.

"You ran around fields, there were no facilities, you ran against your friends and that was basically it. There wasn't the structure that you see today. It was very much an individual thing and there was no-one to look after you and bring you along.

"Now they get lots of support and you help them as best you can. You'd be up till two or three in the morning doing up stuff to make sure everything's all right; you're ringing the night before to make sure no-one's sick and that's what's involved. It's not just coaching, people have given up tonnes of their time."

This was a real team effort from the Connacht champions, with nine different clubs all across the county represented. Cathy Timlin from Ballina, who put in an excellent performance to finish in the top end of the field, explained what was involved.

"We had the trials a month or two ago and then we've been training in Belleek most Sundays. We thought we'd be strong enough, we all run with athletics clubs at home," she said.

Clare took the gold medal for the event with Meath, led by individual winner Aimee Doherty and runner-up Doireann Ní Fhlatharta, in the silver medal position. However for Finnerty, it's not all about the result, though he knows the value of the medals that his team earned.

"If you enter a race and you finish first or last, I don't care - if you've come off the track having done your best, well then that's all you can do in anything you do in life," he said afterwards.

"Just to get here and represent your county is something to be really proud of. It's a great experience and I'd encourage a lot more people to get involved in it. It's a lot of work and there's no payment or anything, but the feeling you get when you see something like this is incredible. I'm buzzing, and while it's not all about medals, if they hadn't got on you'd be out with the tissues wiping away the tears. But when you see that they did, the look on their faces is priceless.

"It takes a lot of effort on the part of the parents to bring them down, and it takes effort from the kids. But they all love the training, they all enjoyed it, and as you can see, they're a happy bunch and that's what's important in keeping them involved in it."

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