Grassroots Club of the Week: Mallow Athletic Club
The county Cork club is on the crest of a wave with almost 100 runners and its popular 10-mile road race selling out in weeks.
The fact that all 1,200 entries for next Sunday's Mallow 10-mile road race were gone by the end of January shows the reputation that the race, now sponsored by the Edge Sports Shop, has gained in recent years.
It is also a tribute to the organising club who continue to go from strength to strength, with the current membership just short of the 100 mark.
Formed in 1977, the early years saw the likes of Pat Kerrigan and Andy Neenan recording very impressive marathon times. Kerrigan posted 2:32.30 when finishing ninth in the first Cork City Marathon in 1982, with his clubmate and training partner Neenan recording 2:33.16 the following year. The pair, along with a few other pioneers from the club, also took part in the early editions of the New York Marathon, as well as some European events.
Nationally, the club's most successful athlete was undoubtedly Terri Horgan who set an Irish long jump record in 1988 before moving on to DCH where she dominated the event for many years, winning seven Irish titles in all.
In 1981, the club had the novel idea of organising a 'metric marathon' over a distance of 26.2 kilometres. This was the first of its kind in these islands and was a big attraction at first but when numbers started to drop it was replaced by a 10-miler. This inaugural race in 1985 had just 125 finishers but, after a number of date and course changes, has now moved to late March.
Last year, Philip Harty led home more than 900 finishers when winning in 51.23 while there was an impressive performance by Raheny's Fiona Roche who set a new course record of 56.53.
John Holland is one of Mallow's longest-serving members and explains the reasons for the race's success: "I suppose one of the original reasons for its popularity was the introduction of the Munster 10-Mile Series and then changing the date helped as well; this is the first year that entries have closed so early for it."
While most of the club's members concentrate on the road, this season has seen a number of successes on the cross-country front. The team of Sharon Woods, Aoife Carroll, Mairead Mulcahy and Noreen Harvey won the Munster Novice title and the women also finished second in the Munster Intermediate after winning the Cork decider. Not to be outdone, the men picked up silver medals at County Intermediate level.
"We also organise a couch-to-5k programme, which has just started every Tuesday and Thursday evening, with the 12-week programme leading up to the Dan Byrne Memorial 5k on the May Bank Holiday weekend," explained Holland. "This was very successful last year with more than 50 newcomers taking part."
Although out injured for the past number of months, John himself has run a total of 29 marathons and 29 Ballycotton '10' events. Other prolific marathoners include Aidan Buckley who has broken three hours and is heading for Boston next month, while Paudie Birmingham is running Manchester.
Peadar Curtis was due to run in Barcelona last Sunday with several more marathoners bound for Amsterdam in April.
Peter Gaffney is another who has achieved success over the longer distances, winning silver medals as an M50 in the national marathons of 1990 and 1993 and is still a regular prize winner in the M70 category.
The club conducts training sessions on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in the town with additional weekend sessions in Doneraile Park. Also, the Sunday morning long run is legendary in Mallow and a must for anybody training for a marathon.
Full details on its activities can be obtained from the club's website: www.mallowac.ie and on its Facebook page.
Chairman: Denis Sheehan
Secretary: Aidan Buckley
Coach: Shane Simcox