Friday 20 July 2018

50-year-old St Joseph's club has gone the distance

1982. Back: Michael Lawlor, Mary Hennessey, Denis North, Mary Healy and Eddie Manning. Front: Desmond North, Catherine Hennessey and Gerry Curren
1982. Back: Michael Lawlor, Mary Hennessey, Denis North, Mary Healy and Eddie Manning. Front: Desmond North, Catherine Hennessey and Gerry Curren
The 1981 awards ceremony

David Looby

St Joseph's Athletic Club's 50-year anniversary and awards night takes place this Sunday, March 18, in the Rhu Glenn, Glenmore, when past and present members are invited to come along and reminisce on their cross country days or track and field events.

The history of the club, which has had hundreds of members down through the years, can be traced back to July 1934 at Weatherstown, where a sporting fixture took place in what was described as the largest and best attended event ever held in the area.

By the 1940s there was a need to put local athletics on a more formal and solid foundation.

In September 1943 a group of people from Glenmore, and one from Tullogher, met and founded what was to become the Glenmore Athletic Club. Thomas Fitzgerald of Moulerstown was the first chairman and Bill Walsh of Cappagh was appointed as club secretary.

The fledgling Glenmore club was run under the rules of the National Athletic and Cycling Association (NACA). The newly formed Glenmore Athletic Club held its first event, a cross-country trial, at Moulerstown on October 10, 1943, and on July 30, 1944, it held its first sports event at Robinstown. These sports attracted huge crowds and were held annually until the last sports fixture of the Glenmore Athletic Club was held at Cappagh in 1968.

In 1968, a new club was formed in an old pump house in Ballycurran. As many of the athletes were from Tullogher, the new St. Joseph's A.C. had its base at Ballycurran Cross.

The late John Gaule was the first chairman of St. Joseph's AC with Glenmore's Kieran Power P.R.O. The spirit and enthusiasm of the old Glenmore A.C. was evident from early on in St Joseph's.

In their very first season they captured the Novice, Junior and Intermediate County titles, while on a national level they began to compete in race walking, an event in which they had no equal in the 1970s.

The first involvement of ladies in athletics came in 1970, and within a year the club had a juvenile section, the latter winning Leinster medals on their first outing.

Success at national level soon followed. At Senior level, St Joseph's enjoyed huge success in the early Seventies. They captured the senior ladies and senior mens double three years in a row. In 1972 they captured all six cross-country titles in Kilkenny: Juvenile, Novice, Junior, intermediate, Snr Men and Snr Women. 1972 also saw St Joseph's Race Walking National champion, Johnny Mackey, become the first Irishman to break 13 minutes for the 3,000m finishing in 12:57:02. He went on to captain the Irish team in the 20km Lugand Cup in Sweden.

For a period in the early to mid-1980s, St Joseph's produced outstanding teams in track and field. New young talent began to emerge and it was a great achievement for the club to host the county track and field championship on the Glemnore GAA field.

It was also during the 1980s that Fr Michael Mernagh of Forristalstown introduced club members to the art of long distance running as he competed in several marathon races in Ireland and abroad. With Bob Saunders now at the helm, the mid to late Eighties saw St Joseph's begin a domination of cross-country in Kilkenny.

Through the years, St Joseph's training sessions were held in Grennans' field in Ballycurran, Paddy Ryans' field in Glantyroe and Hennessy's field in Hoodsgrove. When the parish of Rosbercon purchased the grounds in the now known Parish Centre, St Joseph's AC moved in. In 1996 with a National Lottery grant to fund the flood lights, two years were spent developing the track in the lower field to accommodate the clubs' growing needs.

Club spokesperson Mag O'Connor said: 'We have called it our club grounds ever since. From the late 1980s to the present day, St Joseph's has continuously excelled at all athletic disciplines, from race walking to cross country, marathon running, hurdles, javelin, pole vault, and all the others in between, at county, Leinster, national and international events.'

Always developing, a Fit4Life group has been up and running now for the past number of years, with people of all capabilities joining.

'The Pink Rock has become a second home to us, where we host the Pink Rock 10k (incorporating a county 10k), the County Road Walks, the start of the James Lawlor Memorial 5km, the Richie Young Memorial 5km, and our summer events of the 2 Mile Series and also the Club 2 Mile League. Mick Curran's idea of the Inter Schools Cross Country back in the 1980s (more popularly known now as the School Shield) contested between the national Sschools of Listerlin, Ballyfacey, Shanbough, St Canices and Glenmore is still a popular event each September. The St Stephen's Day fun run and the Dark to Dawn rememberance walk have raised thousands of euros over the years for different charities.'

Tickets for the 50th anniversary night cost €30 for adults and €20 for juveniles. Music is by Route 66.

The fun starts at 7 p.m. Lots of tickets have been sold already so to secure yours contact Eddie Manning on 087 6376388 or Maggie Helen O'Connor on 087 6242017 or any club member.

New Ross Standard