Fifty years ago, on February 22, 1970, Arthur Savage opened the doors to Kilcoole Athletics Club for the very first time. In the years that have passed since, the club have been responsible for the production and development of some of the country's most accomplished athletes, most recently the likes of Una Britton and Fionnuala McCormack; the first Irish siblings to podium at a senior race, at the All-Ireland Cross-Country Championships in November.
To mark the club's golden anniversary, Kilcoole recently held a special event in the Parkview Hotel, in Newtown Mount-Kennedy. The night itself, which took place on February 28, included the celebration of past chairpersons, dating back from Dominic Byrne in 1970, to Dave Maloney in 2019.
It was a night of commemoration for the past, present, and future of a club that currently boasts approximately 500 members, including 200 juveniles. There was the presence of three of the runners from the 1989 senior cross-country championship winning team; Peter Savage, Danny Greene, and Shea Fawkner. In addition to this, three of the members of the Leinster 4x400 cross-country record-breaking team from 1987 - Felicity Kerrigan, Fiona Keeshin, and Jenny Pegmin - were all in attendance, as were representatives from the 2017 Leinster 4x400 team.
'The one thing that struck us on the night was all of the chairpersons talking about the spirit of the club, said John O'Toole, a former chairman of Kilcoole AC, a member of that 1987 provincial championship team, and current juvenile coach: John O'Toole. 'While we compete at a very high sporting level, and have many awards and many records throughout the country, it is very much social.
'Going back to the early days of 1970, Arthur Savage arranged for trips to the Isle of Man with the club. We currently, as a team, bring our juniors away. We brought out juniors away to Athlone for a few nights, and are going to Scotland in 2020.'
The formal event of the evening came to an end with awards presentations to the juveniles of the club. Malachy Kenny was named juvenile male of the year after finishing ninth in the All-Irelands; the same position that Fionnuala McCormack finished in 1997. Izabelle Lynch and Yvonne Keating were awarded juvenile female athletes of the year, while a special spirit award went to the under-16 girls; Ella Mackey, Beth Cullen, Rachel O'Toole, and Ailish Lawlor.
Fionnuala McCormack, one of the club's most distinguished athletes - having won her first national title in 1997, as well as competing in three Olympic Games (with her fourth to come at Tokyo 2020), and being the first woman to win two European cross-country titles - was also present on the night, and O'Toole said that her commitment to the club is an indicator of the family-dynamic within it.
'Fionnuala has been with the club for about 25 years, at this stage. Even though she was preparing for a national cross-country's [in November], she took time out of her warm-up, as did her sister Una, to come back and have photographs taken with the juveniles that were racing that day. That says a lot. They see the value of the club.
'The Britton family, who probably have the longest serving membership in the club, of Fionnuala McCormack, Una Britton, and their parents, Ellen and Eoin Britton, who are heavily involved in the club; they received life-time memberships of the club as a result of their commitment and dedication to the club.'