SUNDAY WILL be a red letter day for Donegal athletics as it celebrates the first fifty years of its existence.
Founded in 1969 by the four existing clubs Cranford, Killybegs, Lifford and Glenties at a meeting held in Logue’s of Cranford, the board has continued to grow many of the people who attended that meeting will be in the Finn Valley Centre on Sunday evening to reminisce about the past fifty and of course look forward to the next fifty.
Georgina Drumm, President of Athletics Ireland and Vice President John Cronin will both be in attendance.
The four surviving members of the first County Board – P.J. O’Carlin, Raphoe Chairman, Eamon Giles, Cranford, Vice Chairman, Patsy McGonagle, Stranorlar, Secretary and Ulster Delegate and Bernie O’Callaghan, Killybegs, Public Relations Officer – will all be in attendance and the late Ben O’Donnell who was treasurer of the first board will be represented by his family.
The evening will begin at 7pm with the launch of the latest book on the history of Donegal athletics written by County Chairman Bernie O’Callaghan who has previously published a history of the first forty years of the County Board called ‘Footprints in the Sands of Time’ and brings the story up to date.
This will be followed by a meal and then presentations to athletes who have achieved notable milestones in the last fifty years.
The County Senior Champions, individual and team, in Track and Field, Cross Country and Road events in each decade since the first championships were held in 1970 have all been invited back and will receive a token to commemorate the event, so as well as the 1970 champions we will see the champions from 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010.
The County Senior Record Holders and the athletes who have won the greatest number of titles in each event since 1969 will also be honoured, as well as athletes who have been scoring members on the 15 County Senior teams who won National Inter-County team titles.
These include legends like Danny McDaid, Brendan Boyce, Paddy Marley, Paddy O’Donnell, Kay Byrne and Anne Marie McGlynn. Families have always been an integral part of Donegal Athletics and a small presentation will be made to fathers, mothers sons and daughters, brothers and sisters who have each won County Senior Championships.
Four families stand out with four members winning titles. Eamon, Jackie, Michelle and Louise Harvey from Donegal Town; Ben, Sean, John B. and Brendan O’Donnell from Lifford; Barry, Rosemary, Camilla and Noelle Harron, from Castlefin and Patrick, Rosemary, Kathleen and Bernadette Gallagher from Carrigart.
Six Donegal athletes have won medals at major senior championships (European, World or Paralympics) they are Paddy Haughey, Teelin, International Cross-Country Championship 1949, Danny Mc Daid, Glenswilly, World Cross-Country Championship 1979, Bridie Lynch, St Johnston, Discus and pentathlon Paralympic Games Mark English, Letterkenny, Anne Marie McGlynn, Letterkenny, European Cross-Country Championship 2014 and Sommer Lecky Castlederg, High Jump at World Junior Championships 2018.
On the Masters side three Donegal athletes have won World Masters titles they are Hugo Duggan, World Masters long jump, Anne Mc Gill, World Masters 20Km walk, Hugh Gallagher, world masters throws.
Two Donegal Athletes Neil Sweeney from Dungloe and Bernie O’ Callaghan from Killybegs have had the privilege of first being selected to represent Ireland at Senior level themselves and then having their sons selected as Internationals.
Neil Sweeney was an International Triple Jumper and his son Nicky is an Olympic Discus Thrower and his son Mark was selected for Ireland in the Shot.
Bernie O’ Callaghan represented Ireland in the 3,000m, 10,000m and 20Km Walks and his son Pierce was also selected in the same events.
In 1969, Danny Mc Daid was selected on the Irish Cross-Country team for the first time Hugo Duggan, Paddy Marley and Neil Sweeney were selected on the National Track and Field team for the Ireland v Switzerland match in Santry and of course Donegal County Athletics Board was formed.
A County Board to organise competition for Secondary Schools was also set up the first officers were Chairman Bernie O’Callaghan, Glenties Comprehensive School, Secretary Patsy McGonagle, Glenties Comprehensive School, Treasurer Tom Francis, Holy Cross College Falcarragh.
Donegal County Board will announce that five new perpetual trophies will be contested annually at the County Senior Track and Field Championships as a tribute to the members of the first county board: EAMON GILES CUP for the best performance in a sprints event; P.J. O’CARLIN CUP for the best performance in a middle-distance event; PATSY MCGONAGLE CUP for the best performance in a jumping event; BEN O’DONNELL MEMORIAL CUP for the best performance in a throws event; BERNIE O’CALLAGHAN CUP for the best performance in a Race-Walking Event.
The trophies are open to both male and female athletes and confined to Donegal Athletes. Performance will be calculated as a percentage of the County Senior Record in each case.