It’s been a remarkable decade for Craughwell AC’s juveniles since the start of the millennium. Participation levels have rocketed, local facilities have gone from a wet muddy pitch and a leaky hall to the finest astroturf in East Galway and a modern community centre, our coaching personnel has gone from a handful to a bus-full and our success rate has gone from an occasional Connacht medal to a dozen National medals each year and international performances to be proud of. Not to mention the huge explosion in senior runners that the fit4life has brought about.
If we have anything like the same level of progress in the next decade, then on 31 December 2019 we will be fondly reflecting on several Olympians from the club as we relax in the foyer of our state-of-the-art indoor training centre after an hour of vigorous exercise in the community gym while our international high jumpers, long jumpers and sprinters go through their paces in the well-heated Olympic Arena and our elite middle-distance athletes race around the perspex-cladded enclosed perimeter of Craughwell AC’s space-age sports centre. Outside, the hardy long distance group are busily putting in long meandering laps through the grounds of the tastefully laid out park on which the centre is built. And our 2000+ members clap themselves on the back for a job well done in the past decade. You never know – stranger things have happened!
From a level of 50 juvenile members in 2002 and a handful of senior members (just coaches and committee members), Craughwell AC’s membership at the end of 2009 stood at 308 juveniles and 204 adults – a growth rate of over 1000%!!!
Particularly impressive is the number of athletes sticking with the sport into their teenage years. At the end of 2002, we had 5 teenagers in the club. At the end of 2009, we have 76. The challenge for the club in the next decade is to try to make the sport attractive enough to our older juveniles that they will keep it up into their college years and beyond. Judging by the interest and dedication from both athletes and coaches and also from the phenomenal growth on the senior side of the club, this is a very achievable challenge.
During the last 10 years, 24 athletes from the juvenile ranks of the club have won one or more medals at National level in track and field, while the club has featured 18 times in the top 3 in the relays. The most notable achievements during this time were Ann Loughnane’s silver medal in race walking at the World Youth Championships in 2003 and Cathriona Farrell’s 4th place in high jump at the European Youth Olympics in 2009.
The high point of 2009 was almost certainly Cathriona’s exceptional performance at the European Youths in Finland, where she added 4cm to her PB in a tense final and was very unlucky not to have taken a medal. Her jump of 1.79m would have taken a medal in 7 out of the previous 9 European Youth Olympics. Another athlete with an outstanding year was Aidan Conneely, winning 5 National titles in sprint, long jump and relay.
The 24 juvenile athletes who achieved National individual honours in the past 10 years were (i=indoor):-
|Aidan Conneely||Long jump (2009, 2008i, 2009i)|
Sprint (2008, 2009, 2008i, 2009i)
|Ann Loughnane||Race walking (2004i)|
|Ashley McDonnell||600m (2005)|
|Caoimhe O’Donoghue||Long jump (2009)|
|Cathriona Farrell||Pentathlon (2004, 2005, 2005i, 2007i)|
High jump (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2005i, 2006i, 2007i, 2008i, 2009i)
Long jump (2003, 2005, 2006, 2005i, 2006i)
|Claire Ryder||Long jump (2007, 2008, 2009, 2007i)|
High jump (2007i)
|Conor Duggan||Sprint (2008)|
|Ella Bryan||High jump (2009, 2007i, 2008i, 2009i)|
Long jump (2007)
|Ellen Treacy||High jump (2009, 2008i, 2009i)|
|Jack Raftery||High jump (2006, 2007, 2006i, 2007i)|
Long jump (2005, 2006)
|Laura Cunningham||Long jump (2009)|
|Linda Porter||800m (2008, 2008i)|
|Leah Creaven||Triple jump (2008i)|
|Maeve Curley||Race walking (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2007i, 2008i, 2009i)|
|Maria McNamara||High jump (2008i)|
|Niall Rooney||Triple jump (2008)|
High jump (2008)
|Paul McGill||Shot putt (2006, 2007, 2006i, 2007i, 2008i, 2009i)|
|Rachel Finnegan||1500m (2006)|
|Sacha Haverty||Pentathlon (2004i)|
|Sarah Finnegan||Hurdles (2006, 2006i)|
Triple jump (2006)
|Siobhan Gardiner||High jump (2006i)|
|Tara McNally||Sprint (2008i)|
|Tomas Keehan||High jump (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2007i)|
Long jump (2007)
|William Finnegan||Triple jump (2004, 2004i)|
Long jump (2004)
Cathriona Farrell leads the way with 19 individual medals at National AAI level, followed by Aidan Conneely, Maeve Curley and Paul McGill each with 7, Jack Raftery and Tomas Keehan each with 6 and Claire Ryder and Ella Bryan each with 5.
And in the masters ranks, Mark Davis saw success when medalling in the masters grade in the National Marathon in 2008 while Diarmuid Quill did the same in the masters grade in the high jump in 2005 and 2006.
But let’s not get hung up on medals won – the most important thing is that large numbers of athletes are making continuous improvements in the club. 34 club records were broken this year and countless PBs were set – an amazing statistic, but one that is likely to be broken again this year as the juvenile club gets older and as the senior club gets younger.
There is so much talent in the juvenile club right now, it is just incredible. The club has been lucky to find the right mix of fun and training to help this talent to flourish and long may it continue (thanks in no small part to the hard work of a lot of coaches and parents!).
Most of the foundation for these achievements were laid when the club had paltry enough training facilities. It’s only in the last 2 years that we’ve had the astro-turf and track and that we’ve started doing the high jump indoors in the hall. I can remember times when we trained in the car-park at the school when the grass was too wet to run on – frantically keeping cars outside the grounds for safety; and a time when we were training indoors before the hall was redeveloped, sectioning off parts of the hall where puddles of water had gathered under the leaking roof and very fortunately not having a bad accident when a lump of mortar dropped from the wet ceiling. We’re very lucky to have made such improvements in our training facilities when times were good.
So it’s onwards and upwards for the club in 2010. A new decade dawns, hopefully everyone involved in the club both young and old, continues to enjoy the sport and continue to do their best. Focusing on improving your personal best performances rather than medals is the key to success. You can only control your own improvement (through training) and not that of your opponents.
There was a nice article in last week’s Sunday Independent about Craughwell’s leading jockey Alain Cawley who is setting National headlines every week now. The article recalls how in his first year of racing, he had 6 races and won 0; in his 2nd year, 30 races and 0 wins; in his 3rd year, 60 races and 0 wins. But now he can’t stop winning and when commenting on the earlier races, the Independent states “rather than fail in his quest to ride a winner, he had simply discovered nearly 100 ways not to do it”.
So hopefully we can all adopt that attitude if we don’t achieve what we want and learn from any disappointments.
Best wishes to all of our members in 2010 and with hard work and some luck, the next decade will see us with a splendid indoor arena somewhere in Craughwell, the biggest participation rates in Ireland, a dozen Olympians and the strongest club in the country!