A very happy New Year for 2009 to all the members of Craughwell AC and the other Galway clubs. This is a wandering review of the year of the juvenile club’s activities and my own involvement.
The start of the year was a peculiar one for me … the beginning of almost 16 weeks off work due to a hand injury. The injury happened at 8.35pm (approximately!) on Wednesday December 19th while I was coaching the long jump adjacent to Craughwell astroturf …
A soccer ball nestled innocuously at the top of the security fence around the pitch, trapped between the high nets at the back of the goal and the top of the fence. As I was standing nearby, I jumped up to give it a tap down and it bobbled along the top of the fence. So I jumped up again and gave it a good thump to get it down and as I landed, got this immense pain in my hand and blood started to flow. I dashed up to the gate where luckily Ian O’Connor had not departed after just finishing coaching the u16 soccer team. I followed Ian to his car for his medical bag, hand gushing blood.
As he retrieved the bag from the boot, I opened my hand and saw the extent of the damage … a degloved finger!!!!! I won’t go into all the gory details but am deeply grateful to Ian for his speedy action on the night and in taking me to hospital, and to Pat Reidy who was assigned the unfortunate task of retrieving my finger from where my wedding ring had clamped it to the top of the fence, and to Dave Kenny for loaning us some milk on the night to bath the finger on its way to hospital!, and to Tommy and Cathriona Farrell who brought my wife Rosie into the hospital that night, and to loads of others who helped my family while I was out of action and who visited or phoned or texted or emailed to wish me well, and to my family who had to put up with me 24×7 for 3 months!, and to Mr Kelly and his surgical team for a successful operation.
Anyway, I spent all of January and most of February with arm in a sling and the big thing that kept me sane all this time was my interest in athletics. Because of the nature of my injury, with reattached blood vessels and all that, keeping my hand warm was of critical importance for the first few weeks to help blood circulation. So unfortunately the trip to Nenagh for the Galway Indoors on 5th January was out of the question. It was purgatory sitting in the kitchen at home in Craughwell when our club was in action in Nenagh. Thanks for everyone for all the text messages and phone calls during the day letting me know how it was going. I consoled myself by watching loads of Olympic jumping and middle distance action on youtube for 5 or 6 hours while the Galway indoors were taking place. I had the same experience the following weekend where Maria McNamara, Claire Ryder and Ella Bryan were all competing in the National multi-events in Nenagh and Cathriona Farrell competing in the National Indoor Games. I was really keen on travelling and had more or less decided to go but last minute wisdom prevailed and I didn’t travel … mainly in the hope that it would help me recover more quickly to travel to Scotland in February for the Scottish Indoors! All 4 girls performed really well with Cathriona winning the high jump competition with a leap of 1.71m and Maria getting a big PB in the multi-events high jump with 1.41m.
I started to reintroduce myself to juvenile training sessions almost immediately I got out of hospital, going up on the Wednesday nights when just a handful of older athletes trained. And on Wednesday 16th January, managed to nip into the Galway Secondary Schools cross-country in Dangan courtesy of a lift in and out with Grace McDonnell – thanks Grace for all the lifts to/from training also!! The club had many fine performances in the schools cross-country – in particular from Linda Porter and Katie O’Donoghue who took 1st and 6th in the minor girls’ race.
Next big achievement for the club was Tomas Keehan’s selection for the Irish Schools team in February to compete in Cardiff in the Celtic International. Tomas is the first male representative from the club to make an Irish team.
The big event of the early part of this year was of course the club’s trip to Scotland. To say it went well is an understatement – the group of around 30 athletes and 30 supporters all had a fantastic time, with some great competitive performances, exemplary behaviour and a fistful of medals – with Claire Ryder medalling in the long jump and 200m, Shaun Gallagher in the 400m and Cathriona Farrell landing the Scottish title in the high jump. There was international action also for Maeve Curley when she competed in the Isle of Man Grand Prix of Race Walking and recorded a big PB for the 3k distance.
2008 was a very big year for Cathriona Farrell where in the National Juvenile Indoors finals, she leaped 1.75m in the high jump to obtain the qualification standard for the 2009 World Youth Championships and also the European Youth Olympics. In the process, Cathriona got onto the AAI elite carding scheme. Her year continued with winning the AAI’s trophy for juvenile high jumper of the year for 2007 and profiled in both the Connacht Tribune and the Galway Independent.
It was a big year also for Aidan Conneely with double National gold in the U12 indoor sprint and long jump. Aidan added further to this in the summer, claiming gold in the National sprint team event with Conor Duggan and claiming silver in Mosney. Paul Hession watch out! And our jumpers excelled also in the National Indoors with Maria McNamara, Ella Bryan and Ellen Treacy all medalling in the high jump and Leah Creaven medalling in the U18 triple jump. Paul McGill also added to his collection of National shot putt medals when winning silver in the U15 shot, with Maeve Curley doing the same in the U17 girls walk.
Linda Porter was another athlete who had a huge year that was kicked off with a fantastic silver medal in the U15 girls 800m in the National finals, a medal that was thoroughly deserved after several 4th placed finishes over the years. Linda added further to this in the National outdoors claiming the bronze in the 800m and repeating that feat in the National Community Games finals The relays also proved very successful for the club with 4 different teams claiming National medals – the U13 girls and U14 boys in the National Indoors and the U11 girls and U11 boys in the National Outdoors.
The Community Games finals for cross-country in May and for track and field in August saw many fine performances by athletes from the club. It was the last year of Mosney and for many of our athletes, it was a special weekend in May and August this year as they all have fond memories of the place. Pride of place in Community Games achievements goes to Ashley McDonnell who has represented Galway and stayed in Mosney on countless occasions – maybe 13 or 14 times now, so much so that the locals think she is part of the administration up there!
One of the most riveting competitions of the year took place in the Galway Community Games finals where Claire Ryder and Debi Kenny, representing Clarinbridge and Craughwell parishes, had the closest and most exciting long jump competition that I have ever witnessed. The Community Games throws up many conflicts at times when our best athletes are competing head to head and representing different parishes. It’s difficult as a coach as you are trying to encourage everyone to do their best and you are torn in two because you want both athletes to win! In 2nd and 3rd places with 1 remaining jump, Debi took her last jump under pressure and leapt a huge 4.48m to go into the lead by 8cm and looked like she was heading for Mosney.
But Claire repeated this exact feat to leap an identical 4.48m and win the competition on count-back to her 2nd best jump – 4.38m vs Debi’s 4.29m. It was a fantastic performance by both girls. Many athletes from the club done us proud in the jumping events in the Community Games, with 3 of the top 4 in the girls long jump from the club (Claire, Debi and Ella) and the same in the boys long jump (PJ, Cormac and Oisin). And the same in the girls high jump (Ashley, Sarah and Orla) and the top two in the boys high jump from the club (Tomas and Niall). Claire went onto further glory in the National AAI U13 long jump where she claimed the bronze medal, but unfortunately had an injury going into the finals of the Community Games in Mosney and wasn’t able to jump to her full potential on the day.
Another highlight of the year was Orla McDaid's fantastic run in the U14 Community Games 800m to take the silver medal on the line from Michelle Maher with Linda taking the gold. Orla's put in a riveting finish over the last 100m to just take the silver medal by a half-metre. This was just reward for a very hard-working athlete who came back from a bad knee injury in 2007 to work back to fitness and this silver medal.
The intensity and joy/disappointment of competition was put into perspective during the summer with the tragic death of club member Kyle McCrann from Ardrahan while in the Gaeltacht. Kyle had joined the club earlier in the summer and was a happy and healthy teenager. His death was an inexplicable tragedy and our hearts go out to his family. For me, it puts things into perspective – it doesn’t matter if we win or lose, or if we are poor or rich, as long as we stay healthy and happy. May Kyle rest in peace.
Kyle’s teammates on the Ardrahan relay team went on to represent him and Ardrahan with distinction in Mosney and received Galway Bay FM’s Sports Award later in the year for their heroic efforts. His clubmates Niall Rooney and Tomas Keehan excelled in high jump in Antrim to claim the bronze and silver medals in U16 high jump. It was a very successful year for Niall … also claiming a medal in the National triple jump finals.
Cathriona Farrell capped her year off with a fine display in the English AAA U17 High Jump where she claimed the silver medal against one of the UK’s finest athletes Katrina Thompson. Craughwell’s Cathriona went agonisingly close to winning the event at 1.76m but barely brushed the bar to bring it down and settle for silver.
The cross-country season opened with the usual Primary Schools race in Renmore with fantastic performances from athletes from the club in several schools but in particular Craughwell NS and Oranmore Boys NS – winning 3 Galway team titles and 2 sets of team silver. This race was the first sign of Conor Gillen’s talent as he raced to victory in the 6th class boys race, representing Gaelscoil de hIde in Oranmore. Conor went on to to have a fantastic cross country season winning the Connacht U14 title and finishing 6th in the National finals – the highest finish ever from a boy from the club. There were several other top class performances from the club in the National finals, with Linda Porter 13th in the U16 girls, David Concannon 15th in the U15 boys, Finn Stoneman 20th in the U14 boys and Grainne McDaid 24th in the U11 girls. Its hard to identify the highlight of the cross country season with all of these great performances but I think the most satisfying for me was that for the first time this year we fielded both boys and girls teams in the U15 Galway, Connacht and National finals and hopefully can build on this each year so that we field teams in U16, 17, 18 and 19 also.
The year also saw the club received the prestigious Texaco sports bursary award in October, with plenty of coverage in the local newspapers earlier in the year including front-page coverage on the Connacht Tribune and a profile in the Galway Voice. And at the very tail end of the year, I’d like to thank 6th class in Craughwell NS for what was a huge honour for me when they nominated me for the NewsTalk 106 Good Citizen Award for 2008. I got a phone call from the radio station at 5.50pm on a Friday telling me I was nominated and that there was a text vote going on that closed in 30 minutes time for a holiday for €2k. So I frantically texted around to campaign for votes! And lo and behold, I won the holiday! Thank you!
December also saw a very successful club night out 'at the dogs' at Galway Greyhound where as part of Craughwell Community Sports Group, we held a fund-raiser to pay for the long jump tartan strip at the astroturf and the new carpark. The night was very enjoyable and raised much needed funds for both the athletic club and the soccer club.
I can't leave 2008 without mentioning the fantastic interclub friendly competition and party that was held with Nenagh Olympic just before Christmas – with 50 U9-13 athletes from Craughwell AC and well over 100 from Nenagh Olympic taking part in jumps, sprints, throws, middle-distance and relays. It was a great night's entertainment for all of the athletes and a big thank you to our hosts Nenagh Olympic and in particular Denis Finnerty who coordinated 200 athletes and 20 coaches/officials with ease and to Alison Finn who sponsored a lovely medal for each participant, and to the Nenagh folks who wined and dined us afterwards before we rushed to the bus.
So that’s the year in review! A varied and enjoyable year. A quiet start and a roaring end.
Hopefully everyone else in the club also enjoyed the year and hopefully 2009 will bring health and happiness to all of our members and loads of success – whether that be setting a new personal best, winning a county, provincial or National medal or representing our country on the international stage.
Best wishes for 2009!