When the hard work, sacrifice and frustrations were stripped away, what remained were memories of good times, days out, shared experiences and enduring friendships with great people.
Maria Carey’s summation in the 2016 publication The Inside Track to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Ennis Track A.C goes a long way to capturing the feelings of the vast majority of those who have been involved in the club since its inception.
This year marks another major milestone as the club celebrates 30 years in existence with some outstanding achievements along the way.
Whenever Ennis Track A.C is mentioned, the name of Gerry Hayes is usually mentioned too with the current club president hailed as being the heartbeat of the club. It is a fitting accolade, given that he was at the core of the clubs formation at O’Keeffe’s Bar in Lifford on April 19 1991.
“I was always interested in athletics, and it was usually the main topic of conversation whenever my friend Tom Casey and I met. I had a vision of doing things my own way and we decided to start up a new club, and we are still here after 30 years. I wanted to develop athletics to a higher standard and have a free hand in what I was doing. We had a few parents who were willing to come along with us on it, and Tom Casey was the first chairman, and his wife Maeve was the secretary. Tommy Dullahan was the treasurer and his wife Vera took over from him after that, serving for 26 years with the club” he recalled.
Gerry’s vision of where the club could go was clear from the outset, and from those humble beginnings, the club has now grown to over 350 members with athletes competing at the highest level.
“Athletics in Clare was generally run locally and you might go on to Munster the odd time. I wanted to get into the national scene and get bigger things. You have to aim if you want to get anywhere. Since then, the club has gone on to have great success and we have produced 35 international athletes over the years which is a huge achievement. The first day, we competed in Munster we had four girls who won the 4 X 400m relay and another won the 800m. We had no official club tops going down but we were given four red tops to wear, and with them being red and white, it tied in with the Eire Óg GAA club which kept the recognition of Ennis. Since then we have done really well at Munster and National level, and I don’t think there is a title in Munster that the club hasn’t won at this stage” he explained.
A turning point for the club came with the development of the Lees Road facility with Ennis Track making it their training base. Gerry outlined that having a facility like that available to the club was a massive boost.
“We struggled for 10 years before Lees Road was opened around 2000, and since then the club has just snowballed to a point now where we have 350 members in the club. Before Lees Road, we mainly trained at the Fairgreen but the surface wasn’t ideal. When they developed Lees Road, it was a godsend and was one of the best things the council ever did. Now when we are training there, other people who are out for exercise will see us there and come over enquiring about joining up, and we have gained a lot of members from that” he noted.
Ennis Track Club has produced some outstanding athletes, but one of the standout moments for Gerry was when one of the biggest national records was claimed by an athlete in a red and white singlet. It came when the then 17-year-old Kevin Mulcaire produced a new Irish 5000m Record when finishing second in 14.02.30 at the 2015 Trafford BMC Grand Prix. The record of 14.04.06 was held by Olympic Medallist John Treacy, and had stood for 40 years. Speaking at the time, Treacy said he was “delighted to see that record go after so many years, it was time it was broken”
There has been plenty recognition at international level for Ennis Track athletes, with the likes of Rory Chesser and Damian Landers among those who have made their mark for Irish teams. The club has also seen its athletes making the move to American to compete at University level, with the recently returned Liam and Niamh Markham among them. Kevin Mulcaire, Alex O’Neill and Jo Keane are all still currently based in the USA on scholarships, and have been making good progress in their careers.
Current club chairperson Joan Markham, whose family are heavily involved in Ennis Track, feels it is a proud moment for the club to have hit the milestone of their 30th year.
“It is fantastic to have reached this point, and it is down to the voluntary efforts from all our people involved. It is the structures which have been put in place down through the year which have allowed the club to grow from strength to strength. We would not be able to do what we do without the work that our coaches and parents and volunteers put in whenever we ask them to help out. We have had huge success across the various levels, which is great to see. You can often see a big drop off in a lot of sport once young people hit the teenage years, but the work that our coaches do and the structures we have in place has really helped to keep as many as possible involved with us”, she noted.