We meet the people be­hind St. Bene­dict’s Ath­letic Club

The story of St. Bene­dict’s Ath­letic club and the people be­hind it

Bray People - - SPORT -

IT STARTED with the kids; they never thought that it would come to this.

Ark­low's Pat Ka­vanagh went out for a walk with his chil­dren one day and by the time he got back home they, and he, were mem­bers of the St. Bene­dict's Ath­letic Club.

The chil­dren would flour­ish and com­pete for a few years but 30 years later, Pat re­mains, fill­ing the role of Chair­per­son, work­ing tire­lessly, or­gan­is­ing, ar­rang­ing, coach­ing, help­ing, driv­ing on a club through all kinds of weather, through all kinds of changes.

Like­wise with Breda Dick­en­son, club sec­re­tary and trea­surer. Her son dis­cov­ered the ath­let­ics club and that was that.

Now, 31 years later and, ac­cord­ing to Pat Ka­vanagh, she's the heart and soul of the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Pat jokes that his most oft-used state­ment in his wak­ing life is “yes Breda”. Breda dis­agrees.

But Breda and Pat, and the other com­mit­tee mem­bers and coaches, Amy Des­mond, Tracey Walker, Pat Crotty, Brian Doyle, Lesya Wil­liams Oshun, Max Wil­liams Oshun, and Denise Ka­vanagh have brought this lo­cal club to a po­si­tion where it is once again thriv­ing and where it is look­ing to­wards a fruit­ful fu­ture on and off the track.

“It was started in the late 1960s by Breda Sin­nott, Mick Quinn (R.I.P), and Nancy Quinn. They were the three founders. Sean Kinsella came later. There was al­ready a St. John of Bosco club but there was no ju­ve­nile club so St. Bene­dict's was started as a ju­ve­nile club,” says Breda Dick­en­son.

“It was very strong in the be­gin­ning and at the mo­ment we are very strong. We have 60 mem­bers and we are com­pet­ing at county level and we hope to have a cou­ple at na­tional level. We went to the Le­in­ster In­doors and all of our ath­letes per­formed very well. On May 2 and 3 we have the County Cham­pi­onships,” adds Pat.

The club boasts nine coaches at this mo­ment in time and for the first time in a long time mem­bers are stay­ing on past the age of 15. The club now has three 18-year-olds and that is chang­ing ev­ery­thing.

But par­ents, a.ka. com­mit­tee mem­bers, of­ten move in the same mi­gra­tory pat­terns: child joins, par­ent joins, child leaves, par­ent leaves. But Pat and Breda re­main. What was their in­spi­ra­tion to come back ev­ery year? What drove them through the lean times when the club was close to fold­ing and shut­ting up shop for­ever?

“We kept the club go­ing as a trib­ute to Breda Sin­nott,” said Pat. “Breda started this club, she was Chair­per­son of the B.L.O.E which was the fore­run­ner to the A.A.I (Ath­let­ics As­so­ci­a­tion of Ire­land), she's trav­elled the world. She re­tired eight years ago but she's still the Life Pres­i­dent of the club and she's on the County Board.

“And over the years we kept it go­ing for the chil­dren in the town. To be hon­est, they kept turn­ing up. Ev­ery year you'd be think­ing that this was it and then four or five new mem­bers would turn up so you'd stay at it,” he added.

“It does come in cy­cles,” adds Breda. “Ath­let­ics in the whole county has in­creased enor­mously.

“For us it's the case of a friend brings a friend who brings an­other friend, that's how we've al­ways worked. We've never went out to try and re­cruit new mem­bers. You're sup­posed to have one adult for ev­ery 10 chil­dren so we need the adults and then you can have the chil­dren. Now we have the adults,” she added.

So what has their three decades of ef­fort and toil given them in re­turn?

“Great plea­sure and en­joy­ment,” says Breda Sin­nott im­me­di­ately in a tone that sug­gests she wouldn't change a sin­gle thing.

“Out­side of do­ing it for Breda Dick­en­son we didn't want to see the club go ei­ther. We talked about it of­ten. You know we'd have kids turn­ing up and we didn't have the heart to call it a day.

“And now the chil­dren of the for­mer mem­bers are train­ing with us. We en­joyed it though, and it keeps you young. We have people com­ing up to us reg­u­larly on the street or in pubs go­ing “do you recog­nise me?” or “howya Pat, howya Breda”. And I wouldn't know, I wouldn't be able to place them and they'd tell me who they were and then you'd re­mem­ber,” said Pat.

When asked about for­mer mem­bers who they re­call in terms of ex­cep­tional talent there are plenty of names that roll off the tongue.

There was Wil­lie Tyrell who com­peted in shot putt and dis­cus. Wil­lie works in Ark­low still and was a fine talent ac­cord­ing to his two for­mer men­tors.

There was also javelin thrower Anne-Marie Fen­nell and a whole host of other run­ners and field com­peti­tors who joined the club, had fun, com­peted, blos­somed and thrived un­der the guid­ance of Breda, Pat and all the other people over the years who gave their time and en­ergy to the St. Bene­dict's Ath­letic Club.

“We'd like to thank the par­ents of the town,” said Breda. “It used to be the case that par­ents just dropped their chil­dren off but now they stay and that's so much bet­ter for us,” she added.

The St. Bene­dict's AC meets on Mon­day and Wed­nes­day from 7pm to 8pm and on Satur­day from 10am to 11am at their track, weather per­mit­ting, and if not in the sports hall at St. Mary's.

Com­mit­tee mem­bers, coaches, and mem­bers of the St. Bene­dict’s Ath­let­ics Club in Ark­low.

Founder mem­ber of the St. Bene­dict’s Ath­let­ics Club in Ark­low - Breda Sin­nott.

Pat Ka­vanagh, Chair­man, Emer Dil­lon, club cap­tain and Breda Dick­en­son, sec­re­tary and trea­surer, St Bene­dict’s Ath­letic club, Ark­low.

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