GOREY GYMNASTICS CLUB STILL GOING STRONG AFTER 40 YEARS
GOREY GYMNASTICS CLUB, ONE OF THE OLDEST GYMNASTICS CLUBS IN THE SOUTH EAST, IS STILL GOING STRONG AFTER FORTY YEARS, WITH OVER 300 MEMBERS AND A LONG WAITING LIST!
One of the lasting legacies of the Gorey Development Group is Gorey Gymnastics Club, which this year turns 40. The origins of the club began a little before the involvement of the Development Group, as founder Pat Dowling explained. She began giving gymnastics classes for the Community Games in 1977. ‘I was approached by Seamus Mimnagh,’ she said. ‘He was involved in Community Games, and he asked would I run the classes. We started in the theatre hall, and the then Community Games committee came on board and helped me out, and borrowed equipment from the Loreto for training and events.’
One of the first gymnasts to take part in the Under 12’s county final for Gorey was a young Angie Kelly (now Dooley), who 30 years later, took over running the club when Pat retired.
‘I remember vaulting and I hadn’t used a springboard before, and I went flying,’ said Angie.
After two years of seasonal classes, some of the parents of children in the club, who were on the Gorey Development Group, approached Pat to see if she would begin regular classes.
‘I said I would if I got 20 children,’ she said. ‘We held a registration night and 120 children turned up, so we haven’t looked back since.’
‘The development committee looked after the venue for us,’ she added. ‘The first venue was the old tennis club, now the boxing club. We hadn’t any money as such but we had the subs from the children, and halfway through the year, we had enough money to buy a vault and a few mats.’
The new vault, while essential, presented its own challenges, especially when one young gymnast glanced his head off the low ceiling. He wasn’t hurt. ‘After that point, we realised we would need a new venue, because there wasn’t great head clearance with the vault,’ said Pat.
They approached Kevin Doyle about using the nearby badminton hall, and they moved there. It became their home from 1980 to 2015. ‘We had great co-operation from Kevin and Clare Doyle and Mary Halford, who were on the committee,’ said Pat.
Storage space was limited in the venue. ‘We couldn’t lock anything away, and after every class, we had to clear everything away for the next class to come in and warm up,’ said Angie. ‘The mats had to be rolled up at the end of the day.’
The club continued to grow, and the members travelled all over the country for competitions run by Community Games, and by Gymnastics Ireland. ‘We dabbled in a lot,’ said Pat. ‘We did sports acrobatic, tumbling, artistic, and dabbled in rhythmic.’
In 1997, Gorey Gymnastics Club hosted the All Ireland acrobatic and tumbling finals in Gorey Community School. ‘It was a huge undertaking, but the town was fantastic,’ said Pat. ‘We had phenomenal support from businesses and parents. People stayed in B&B’s, and with host families.’
As a result of the All Ireland, Gorey Gymnastics Club had an U-16 trio which represented Ireland in acrobatics at international level.
By the time she finished, Pat was doing classes three evenings a week, with up to 180 children involved in any one term.
In the early days, she bravely took on a boys only class, but it soon worked out better to have mixed classes. Though there weren’t that many boys involved, especially in older classes, some did stay on to the age of 16 or 17.
‘I have a personal belief that gymnastics is a fundamental sport because it transfers so well to every other sport. It’s a very good basic training and it should be compulsory in schools,’ said Angie.
‘We’ve had rugby players,’ added Pat. ‘One of our pupils for a while was Gordon Darcy. We also had William Earle from Ballygarrett.’
‘I’ve had parents of children playing rugby telling me they don’t seem to get injured as much if they do gymnastics as well,’ said Angie. ‘It helps with balance, agility and flexibility, and they seem to have an ability to roll and get themselves out of trouble.’
Angie studied and then worked in the area of sport and leisure, so when she was approached to take over the club in 2007, she was very well suited to the role. ‘Every family in Gorey had some child involved in gymnastics,’ said Angie. ‘Mention Pat and they say gymnastics. I came in to a very well established club.’
Though they had fantastic hosts at the badminton hall, they were limited as regards space, and also parking.
In November 2014, they struck a deal on a premises in Gorey Business Park at Ramstown, moved in in January 2015, and also got some new equipment including a competition beam, which they didn’t have space for in the badminton hall.
A premises of their own meant they didn’t have to clear the equipment away after classes and could do extra training when needed.
They now have two floors - with the equipment upstairs, and matting downstairs for floor work and conditioning. There are now classes five days a week and just over 300 young members, and a lot of children on the waiting list.
Gorey Gymnastics Club will celebrate its 40th birthday on Saturday, October 21, at the club in Ramstown, and all are welcome to call in, look around, and view a display of old photographs. Past members are especially welcome. Anyone with old photographs can drop them in to the club or email them to email@example.com or post them to the club’s Facebook page.
The gymnasts will stage performances at 2 p.m., 3.15 p.m., and 4.30 p.m. Seating will be limited and people are asked to buy tickets in advance. These are €5 for adults and €2 for children, and are available in the club. The club’s new tracksuits will be launched, and teas and coffees will be on sale. A big raffle will also be held with some excellent prizes.
Local businesses are invited to sponsor the club for €100. For this, they get their name on a 3D sign to be displayed permanently in the club, and a mention on the club Facebook page.
Funds raised will go towards the purchase of a new sprung floor for the club. This will cost over €10,000 but it will greatly help with their tumbling skills.
‘When you go to national finals, all acrobatics are done on a sprung floor,’ said Angie. ‘We had to go to Glynn Barntown last year to give them experience of doing routines before the national finals. It will also be easier for them on impact, and will improve their tumbling skills.’
Gorey Gymnastics Club is one of the oldest in the south east. ‘I do think we need to say to the community that gymnastics in Gorey is 40 years in the town, and it’s made a fantastic difference in the lives of so many children and teenagers,’ said Angie. ‘We still do competitions in acrobatic and artistic, and last May, we had 20 acrobats representing us at national finals.’
‘We start them from pre-school age, and this year, our eldest member is a girl doing her Leaving Cert,’ she added. ‘It encompasses everything. It really is good for their social skills, and they make great friends through it.’
ABOVE: Sharon Redmond on the beam at a display in Gorey Theatre Hall in mid to late 1980’s. RIGHT: Young competitors at the same event. Nian McCormack, Ciara Byrne, Carla Kelly.