Gorey Guardian - - FRONT PAGE -

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 ken­nys­lacey@gmail.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.

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