Budding Olympians head for Castlelyons
Up to 1,500 children will converge on St Nicholas Athletic Club grounds Castlelyons next Friday for the East Cork Athletic Division’s schools cross-country fixture.
The event will see races for boys and girls across eight age divisions aged six to 13.
The prestigious championships are part of the division’s annual programme which includes two crosscountry races, two track and field events, and a road race. “It’s highly competitive but it’s also a very enjoyable family day as well,” says ECAD chairman Martin Drake. “Kids just love the day, regardless of results.”
This year has the added significance of being part of the division’s 50th anniversary with events marking its founding as the East Cork Athletic Board in Midleton’s scout Hall in 1967.
The initial body comprised Midleton, Youghal, Ballymore and Carraig na bhFear athletic clubs, with veterans Willie O’Mahoney (present hon treasurer) and Dan McCarthy (Life president) believed to be the only surviving founders.
Inaugural efforts to host a track and field league fell foul of the foot and mouth epidemic and most races became road events.
The first track and field race eventually took place in Midleton’s cricket field, while Youghal greyhound track facilitated the 1969 track and field championships, where future Olympic semi-finalist Liam O’Brien won the U14 880 yards.
Sonia O’Sullivan would become another future Olympian to lace her shoes in east Cork competition and her daughter Sophie, 15, recently followed in her mother’s footsteps through the Ballymore-Cobh club.
Hopes are currently high Youghal runner Fearghal Curtin will fly the ECAD flag for Ireland in due course with the 19-year-old runner recently departing on a fouryear scholarship in South Carolina.
Four years ago an annual award ceremony for east Cork children who had won medals at national level saw 47 recipients. “This year we had over 110.”
To help meet increased expenses from this growth, ECAD will charge €1 per person for Friday’s event.
Meanwhile Glanbia and Imokilly Oil will continue their support for the schools cross-county championships, which began in 2014.
Also, in an inaugural sponsorship deal, AIB’s Youghal branch will host an information stand at the races. Branch representative Ray Kearney says the event meets the bank’s criteria for “a very worthy community cause to support.”
Races start 11am.