This day August 27th marks the 40th anniversary of the 1st major refurbishment of our Stadium since it opened back in 1958. Gone was the famed cinder track which in its time was the scene of several world records-world bests, national and club records and now replaced by a modern Resisport polyurethane track. Also removed was the Tarmac banked cycling track which was a Guinness Bi-centenary gift to the Stadium in 1959. Further additions included the fitting of a Herringbone drainage system removing at last the wet south western corner of the infield. We also had the installation of floodlights and training lights, new perimeter surrounds of the track, and the stoney banks were replaced with terracing on the south and north ends.
Overcast weather conditions did not prevent a crowd of over 10000 flocking to the Stadium. Amongst the many dignitaries which included An Taoiseach, a number of Government ministers, the leader of Fine Gael Dr. Fitzgerald and special guest Ronnie Delaney who graced the Stadium as Olympic champion in 1958. An Taoiseach Charles Haughey was greeted by the President of Clonliffe Harriers Alex Sweeney and I had the pleasant task of accompanying Dr. Fitzgerald to his seat and I well remember our actuarial discussion on the possible finishing time of the 5000m.
In his address An Taoiseach said “that it is entirely appropriate that the Stadium should be named the Morton Stadium as a tribute to the memory of Billy Morton who built it and laid it out some 20 years ago. Billy Morton was an extraordinary man of great courage and foresight. I had the honour of knowing him and being associated with him to some small extent when he was getting this great project under way. His dynamic approach, bustling way, irresistible determination and refusal even to contemplate defeat, all combined to make an unforgettable man”. An Taoiseach went on to say “on behalf of the Government and the Local Authorities and in the presence of Billy’s daughters I name this arena the Morton Stadium and formally declare it open”.
The large attendance had come to see the world stars in the athletic events that followed and earlier in his address An Taoiseach had offered a very special welcome to all those athletes who had come from abroad to take part in this event.
This was actually a Donore Harriers meeting originally planned for Belfield–but transferred to Santry (incorporating the Morton Memorial Mile) where the use of floodlights and the hope that another Irish Olympic Champion (post the Moscow Games) might grace the occasion. Never the less amongst the competitors on the night were Daley Thompson, John Walker, Filbert Bayi, Ray Flynn, Geoff Capes. Steve Scott won the Morton Mile, fittingly in a new Stadium Record of 3.53.8, a record that stood for all of 34 years until Will Leer’s 3.51.82 in 2014. The night ended with a Ding Dong 5000m in which Eamonn Coghlan boosted his confidence winning in a new Irish record of 13 min. 20.99 as he saw off Nick Rose, Alberto Salazar and John Treacy.
Another memory in Clonliffe Harriers long history