Monday memories: Galway to Dublin or bust!

A memory from yesteryear on this last Monday of January. All will be aware of the heady days of the sport of athletics in the 1950s and in particular the 1958 Clonliffe Sports held in what was then called the Clonliffe Harriers Stadium in Santry. The August meet, a two-day affair, drawing approximately 35,000 people over the course of the 2 days where the Dublin public witnessed the celebrated Herb Elliott world record mile. Times change however and although Clonliffe Harriers through the great Billy Morton continued to promote international track and field meets the days of the bumper crowds were gone. The debt on the stadium, for the original construction and maintenance costs continued to mount. Sources of income had to be found so whilst the promotion of athletics meets continued Clonliffe Harriers with Billy at the helm promoted and hosted other events in the stadium. We have previously in recent times featured here the rugby tournament, the cycling events and the stunt show, in addition there was an international tennis tournament, there were soccer friendlies. There were the in-house raffles, flag days, dinner dances and general bucket collections held – as club members went door-to-door, and pub to pub with a collection bucket.

Billy’s charisma and charm spread far beyond the walls of Santry Stadium. So much so that way out West a group of young athletes at the University of Galway AC in the true spirit of camaraderie decided that they would help Clonliffe with the mounting stadium debt by organising a run from Galway to Dublin in the late 1960s.

The roads in them days were not what they are now and the 150 or so miles was an arduous undertaking. The Galway athletes in question were Murt Coleman, Brian Geraghty and Colm Roddy. The run was to take 8 days, to leave time for the team to do their bucket collection each evening at the end of each day’s run. They brought with them a support crew which included a caravan in which they would have their meals and sleep. Each evening when the run was finished they would clean up, eat and then go around the local town, calling into hostelries, not for refreshments it must be stressed but to collect money to assist with the clearing of the debt in Santry Stadium.

The adventure took place in late 1967 or 1968. Seeing them on their way from Galway were the mayor of Galway, Billy Morton and 1956 Olympic 1500 champion Ronnie Delany. The run finished 8 days later at the GPO on O’Connell Street Dublin. There to meet the intrepid trio where Billy and the Lord Mayor of Dublin. Over the course of their mammoth journey they collected just under £600, a pretty colossal sum back in those days.

As a gesture of appreciation Billy took the lads to what was then called the Crofton Hotel in Whitehall for lunch. Over lunch, and despite the fact that they had 150 miles in their legs, Billy convinced the Galway lads to run in that evening’s Clonliffe Harriers 4 x 5 mile relay! Murt Coleman recalled yesterday that he thinks they finished in around 17 position out of the 40 or 50 teams entered.

The association of these Galway friends of Clonliffe Harriers with the club did not end there. Brian Geraghty ran in the inaugural Morton Memorial mile in 1970, following on Billy’s death in December 1969 and of course Murt became a life long friend of Clonliffe legend Jerry Kiernan.

A sincere thanks to Murt for recounting the tale to us and for sharing this wonderful memory and these fantastic photographs.