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Yet more groups back in training

Good to report on the continued increase in club training here in Santry tonight. Tonight there was a great turn out of athletes in the various groups all working under their coaches, split into the required groups, all observing social distancing and protocols put in place. Tonight saw the return of Graham’s group working under three coaches, with staggered start/finish times and in different parts of Santry Demesne. These athletes have all been involved in the Virtual Challenge (see previous postings) but tonight all met up for the first time since early March.

The Gangs of Santry Demsene

Also training in Morton Stadium, again, using their allocated time slots were various groups including Gerry’s sprints group, Eugene’s group, Philip’s, Pamela’s, Fogo’s, Noel’s, Joe and Stephen’s, the senior middle distance group under Peter and John’s senior sprints group.

As the restrictions continue to ease hopefully even more athletes can get back to the club. Again at the end of the month we expect news on possible track & field events. National seniors, according to media reports are penciled in for August 15th & 16th or 22nd & 23rd and according to dates are provisionally planned for U/14 upwards competition in August & September. Will post further once we know.

Monday Memories with Maurice Ahern (Part 1)

Recently in a contribution to a ‘Harriers’ profile I wrote that I was always interested in Athletics amongst other sports. So thinking back I calculated that I attended many if not most of the Clonliffe Harriers sports at College Park, Lansdowne Road and Santry Stadium throughout the 1950’s. Inspired by the Rome Olympics of 1960 and the Clonliffe Harriers meeting that followed I made my way to the Stadium sometime after and joined the club. I have been asked under the heading ‘Memories’ to pen some of my memories of the sixties in and around Clonliffe. I do not intend it to be a historian’s view of club history from the newspaper archives but rather a “I was there” view of the hidden history matters.

In that 1st year, I listened carefully to the advice of the Captain Harry Cooney who in time became my Coach. Around then in 1961 the club celebrated 75 years of its existence, but the dressing room gossip left one in no doubt that all was not good in the club. Soon I was introduced to the annual pre-Christmas Toy run to Cappagh hospital and the unofficial run back 4.25 mile to the stadium. No mercy shown to newcomers, the senior members let the Novices know what stamina and strength was all about and whilst unofficial, the Captain added to his statistics for handicap purposes. Within a week, the Irish television service was launched and a few days later in January 1962 the very 1st recorded coverage of an Irish sports event was shown. Only portions of the Donore invitation 1 mile & 1000 yards from Chapelizod to the swing gates at Islandbridge. Clonliffe members were to the fore at the start and some were saying they should be in the 100 yards dash but sure they were only trying to stay up with the camera. The novelty of it all.

In a desperate bid for revenue, Billy Morton, our Hon Secretary used his contacts in England to entice four of the popular Rugby League clubs of the time to come to Dublin to play an end of season tournament. In May of 1962 whatever about media positivity the appearance of the four clubs Widnes, Warrington, Huddersfield and Featherstone Rovers was anything but a success and was counter productive to the club. Arising from this the honorary treasurer and trustee Michael McStay resigned and with no rush to take his position Billy took on this Hon position also. Some weeks later the gossip of the time became a reality when headlines in the sport pages of the Irish press read of Clonliffes difficulties. Four years after the opening of the stadium the creditors were still due almost £20,000. The failure of the Military Tattoo of 1959 and the rugby League tournament had not helped, and questions were asked about what was going wrong with Athletic attendances.

All sorts of reasons were common among members with some jocosely blaming the ranting of Myles na Gcopaleen in the newspapers, others blamed the curse of the Domvilles and their bad luck. They were residents for over 200 years of the great Big house of Santry. Even some said it was the “Revenge of the Fairies” in reference to the clearing of the woods and the long-standing shrubbery where the stadium now stands. Much more likely the advent of TV and the availability of world class athletics in front of 35,000 at the White City. Furthermore, the winning after 16 years of the All Ireland football final by a native Dublin team in 1958 and with most of the team being Northsiders GAA became the sport that was attracting attendances locally.

The cards were truly on the table now and the pressure was particularly on the Officers/Trustees. The meagre club finances could pay for the maintenance of the track, top dressing etc and also the fuel for the boiler house and whatever else. Billy Morton undertook to pay the groundsman wages on a week by week basis which in the end lasted years. However, there was no money to pay for prizes or team entry fees and travel costs were always paid by the athletes themselves.

To support this need, an ad hoc committee “checkmates” was formed of Olaf Rafferty, Alex Sweeney, Al Guy, Johnny O’Leary, Don Appleby and Maurice Ahern. They worked hard for possible money making ventures and they were helped and supported by many others over the following years. Far from today’s super website Alex Sweeney produced the Clonliffe news sheet as editor and printer. I must dust off the copies I have in my attic and read the articles of interest as contributed by the editor and members in those far off days. After training I sold Slainte minerals and club milks to the members helped by Johnny O’Leary. Don Appleby in whose home the more important meetings were held was the chief organiser of the Seven-a-side football tournament and Al Guy promoted the flag days.

Of course, there was crossover help for all of the aforementioned while they lasted and some making money for years. I well remember my young brother Bertie as a 14 year old standing outside the “Payantake” grocery shop on the Drumcondra Road shaking his yellow flag box “S.S.S” Save Santry Stadium. The returns from the annual flag days went to the stadium fund.

The Irish Tennis people and the agents for the track encouraged Clonliffe to lay an all weather tennis court inside the track but after a few professional tournaments there Billy was disillusioned when the plum match which all tennis wanted to see between Pancho Gonzalez & Lew Hoad became a 5 set thriller before a huge audience at Lad Lane, the home of Fitzwilliam in 1961. Clonliffe needed to use the facility and so the tennis court was lifted and replaced with grass and Home Farm became the 1st club to use it.

There were many other clubs after that and right up to the present day. Athletics and athletic chat was not forgotten, Jesse Owens visited Dublin and spoke at a sports conference in the S.F.X. Brian Kilby of Coventry Godiva set a new record distance for a 1 hour track run and later in September we had a festival of sport in the stadium.

The AGM carried by 1 vote a proposal to increase the sub to £2. Harry Cooney the Captain despite the obvious pressure never forgot the athletes making the same journey, first by bus and later by car from Crumlin to the stadium three days a week. After a discussion with the novice panel members, it was agreed that if the club was open at night Monday through to Thursday and at the weekend an all-out effort would be made to win the novice team title, this was achieved in December 1962 but was to be the clubs last team gold on road or cross country until 1968.

Athletes seeking a change of club knew they had to make a decision, join a famous club with its own track for training or another unburdened by debt. Young stars of the future like Frank Murphy and Des McCormack were welcomed to Santry in what was to become a snow laden cross-country season.

1963 opened with the annual match between Clonliffe Harriers & London University on the XC and then a further headache what to do about the deadline of the land option we had on other ground surrounding the stadium. Meanwhile the monthly fundraising dances at the O’Lehane Hall in Parnell Square got underway with dances in March/April/May and later in the year at the St.Anthony Hall. One cynical member using the club news sheet wrote a snarling article demeaning the effort of the main committee as they threaded their way between legal letters, finance and athletics. Perhaps the naming of the stadium as the John F. Kennedy stadium was not thought out fully at the time. The USA President passed the gate in June of that year.

The Douglas Wilson Road Relays continued as did an International meeting at Santry though the by passing of Clonliffe Harriers who were more synonymous with International Athletics meetings for the showing of Ireland’s 1st live Athletics on TV was disappointing. This Civil Service AC meeting was held on the grass track in College Park in July 1963. Frances Mansfield’s memory of the Ladies section in 1963 and there after is detailed and so in remembering the great fun we had in those years I will leave it with Frances. Just two more memories I have of the end of 1963, I was elected to the club committee in October of that year for the 1st time and the trial race on the track at the end of November. The prize, a trip to Kenya for the winner Basil Clifford and the distance 1 mile.

Part 2 of Maurice’s Memories next week.

Another 60 Seconds: No. 2 Stephen Bateson

We really need to keep this going. Today a great insight into a guy who has thrown himself 100% into the “way of the true Harrier”: sitting on the club committee, coaching, course building. Basically a brilliant “whatever is needed” Clonliffe Harrier.

Bio: 49 year old Structural Engineer with Irish Rail, Assistant Coach to Joe Cooper with Junior Men and Assistant Club Secretary. 12 Marathons under my belt and plenty of miles in road races. Love putting up the Cross Country Courses in Santry, don’t always enjoy taking them back down!

What age did you take up the sport of athletics and why? I ran quite a lot when I was young and was reasonably good, winning in school and local sports days. I represented my schools at both primary and secondary level and even made the National’s in Belfield one year and finished 9th in the North Leinsters. Then I fancied myself as a footballer and played Gaelic Football till my mid 30’s mostly with Ballymun Kickhams and finished playing with Dunderry in Co. Meath before my 3rd child was born. I won a couple of Championship medals and was player of the year a couple of times with Kickhams so I favoured the football. On reflection I really was only good at running around a pitch and was relatively fast so I probably should have pursued the athletics. After the football, I toyed with the idea of going back to running for a couple of years and then started back with Dunshaughlin AC with a bit of gentle persuasion from Paddy Mangan. My first race was the Dunshaughlin 10K on mid-summer night in sweltering heat after 2 weeks training, it was a real baptism of fire but I enjoyed it enough to keep going.

When and why did you join Clonliffe Harriers? This is my second stint in Clonliffe Harriers, I was a member when I was 12 -14 yrs old, got the club gear in the shop behind the Cat and Gage and remember the long runs out by the airport. When we moved back to Dublin 2016, my Daughter Sarah switched to Clonliffe and then I followed and joined Philip O’Doherty’s group. I ran a couple of Marathons in both Dunshaughlin and Clonliffe vests. Joe gave me a shout to ask if I would give a hand with the Juniors and I haven’t looked back. Noel asked me then to help out as assistant secretary which I was very happy to be involved in, it opens up a whole new area in Athletics which can be rewarding.

What is your favourite training workout? When I am fit I love a good long Sunday run but I was never good at getting up at 6.00 in the morning to do these. The longer the day goes on, the more difficult it is to get these done.

And your least favourite? Nowadays it is anything repetitive on the track or running with my daughter Sarah when she takes off and I can’t catch her!

What’s your favourite race / athletics meet? The Dunshaughlin 10 k is probably my favourite race as it always high quality and is well supported. There is an atmosphere around the race which is not matched anywhere else. That said even my best time there I was beaten by a guy wearing a beer bottle costume. The Dublin Marathon, of course, can be a great day but I have shuffled home from most of them. They are great when you think back on them though. We have attended the Morton Games for a good few years, I love the Morton Mile and it has been great to be involved as a volunteer for the last couple of years.

What is your most cherished or proudest moment in athletics? (as athlete and/or coach) The last couple of years as assistant coach have been very fruitful for the club at Junior level with a number of individual and team medals in the cross country and a number of individual titles on the track in both schools and club. The athletes have done all the hard work under the guidance of Joe and personally I have learned an awful lot about the sport during this time. There have been races where someone may not have performed to their best but as a team and group they have always been there for each other. This is something I cherish with working with this group and something in the long run that the club should benefit from. As an individual stand-out moment Jayme Rossiter hurdling the water jump to win the 2019 Senior National Steeple chase was very memorable.

What was your worst injury – and how did you get over it? I was involved in a car crash in 2013 and following that I have had a number of problems with my back and hips mainly due to tighten muscles in my back. I was never the most flexible with regards to stretching but that accident has resulted in me being more limited. Like most athletes I still don’t always stretch prior to running and should not be surprised that I end up crooked.

(For a coach or seasoned athlete) What piece of advice would you give an aspiring athlete? The most obvious thing to me (now) and I hear Joe saying it often, that Athletes should listen to their own bodies. Many times over the years, both playing football and running, I didn’t and ended up with injuries. As a coach you can’t know what or how the Athlete feels, so it’s up to them to let the coach know.

Do you have any memorable or funny story from Clonliffe Harriers that you could share? (the censorship board may review!) When Joe Cooper took me off whistle duties! One evening in the Trinity Grounds when doing a session on the whistle Joe asked me to keep the time and blow the whistle to start/stop the efforts. It was a windy day but to be fair more breezy than windy. I was working away but then heard Joe calling me to blow the whistle louder, so I put a bit more effort into it. However the next time the lads came around Ben Guiden gave me a message to whistle louder. At this stage I was blowing from my socks up. Next thing, still not happy, Joe comes over and yells “give me the ******* whistle”. He noted that I was the only person he ever stood down from whistle duties. I have only recently been re-instated!

What’s your favourite meal? A. For competition: Porridge it the morning and pasta the night before, fairly predictable. B. Outside competition: Steak, Chips and pepper sauce with a glass of red wine.

Who is your sporting ‘hero’? (athletics or other) A. Irish, John McCarthy, Dublin footballer. My mother always loved “the Dubs” and we watched as kids in the 1970’s. In my first senior Match for Ballymun Kickhams, my first touch of the balls was to catch and pass to the on-running “Macker” who took the pass and slotted it over the bar. B. International, Calumn Hawkins, hugely impressive Marathon runner you can believe in!

What’s your favourite…? A. Film – I like a black and white Ealing movie with Alec Guiness or Jack Hawkins. B. Song or Album – Johnny Cash, The American Recordings. C. Book – Watership Down, John Adams, but I can read anything. I not much interested in Sports biography as a genre, but Charlie Speddings “From last to First” was interesting. I like books around factual World War II spies and Bletchley Park.

What’s your favourite holiday destination? St Raphael in Southern France.

What’s your favourite hobby / activity outside athletics? A few pints and a chat with my Dad.

If you were Seb Coe what changes would you implement to improve our sport? Investing into athletics where most clubs and associations internationally are run by volunteers. I would like to see the sport regaining its high interest from spectators, promote profiles of high performance athletes to draw in crowds into stadiums again and get kids to see athletics as a sport to engage in rather than just GAA, Soccer, Rugby etc. Athletics meets need to bring entertainment to draw investors, sponsorship and crowds.

How would your non-athlete friends describe you? (in 3 words) Funny, Obliging, Reliable.

What is your next running / athletics goal? (whenever normality returns!) I would like to get back fit and attempt a marathon without falling over the finish line and ending up in the medical tent. I might even do the Dublin Masters Cross Country (if Joe selects me!).

How are you motivating yourself to continue training at these difficult times? The lock down allowed me to run more than I have for a long time. At the beginning I was very unfit and by doing 5k per day initially for a month or so I have been able to build this up to 60 Km a week. I feel that I am lucky to have running to keep busy and the mind occupied. It’s been good to have and I haven’t suffered from lack of motivation.

Juvenile Virtual Challenge: Sprint Week

Eugenia Bateson Reports: Sprint Week – Week 3 of the Virtual Challenge was a 60m Sprint for U12 and U13 and 80m for U14- U16. I would not like to be a finishing line judge for this one and no doubt a few would have required photo finish judges at the highest level in Athletics to call it.

With most of this group returning to training on Tuesday, their resilience and determination over the past 3 months is paying off. They are fit and keen to get back to training as a group, to their club and competition. The club and coaches are even more eagerly awaiting their return. Their motivation has kept us going (not the other way around!) This week we only had one U12 Girl Sienna Kelly who decided doing the 60m for age group was not enough so also decided to do the older age group challenge of 80m recording a more than respectable time. U13 Boy Aidan Benjacar also took part in both and would give the U14 boys a good run for their money.

Lorcan’s reign as record holder in the Junior Parkrun Albert College is seriously under threat with Aidan determined not to be outdone by his older brother! U13 girls were Harriet Kenny recording as superb time closely followed by Cara Connolly. James Connolly U9 took part again this week and he put some speed into his older sisters, Cara and Ali making them push hard to the finish line.

U14 to U16 ran an 80m challenge. This age group were well matched with a hair, if even that dividing them on the finish line. U14 girls were lead home by the very consistent Rebecca Walsh with Ali Connolly and Sarah McDonnell in what would have been a photo finish. Kate Campbell took part in the challenge for the first time this week and as always her lovely long stride brought her to the finish line nicely. Alexandra Kelly is continuing to show good form as she returns to athletics, great days ahead for these girls.

U14 Boys – Close is the only word to describe this one. These guys had a very impressive Cross Country, Indoors and work so well as a group that even virtually they seem to be fine-tuned. Noah Rossi and Jaydon Carroll recorded identical times. Jack McDonnell came in next followed by Jake Kane. This group, U14 Boys and Girls have a lot to look forward to as they return and their consistency during lock down will surely pay off.

U15 Boys, Lorcan Benjacar recorded a fantastic time and beat Devan Morrissey by .07 of a second. Mark Goss Keogh was .33 of a second behind him. What a race that would have been on the track! Devan and his cousin Noah clearly help push each other by doing their challenge together this week but still kept the social distancing, fantastic to see.

U15 Girls this week was one competitor Hazel Kenny, clearly showing she is fit and ready to get back to training. Her commitment and determination shows what great times ahead for her and her sister Harriett who have probably never missed a race or challenge. U16 Girls was lead home by Ciara Scott with Eabha Guy hot on her heels and Ailbhe Nolan pushing in at the finish for 3rd .

One week to go of this Challenge but I think the focus is now on getting the group up to Santry on Tuesday. Well done all. You have been a credit to your coaches and to your club!

Season 2, Another 60 Seconds: Aaron Cullen

Just like Netflicks as Season 1 finishes Season 2 starts. So here we go again with the imaginatively titled “Another 60 seconds”! We’d like this Season 2 to have more than a limited run, however, unless you the members want to get involved that’s exactly what it’s going to be. So far we’ve 4 Harriers who are up for it, so the duration of this season is a matter that’s entirely up to you. If you want it it’s here. (club members who would like to be involved e mail First up in Season 2, it’s one of our top Juniors….

Bio: Aaron Cullen, 18 years old, 6th year student in Portmarnock CS. Middle distance athlete (primarily 1500m).

What age did you take up the sport of athletics and why? Probably around 8 (I can’t quite remember) – I wasn’t the best at team sports, I couldn’t understand how I could have the best match of my life and still lose or have the worst match of my life and come out with the win – with running I could see where the results came from.

When and why did you join Clonliffe Harriers? Around 5th class (I think). I started running in Fingallians AC. Why? Not many clubs have a wall dedicated to Olympians!

What is your favourite training workout? Joe’s Tuesday pre race workout – 500/400/300/200/100 off 2 minutes recovery.

And your least favourite? Mile repeats around Santry Park – Ben normally bruises the ego of the entire group!

What’s your favourite race / athletics meet? All Ireland Schools track – nothing seems bigger than schoolboy rivals

What is your most cherished or proudest moment in athletics? (as athlete and/or coach) I couldn’t decide between these two. All Ireland Schools track 2017 – I took the gold in the mile, Daniel won the inter steeple and Craig brought 2 silver medals back to Portmarnock. Everything went right on the day! All Ireland junior cross this year. For the first time in 4 or 5 years the clonliffe junior team were serious underdogs going into the race. On the day everything fell into place and we won.

What was your worst injury – and how did you get over it? I had a stress fracture during the 2018 cross country season. At the time it wasn’t ideal but looking back on it, it wasn’t the worst injury to get. I’ve had teammates with reoccurring or undiagnosed injuries, at least with a stress fracture you’ll be out of the boot in 6 weeks and back running in 7 or 8 weeks.

(For a coach or seasoned athlete) What piece of advice would you give an aspiring athlete? Don’t forget to run slow during the week, we get preoccupied by what our watches say at times, there is no shame in running at 7.30 or slower.

Do you have any memorable or funny story from Clonliffe Harriers that you could share? (the censorship board may review!) I’ve ran with Daniel for too many years now but there has to be some code of ethics within the group.

What’s your favourite meal? A. For competition: plain pasta with chicken, sausage and bacon. B. Outside competition: Anything with BQQ sauce

Who is your sporting ‘hero’? (athletics or other) A. Irish: Eamonn Coghlan B. International: Centro

What’s your favourite…? A. Film: The Big Short or Good Will Hunting B. Song or Album: Anything that makes a 5k radius feel like the phoenix park C. Book: Elon Musks’ biography

What’s your favourite holiday destination? I really loved Washington DC

What’s your favourite hobby / activity outside athletics? I love coffee shops and eating Indian food (a staple of my diet)

If you were Seb Coe what changes would you implement to improve our sport? How many times have you watched a Diamond league race where 80% of the athletes are sporting the same Nike Kit and the rest are kitted out in Adidas gear? It must be mad for an outsider to turn on the TV and see all the athletes wearing the same shoes, singlet and shorts. I would implement a policy where the shoe companies have to set up teams just as OTC, Bowerman TC or the Boston Reebok TC and design different gear for each team. Perhaps even start a league between the teams or implement a draft like in the NBA, NFL etc.

How would your non-athlete friends describe you? (in 3 words) Shameless generic answer – “the running one”.

What is your next running / athletics goal? (whenever normality returns!) 3.50 in the 1500 How are you motivating yourself to continue training at these difficult times? It’s a great opportunity to build up a good base before cross country and focus on the 1%ers such as s&c.

Aaron IAAF XC, Seville Jan. 2020

Young Guns: (R to L) Aaron, Cian Bolger, Ben Guiden club juvenile XC , 2014
2019 National Junior XC Champions, Abbotstown Nov.

Monday Memories with Peter McDermott

Probably the greatest race I’ve ever seen was the Morton Mile of 1977. Billed by the media as a “showdown “ between Ireland’s Eamonn Coghlan and Olympic 1500m. champion , John Walker of New Zealand, it was staged on the brand new tartan track in Belfield. As far as some sections of the Irish  press were concerned, it was payback time.

For younger readers, a little background information may be necessary to set the scene. Two years earlier , in 1975, Coghlan had made a big breakthrough by winning both  NCAA 1500m titles ( indoors and outdoors ) and then running a 3:53.3 mile In Kingston, Jamaica , when finishing third to Filbert Bayi who set a new world mile record of 3:51.0. Coghlan’s time was a new Irish and European record. Eamonn was getting the reputation of being one of the fastest finishers in the business and few could live with his “stretch drive” as the American pundits called his deadly kick .

Later that same year Walker became the first man in history to break 3:50 for the mile when winning in Gothenburg in 3:49.4. In an interview afterwards, journalists asked him who his main rivals might be for Olympic Gold a year later . “ What about Eamonn Coghlan? “ one guy asked.  ”Eamonn who ?” was Walker’s response . Walker , genuinely, had never heard of Coghlan at that stage but some sections of the media chose to interpret this innocent remark as a sarcastic dismissal of Coghlan and his chances.

Coghlan retained his NCAA indoor and outdoor titles in 1976 and, so, the scene was set for the Montreal Olympics. Most of us remember only too well what happened in that 1500 final. Both Walker and Coghlan had dominated their heats and semis ; all the pundits agreed that the Gold lay between them . Eamonn made two mistakes – and young athletes can learn a lot from those errors. First, he shaved his legs the night before the final , something he had never done before. He spent a sleepless night due to the itching in his legs. You NEVER try anything new immediately before an important race ! If you want to experiment, you should only do so before a lesser competition.

His second mistake ( and he himself has freely admitted this several times ) was to listen to too many voices. His Irish coach , Gerry Farman , who had guided Eamonn since he was a boy, told him to sit in as long as possible, keep as much as he could in reserve until coming off the final bend and then unleash his withering kick . ”One big move , and ONE move only “ was the last thing Farnan said to him. But as Eamonn sat brooding in his room the night before , he decided to seek a second opinion. His coach in Villanova , the legendary Jumbo Elliott , advised him to make the pace fast in order to run the sting out of a couple of 800m. runners in the final, Ivo Van Damme ( Belgium) and Rick Wolhuter ( USA ). So , that is the second lesson for young athletes : listen to ONE VOICE and one voice only . If you listen to more than one , you only get confused. Eamonn went into the race in two minds – and that is always fatal . He took the lead after 500m. and then did what ? Precisely nothing! He didn’t slow it down ( as Centro did in Rio) nor did he pick it up . He just meekly pulled the train along at a sedate pace . Walker went past him with 300 to go and the towering figure of Van Damme powered past with 200 left . Eamonn desperately tried to hold onto 3rd. but , right on the line, Paul Wellman of West Germany dipped in front of him. Welllman ! Who had only qualified as a fastest loser – in fact the slowest of the fastest losers . Eamonn has often watched a video of that race since and his reaction never varies :  “ I still can’t believe I took the lead at that point “.                                         

That was the background then to the Morton Mile in 1977 which was incorporated into the Donore Harriers International Meet . Rumours circulated that Walker had a bit of a back injury. He was spotted jogging around Belfield the day before and looking somewhat uncomfortable. In an interview with RTE , he said he could only run for 40 minutes before his back went into spasm. In those 40 minutes, he had to warm up , race and cool down . A very narrow window. ! Or mind games , perhaps ?  

And so, the scene was set for this “showdown”. July 11 was a balmy evening and a massive crowd packed into the Belfield Bowl. It was a natural amphitheater and thousands of athletic fans took up their positions on the grassy banks surrounding the brand new track which had replaced the old , black bitumen surface which had been there for a few years. Such a massive crowd arrived to watch this shoot out , that hundreds spilled onto the eighth and even the seventh lanes . It might not have satisfied modern health and safety requirements but it created a fantastic atmosphere as the athletes would be running through a tunnel of enthusiastic fans.

The field for the Mile simply oozed class , containing seven Olympians or would be Olympians. In addition to Walker and Coghlan , there was Ken Hall of Australia who had finished 2nd. to Walker in that first sub 3:50 mile. Beside him was Dick Quax who , like Walker, was wearing that intimidating all black NZ strip with the silver fern. Quax had won Silver in the Olympic 5000m. the year before, pushing the legendary Lasse Viren all the way to the line. He had also won Silver in the 1500 at the 1970 Commonwealth Games behind the first of the great Kenyans, Kip Keino . Just six days before this race in Belfield, he had set a new World record of 13:12.9 for the 5K in Stockholm. Quax epitomised the rugged, tough, archetypical Kiwi : he had a remarkable record ,ranging from a 3:56 mile to a 27:41 10000 to a 2:10 marathon. He is generally regarded as one of the toughest runners to have ever come out of that great nursery of distance runners . Alongside him was Wilson Waigwa of Kenya. He was a student at UTEP and a month earlier had won the NCAA 1500 title. He went on to represent his country in the Olympic 5000 in LA. Wearing the blue vest of Scotland was the bearded Frank Clement who ,a year earlier, had finished just a stride behind Coghlan in the Olympic 1500 final . He had also won the World Student Games 1500 In 1973. There  was also “ wee” Jim McGuinness from Belfast. He and Paul Lawther formed a powerful Northern Ireland duo in international competitions throughout the 70s. Jim had been selected for the ‘74 Commonwealth Games but had to turn it down as he was concentrating on his Mathematics finals in Queens University. And also lining up was a tall , gangly 20 year old from Longford called Ray Flynn. A student in East Tennessee University, he had just dipped under 4 minutes for the first time a few months earlier . Little did he realise then that he would run 89 sub 4 minute miles before he would retire.

A hush descended on the crowd ; for a moment it seemed as If everybody was holding his breath. And then the gun cracked and the tension was released. There was an immediate chorus of “ C’mon Eamonn” and “ Let’s go , Coghlan”. After the usual jostling, the field settled down and came through the first lap in 59. Pretty sedate for those guys. Hall showed briefly in front before being replaced by Quax . Were the Kiwis running as a team, we wondered. As a 5K runner he needed to use his strength to push it along . Eamonn was on Walker’s shoulder and looking comfortable. This time Eamonn was playing the role of the hunter rather than the hunted.

The pace slowed to 60 and we thought “ it’s not going to be super fast but who cares – it’s shaping up to be a great race with an almighty dust up over the final stages.”. Waigwa took up the running on the cruel , crucial third lap . But again , there was no great injection of pace and they hit the bell in 3:00 flat.

The jangling of the bell increased the almost unbearable tension. The noise of the crowd rose to a crescendo. Walker effortlessly moved to the front . Eamonn glided onto his shoulder . “ This is it” , we thought . “ Eamonn is in exactly the right spot – why hadn’t he done this in Montreal?”. And then ,with 300 to go , it happened. In an eyeblink Walker kicked – or rather he exploded . It was as if he had detonated a turbo charger and in a nano second he was gone . A collective gasp went around the arena; a sort of “oooooo” rippled through the huge crowd . An astonished intake of breath by ten thousand people. And  in that moment , we knew it was all over.

A solitary , plaintive voice was heard “Get after him Eamonn”. But even that one voice seemed to lack conviction. And, in fairness , Eamonn did get after him. But you didn’t need to be an expert in differential calculus to recognise the difference between speed and acceleration. It was all too obvious in those fleeting seconds. Some pundits later said that Eamonn ran the last 100m faster than Walker did -and perhaps this was true. But Walker’s ability to change the gears in a twinkling made all the difference. As Walker cruised around the last bend we could only stand and admire this supreme athlete :  with his long blonde hair flowing behind him and his physique like that of a Greek god, he truly looked imperious.

And we had to grudgingly admit that this was, indeed, a worthy Olympic Champion . He eased across the line ( young athletes are always taught not to ease off until they have crossed the finish line but when you’re Olympic champion and World Record holder, I guess you can take a few liberties) and stopped the clock at 3:52.76. A last lap of a little over 52 ! Coghlan gave it his all and finished in 3:53.4 – just outside his own Irish and European records. Waigwa came in third in 3:54.5 . Those three times remained the three fastest in the world for that year.

Running the race of his life , Jim McGuinness finished fourth in 3:55.0- a Northern Ireland record which still stands. Ray Flynn came in just 0.3 seconds behind him , taking a full 4 seconds off his  PB . Quax came next in 3:56.4 just 0.1 ahead of Clement . Ken Hall finished in 3:57.8 meaning that no fewer than eight men had broken the 4 minute barrier .

Coghlan and Walker jogged around the track , arms aloft and holding hands . They most certainly were rivals but ,in spite  of media spin , they  were also friends and that friendship has continued to this day . We didn’t know then that Eamonn and coach Farnan had started a new strategy: he was now going to train for the 5000 but would continue to race 1500 and the mile. This was to throw his opponents off the mark . And , of course, it paid rich dividends when he won the World 5000m. title six years later. As we departed into the gathering dusk, we felt a little sad that our hero had been beaten. But , above all , we felt an amazing sense of satisfaction at having seen a world class race and a sense of gratitude at having witnessed in the flesh one of the All-Time Greats of athletics : the world record holder, the first man to break 3:50 , the Olympic Champion – the magnificent John Walker.

John Walker, Dublin 1977
Walker cradles the Morton Memorial Cup, Belfield 1977

Jump Around- House of Pain

Eugenia Bateson Reports: Week 2 of the Athletics Ireland Club Challenge was full of bounce.  For this week the athletes were challenged to see how many jumps they could do in 20 Seconds.  And they were Jumpin!!
Lack of facilities was no barrier to the group.  Obstacles ranged from kitchen roll, foam rollers, bamboo sticks, tinned food, cones, hockey sticks, hurleys and I think I even spotted a Samurai Sword??

The highest number of bounces went to Cian O’Hare with 71 in 20 seconds.  At the time of compiling this report, Graham was still putting in attempts to beat him. U9 James Connolly 55. U12 Girls was led by Sienna Kelly with a very impressive 61 jumps with Caoimhe Nolan and Hannah Walsh coming in very close behind. U13 Girls were Ashling Faherty with 55 , Cara Connolly 49 and Harriet recording 36 U14 Girls were Sarah McDonnell with 60, Ali Connolly 59, Alexandra Kelly 50 and Rebecca Walsh 41. U15 Girls were Sorcha O’Connor 62, Kate Faherty and Hazel Kenny 45. U16 Girls were Ailbhe Nolan 56, Clodagh Nic Dhomnaill 51, Eabha Guy 44, and Ciara Scott 35
U13 Boys – Aidan Benjacar recorded 39. U14 Boys – William Walsh recorded 70, Jack McDonnell 58, Sean McHugh 56, Noah Rossi 52, Jake Kane 45, Jaydon Carroll 42, Cathal O’Neill 32U15 Boys – Cian O’Hare 71, Mark Goss Keogh 60, Devan Morrissey 52 and Lorcan Benjacar 40.

Best attempt however has to go to Clodagh’s dog who also had a go – Cruft’s look out.  A few dogs got involved in this one.  Hope they don’t do the sprint next week!

The difference in height of obstacles was telling in this one with the Foam Rollers imperially proven as requiring the most bounce and recording the least jumps….. To quantify that statement William Walsh recorded 47 jumps over cans and 70 over a hurl.  Every day’s a school day. Well done to all.

A quick reminder to Grahams Group – training will finally resume on Tuesday 16th June in Santry Demense.  All athletes musts be pre-booked as per Club guidelines. Bookings must be made through your coach.  Please do not turn up to training without booking as you will not be permitted to join the group.

Please ensure that if you are in Graham’s group that your parent is in the WhatsApp Group.  Contact your friends to make sure that their parents are in the group for details on meeting points etc.  Athletes parents from Graham’s group can join the WhatsApp group by texting Eugenia on 0861722451.

Hey you there! Share your Clonliffe memories…

Ok you Clonliffe Harriers out there, it’s your turn to share your memories with your club mates. Monday Memories is up and running. Last Monday Frances Mansfield shared her fascinating account of the founding of the Clonliffe ladies. Next Monday another Clonliffe lifer will share memories of the greatest race witnessed in Ireland. So folks we`d like to keep it going right through the Summer, you can ahre your memories on any Clonliffe related issue, your early years in club, a Clonliffe event or race, a fellow Harrier who made a lasting impression on you…whatever you think your club mates are interested in. The stage is yours! Simply e mail your piece to (if you’ve a photo or two all the better)

Also we’d like to get Season 2 of “60 Seconds with a Harrier” back up and running, so it’s up to you to be that Harrier. Simply e mail same address for the Questionaire.

Don’t delay. Do it today!

Phase 2 allows groups of 15!

Brilliant news today with the government announcing an acceleration of the easing of restrictions commencing with phase 2 on Monday, June 8. Groups of 15 individuals may now meet to engage in sporting activities. This means therefore from a Clonliffe perspective that from Tuesday the 9th coaches can bring together a group of a total of 15, including coaches to train in Morton Stadium. Please note that social distancing of 2m still applies to all. From a club perspective we have updated our protocol document to take account of this and also the fact that the travel restrictions no longer apply in that any Clonliffe member living within the county of Dublin is entitled to travel to Morton Stadium for training. Coaches must still book track slots for the group 24 hours before the session giving their name, the second coaches name and the name of the athletes who will be at the session up to a maximum of 15 (including coaches) please also supply contact details for all. As per usual the booking is made by email to . Individual club members not part of a training group can book the 8.30 to 9.00pm slot, again you must e mail with your name and contact details.To assist with the orderly running (no pun intended!) of the sessions time slots have been allocated to all groups as follows:

7.00 – 8.00pm Outside Hammer cage for Throws.

7.00-8.00pm Javelin on infield.

7.00-7.30pm; Philip O’Doherty/Maurice Ahern/Eugene Coppinger (lanes 1-4)

7.00-8.00pm: Gerry Carr (lanes 6 -10)

7.30-8.00pm: Joe Cooper/Peter McDermott/Pamela Cooper (lanes 1-4)

8.00-8.30pm: Mick Fogarty/Noel Guiden (lanes 1-3)

8.00-9.00pm: John Shields/ Ciaran Donohue (lanes 6-10)

8.30-9.00pm; Open for club members, not part of a training group, limited to 20 athletes

It is important that all stick to the rules, again no more than 15 (including coaches) per training group at a time. If your group includes more than 15 please spread the group over Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday morning if needed. Once again we remind all that it is the responsibility of coaches and athletes to be fully aware of the protocols in place and their responsibilities. Please coaches ensure that every athlete in your group has read and understands the attached protocols and also the document prepared by Athletics Ireland. (See also our Covid-19 page).

Please note that at this time athletics Ireland specifically exclude the return of the U/13 groups. The older juvenile group training under Graham Mahon will return to training in Santry on Tuesday, June 16, that group will not be on the track at this stage but will train in Santry Park. Parents will be notified through the WhatsApp group however if any parent is not in that WhatsApp group please contact Eugenia Bateson 0861722451.

Speculation Times

In today’s ‘Speculation Times’ we consider the potential impact of further opening of society, economic and social activity as we head to phase 2 of the Government roadmap and speculate on the possible effect on increasing Clonliffe Harriers club activity and the sport of athletics in general.

As matters currently stand, here in week three of phase 1 we have seen a very limited return to club training. Whilst currently restricted to junior and senior athletes (the guidance from Athletics Ireland currently prohibits U/13’s and O/70s), and athletes living within 5K of Morton Stadium the club has been in a position to implement protocols which has meant that groups of four have returned to training in the stadium.The only certainty, if it is possible to use that word during these times, on the changes envisaged under phase 2, which starts on Monday June 8, is the extension of the radius to 20K. That will mean a greater number of athletes will be eligible to come to club training however what can be done to allow more athletes return is entirely dependent on what the roadmap means by ‘small group teams’ and how many individuals that means. Social distancing, presumably remaining at 2m for phase 2, still must be maintained along with no physical contact etc. If an updated guidance issues from Athletics Ireland allowing more than 4 Clonliffe will follow suit.

We have been successful so far in dividing our track/field time into slots for various coaches, your coaches will do the best they can to get as many athletes training in Santry as is possible under the restrictions spread over the 3 days Clonliffe has stadium usage. You as athletes must however contact your coach and in turn it is your coach who will make the booking for the group. We must at this time strictly observe the requirement for bookings, the group structure and most importantly maintain absolute records of who was training at a particular time together with their contact details and details for all others in that particular group. Also social distancing must be continued to be observed.

At this stage we do not know whether phase 2 will allow younger athletes to return to limited club training. With the obviously challenges around social distancing it would, we speculate, seem unlikely. We will act as directed by Athletics Ireland.

Competition for juvenile athletes: the Dublin track and field leagues and Dublin track and field championships have been cancelled. It would seem that the prospects of national juvenile Championships later in the summer are remote, particularly for younger athletes. Possibly for the older age groups who are also junior athletes it may be possible for those Championships at national level to be incorporated into the national junior track and field championships. At the minute the club’s juveniles U/14 to U/16 are engaged in the Athletics Ireland Virtual Club Challenge.

Club competition: while the 2020 Grand Prix Series will not take place the club is actively considering the possibility of some of the club races and club championships. If possible and of course under whatever guidelines are in place at that time, the club would like to hold Clonliffe Track & Field championships, maybe spread over a couple of weeks in the late Summer/early Autumn. Likewise the club are keen to ensure that the Clonliffe 2 takes place later in the year, possibly as a time trial type of event on the road with limited numbers, or on the track under lights in the winter, maybe as a club only event, maybe as an invitational race but absolutely in some format. Likewise the club would like to run our club cross country races, many of which are by tradition handicap races with runners setting off individually in any event, but possibly this year with a twist: scratch off first! Rest assured whatever we do will be in full compliance with Athletics Ireland’s guidelines.

Competition for senior/master athletes: at present the Dublin graded competitions are simply being cancelled on a week to week basis and it would seem to be fairly clear that there is little prospect of a resumption of competition until possibly phase 4 from July 20. What a Graded meet might look like in this Covid – 19 era is also a matter of pure speculation. It is known that Athletics Ireland are keen to hold the national track and field championships. These championships were originally supposed to take place at the end of this month, World Athletics subsequently designated the weekend of August 8th and 9th as a national championship day. Under the Government roadmap Ireland will not have moved into phase 5 at this stage (that is down for August 10th) so that appears to be an unlikely date. The rumour mill is a date possibly four weeks later in early to mid September for National seniors with a national junior championships to take place the following week (again this is rumour and speculation only). Will a Masters track & field championship take place this (extended) season, again that is a matter for Athletics Ireland to issue directions on. There is an obvious concern surrounding the upper age categories but would it be possible for such a championship on a scaled back basis?

The road racing scene: this really seems to be an impossibility over the coming months. Already of course the Dublin Marathon, Dublin race series, rock ‘n’ roll half marathon and Athletics Ireland national road racing series have become victims and been deferred to 2021. If social distancing is to remain as a part of our lives going into the autumn and winter one would speculate that road racing and even the humble Park Run are pretty unlikely this year with the gathering of numbers at the start and finish areas. Staggered starts may be a solution but with road closures and insurance issues?

Cross country championships: the speculation is that cross country may be the best opportunity for a return to racing, open fields, no dressing rooms, possible controls on the numbers taking part may make an autumn/winter cross country season a possibility. And in the distance stands December 14th and the European Cross-Country Championships in Abbottstown Dublin……..?

The above is speculation and speculation only. Questions on all our lips but at this time without answers! Answers will ultimately come. When they do we will let you know.


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