On this International Women’s Day, it is important that we reflect on the great
achievements made by the women of Clonliffe Harriers. It was just over 57
years ago when women were first allowed to join the club, 77 years after the
founding of the club. In a time when married women were shamed for ‘leaving
their families’ to partake in our beloved sport, many admirable women paved
the way by signing their club membership forms.
The late 60s and 70s saw great success with Claire Walsh dominating Irish
sprinting, gaining 14 National titles and Ann O’Brien’s multiple titles in the
1500m and Cross-Country. Our Cross-Country team also achieved great success
in this period receiving 3 consecutive National Cross-Country Titles.
On the country as well as Ann other Clonliffe champions were Katheryn Davis, in our centenary year Mary Donohue, Sarah McCormack and Hope Saunders.
Claire Walsh pioneered her way to become our first female Olympian
competing in the Munich 1972 Games after qualifying with an impressive 2.03.4
800m, something most of us can only dream of. In our time we have seen
many other brilliant Olympians, Ann O’Brein in Munich, Anne-Kennan-Buckley,
Ciara McCallion and Greta Streimikyte.
Ariel Lieghio and Shannon Sheehy are leading the way in field events,
with Emma Mitchell and Barbra Sanchez our strongest long-distance runners.
Snezana Bechtina has also represented Ireland on many international stages
and always competing on every club track team. Frances Mansfield is possibly
one of the longest ladies’ members in the club competing in Shot put. Frances
always as the time to give advice to the juvenile members and hopefully some
of these young girls will follow her path.
With only 40.8% of women engaging in sport it is vital as a club we continue to
look at the different issues that drive young women away from the sport.
There is promising young talent emerging and if we continue to nourish it, we
could soon see the next Ciara Mageen or Gina Akpe-Moses in the black and
amber of Clonliffe Harriers. So, as we celebrate this International Women’s Day
we must continue to provide that same support on the side-line, educate
yourself of the problems for women in sport and encourage our young women
to become the amazing athletes they can be.