Our First Hill Was Down – 60 Years On

With the 60th Anniversay Dinner Dance just four weeks away, we’ve been trailing the archives for our celebration.

So right from the archive here’s our club president Paddy Noonan recalling the beginning of the club in 1958.

When our family came to live in Raheny at the end of 1957 Fr Ryan dropped by to meet us and bless our home.

The following Sunday I played with Raheny Gaels so Raheny to me was a focal point of Sport.

In the summer of 58 leaving school I won the 100 yards and the event I was supposed to win, the long jump, I finished third.

The Australians came to Santry that year also and going over the windy roads of Coolock to Santry I was lucky to see the world records on their athletic tour.

The fall out of that was to climb over the oval wall into the trotting ground with Tom O’Leary R.I.P. and run around the cinder trotting track. I remember Tom got new running spikes and I had to wear the flats.

Raheny Parish held a Sports meeting each year in Bettyglen so Tom and I entered. At the Sports I met Eugene O’Leary and he asked me to join Donore Harriers. I could not see myself going on my own so I played the Football training one on all the nights he suggested we go.

The next time I met Eugene was in “the cottage” where the fitness centre Slender Health now stands.

It was a first call to start a new running club in Raheny and the place was fairly full. I purposely avoided Eugene but eventually he got me and shook hands and said he was going to be part of the new club.

Eugene and I were great friends after this for the rest of his life and he dedicated all his social time to the athletes and the club.

The meeting that day was called to order by Paddy Boland and it was the first time I met him. Paddy was a young man, about 26-years-old, and had moved into Avondale Park. He brought some of his neighbours with him to the meeting so they would take position on the committee.

In a very short space of time it was decided a club would be formed.

Suggestions for a name were proposed; Raheny Harriers and Raheny Shamrock went to the floor for a show of hands with the latter winning unanimously.

Following this the positions on to the first committee were elected.

After the elections a voice from the back from a man with a soft brown hat said he would be willing to do all he could to help the new club and then he excused himself as he had to go early.

It was Dick Doherty going for a pint. Dick gave many years to the club as a fundraiser and worker. The meeting was adjourned soon after Dick spoke and all came back the following week.

At next meeting it was for training and it was decided we would use Paddy Boland’s garage in Avondale.

A huge number started on the first night but after a few weeks it was down to about fourteen. We generally ran about three miles around the roads and on Saturday and Sunday in St Anne’s Park.

Our first race was to be the Club Four Mile Novice and we were all up for it.

Around this time I had joined the Irish Air Corps to start a life in Aviation at seventeen. It was all happening. The race started just at Raheny United, which was then a dirt track then and the first hill was down to the lake and then back across the fields which are now Naomh Barrog’s GAA pitches.

They were very rough then though in what was to be a four lap race.

A few “hards” from the village were watching the race from where it started. I also thought that was the finish so fourth time around I let loose across the rough and heavy grass followed by Dermot Cullen, an older guy, guesting from Naomh Muire AC.

I hit the dust track only to be told I had to go up to the Glads another 250 yards away.

When I got there I was told by Kevin O’Connor I had to go down the end another 200 yards further. I stopped exhausted.

Albert Culleton was next behind me and he decided to stop also and we watched as we let Charlie Fox saunter up the straight to take the first race.

The next day in the Apprentice school our Flight Sergeant Mick Mahady sent for me. He had the sports page from The Irish Press open with a small heading that read “Noonan misjudges finish”.

He asked me was it me and I confirmed the heading. Paddy Boland worked in The Press and from that day on I had an easy ride- my first plus from Athletics.

Our first interclub competition was the Dublin Novice Cross Country Championships in Saggart, that November.

My brother-in-law who ran for South Dublin Harriers told me we shocked all with our new gear and with a full complement of twelve runners all below twenty years of age.

Out of fourteen teams we finished halfway – seventh. Tom O’Leary’s parents brought a crate of milk for us and we sang “The bear came over the mountain” on our way back on the bus.

We pushed on to host the Dublin Cross Country U-18 Championships. It was run in the area of the now Pitch and Putt course and finished on the area that up until recently was being used for recycling.

Matt Gahan ran a blinder finishing fifth with Albert Culleton 12th and myself 13th. Paul O’Connor rounded out the scoring. We won our first medals – bronze – and made the Dublin team for the Leinster Championships. It was a marvellous feeling.

Our famous four by three mile road relays were launched with great support from around the country and our locals.

The Shamrock Trophy was made by Tom “Tipp” Murphy who lived locally and was a Tailteann Games medal winner in the thirties.

This I hope has given you an idea of the first years of our club.

When you mention names you always get into trouble for leaving someone out so just to mention a few more: Joe Cheevers, Mick Heery Senior, Pat Duffy, Jack O’Neill, Jim Gahan, Tom McKiernan, Jim McGuire, Paddy Doherty and Peter O’Reilly.

We are one of the top running clubs in Ireland. To see dozens of kids from ten years of age up to Dad’s Army in St Anne’s and on the local roads is a sight to behold.

Running is a part of life in Raheny. Were it not for Paddy Boland’s initiative we may not be enjoying the wonderful sport of athletics as we are today.

We have come a long way in 60-years and we still have miles and miles to run.

There will be plenty more stories like this on November 9 to book your ticket click here

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