Irishtown stadium athletics track is now open after a winter of repair and upgrade. Displaced teams and athletes will be licking their lips at a new track, none more so than resident athletics club – Crusaders.
The club of our infamous 1956 Olympian and 1500m Gold medalist Ronnie Delaney has had to use the nearby parks and beach for winter training, but members will be very happy to get back on the track for the remaining summer months and to enjoy the appropriate facilities for athletics training coming into the autumn and winter season.
“Crusaders have about 400 adults and 250 juveniles presently training with the club and are always open to more members,” explained Head Coach Michael McGovern. The club has been at Irishtown Stadium since 2004 after approaching Dublin City Council about building a proper athletics and sports facility for the club and wider community. Crusaders had already obtained a €650,000 Sports Capital Grant for a facility, and with additional funds from club and DCC they were able to initiate the creation of Irishtown Stadium.
“Dublin City Council were very good about the idea I have to say,” said McGovern when recalling the planning stage that created the stadium as it is today. “There were top-class people who really worked with us on this.” Crusaders raised money for the project via the club and the Sports Council and DCC put in the rest.
The club has been around since the 1940s and is always open to new members, particularly children as they are the future of any sport.
As for that future, there are some hopes, as always. In 2014, Crusaders achieved a bronze medal at the National Senior Track and Field Championships 4 x 400m Relay with a team that included an 18, 17 and 16 year old.
That team included Matthew Behan, who tried out hurdles when he was 14 and a coach quickly recognised his potential. He was put on a coaching pathway aimed at pursuing that event. Rewards from that have been reaped when Behan recently broke the 110m Irish hurdle Junior record and in doing so got the qualifying time to represent Ireland at the recent European Juniors in Sweden in July 2015. He gave a good account of himself by reaching the semi-finals.
“I reckon he will be an Olympian,” said McGovern cautiously, mindful that such predictions can alter the very future that they are setting out. The last Olympian for Crusaders was their 800m runner Thomas Chamney, who competed in Beijing in 2008.
The club also has a range of other promising stars, although it is challenging to make it to the very top, due to lifestyle and funding issues, as an athlete puts more and more time into achieving marginal gains as they approach the elite level.
A recent high-level athlete, Orla Drumm, has finally had to commit to her medical career as she has trained to be a doctor. Drumm was reaching heights such as representing Ireland in the European Athletics Championships in 2012. She still competes in Irish road races but has had to face reality in focussing on her medical career.Coach Maria Hetherington emphasised that athletics training, particularly for younger children, is based around enjoyable activities and making sure they have fun before it gets more focussed or serious as they grow older. They would do general motor skills training when they are younger.
“In Athletics there is an event for everyone,” said Hetherington. “The important thing is to allow the person to develop into what their own body is capable of.”
“We have many people, even from other sports, who come to train with us when in off-season to keep up their fitness. Children are always welcome,” McGovern added, “Parents can bring their children down on Tuesdays and Thursdays and can approach the coaches there. However, we do like to see the parents get involved in helping too, even if it’s just laying out the cones.”
And for anyone who really wants to get into coaching, training is available as the club can pay for parents who want to train as coaches.
Crusaders emphasise that they are always open for new members and participants to come to the club. Now that they are back on the newly-refurbished athletics track, they can be found training on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
By Ferg Hayden