Still on Track: St Brigid’s Athletic Club
St Brigid’s Athletic Club was formed in November 1970 among the founding
members were Michael Heery, Joe Moynagh, Ned Reilly and Jack Guirke. The
first officers of the club were: Chairperson: Michael Heery, Secretary: Patsy Coyle, Treasurer: Jack Guirke
The First Decade: 1970-1980
The first event the club took part in was the Meath Novice in Athboy in November 1970 where the six-man team finished 5.th A few weeks later Pat Hussey won an open under-16 race in Beauparc becoming the first prize winner for the club.
On the same day, Michael Gilsenan won the Meath Junior Cross Country title and the team were 2.nd These were the first championship medals the club won. Before the end of the cross country season, Michael Farrelly won the club’s first All Ireland medal taking the under-16 title in Dublin.
In November 1971 the club hosted the Meath Novice where Michael Farrelly took the title from club mates Patsy Coyle 2nd and Michael Clarke 3rd and St. Brigid’s took the team title.
The club also won the county youths and senior cross country titles and the five-mile road championships. The senior team included Michael Farrelly, Michael Heery, Michael Clarke, Michael Gilsenan, Patsy Coyle, Pat Hussey, Richard Colgan and Richard Balfe.
Bernadette Treacy was the clubs first award winner in the National Community Games finals in Mosney. The first lady to win a Leinster senior medal was Rosemary Gilsenan.
The following year Michael Farrelly earned his place on the Irish team for an international race in Ghent, Belgium.
He justified his selection by winning the All – Ireland junior cross country title in Clare and leading home the Meath team to victory and St Brigid’s to second club award. That successful Meath team also included Michael Heery, Michael Clarke and Michael Gilsenan. That four also helped Meath take the All-Ireland Senior that year.
In the following years, 1974 and 1975, many of the athletes went their separate ways and success eluded the club, but towards the end of 1976, a new St Brigid’s team won the Meath Novice and Junior Cross Country. The team members were: Pat Plunkett, Joe Plunkett, Seamus Smith, Terry Dolan, Bernard Smith, Frank Smith, Tony Brady and Gerry Doherty. In the late seventies, the senior ladies came to the fore with athletes like Marese Cullen and Ann Tuite winning numerous national titles and representing Ireland in the international CSIT championships. Cathriona Briody and Caroline Walsh also competed well for the club.
The Second Decade: 1980-1990
In the juvenile section in the early eighties, there were athletes like Owen, Paul and Alan Gilsenan, Michael Smyth, Leo McEnroe, John, Majella and Ray Farrelly, Barry and Ciaran Cullen and Clare McCabe running well.
Terry Dolan finished 2nd in the All Ireland intermediate cross country in 1984. A number of the club athletes including Frank and Bernard Smith, Pat and George Plunkett, Michael Farrelly, Andy Geraghty, Sean Treacy, Pat Hussey and Fergus Smith took part in the Dublin City marathon in the eighties.
In the late eighties, the juvenile side of the club prospered with Olivia Dobson winning the All Ireland U-11 cross country title and Karen Corcoran winning the All Ireland U-10 60m title. The club won county and national league titles with athletes like Karen, Noreen and Rosarie Monaghan, Olivia, Paula and Noleen Dobson, Olivia Lee, Karen Corcoran, Emma, Joanne and Laura Brady, Patricia, Martin and Lorraine Heery, Collette, Lorraine and Edel Lynch, Tomas, Michael and Clare Briody, Gerard Gilsenan, Seamus Fagan, Valerie Smyth, Emma Farrelly, Gary Smyth, Nicholas Smyth, Diarmuid and Fergus Fanning. George Plunkett won the Leinster intermediate cross country in 1989.
The Third Decade: 1990-2000
In the Nineties, the club won Division 2 of the National Track and Field League. The team was Benny, Martin and Brendan Briody, Michael, Gerard and Martin Heery, Karen and Noreen Monaghan, Olivia Dobson, Geraldine Dolan, Edel Lynch and Martin Bergin.
Martin Heery won the All Ireland -15 and Junior cross country titles. Ronan O Reilly represented Leinster in the Tailteann schools competition and Gerard Heery won the All Ireland Senior cross country title as well as the 1500m and 5000m track titles.
The club won numerous cross country team titles with athletes like Carl, Ronan and Justin O Reilly, Martin Gilsenan, Cathal Usher, Michelle Masterson, Ann Marie Gilsenan, Eileen and Catherine Rahill, Mary Galligan, Sharon Maguire, A.J. Gilsenan Rory McHugh, Eoin Gilsenan, Fechin Heery, Keith and Thomas O Reilly, Eoin Sheridan, Colm Caffrey, Hugh Fanning, Julie and Nicola Cadden, Amanda O Reilly, Anika Cadden, Lisa Hand, Patricia Cadden, Richard Kellett, Ian and Edward Brown, Shane and Rory Geraghty, Killian and Oisin Kiernan and Paddy Gilsenan.
The Fourth Decade: 2000-2010
Since the turn of the Century, the club has continued its success in the new national athletics association, the AAI.
Paddy Gilsenan was the first club athlete to win a national title, by taking gold in the boys U-10 cross country championships. Elaine Plunkett was 3rd in the All Ireland U-15 800m on the track. Gerard Heery won the Leinster senior 5000m track title in 2002 and represented Ireland at the European mountain running championships in 2004. Robert Caffrey took part in the New York marathon in 2003.
Johnny Morrissey was on the Meath team that won the All Ireland junior cross country. The club had some very strong under age teams that included Ciara Delaney, Gillian Hawdon, Grainne and Emily Sheridan, Sara and Sinead Connell, Claire and Mairead Blake, Arlene and Ciara Smith, Aileen Tighe, Niamh Plunkett, Violet Foley, Jillian and Michael Flood, Stephen Browne, Karl and Aaron Kiernan, Conor Delaney, Conan and Oisin Smyth, Ciaran Plunkett, Barry and Josh O Reilly, Ciaran Duffy, Tadhg Morrissey.
Recent Years: 2010-2013
The future for the club looks bright with athletes of the calibre of Shane Hanley Leinster U 12 cross country champion as well as Alan Clarke, Aaron Getty, Oran and Rian Mulvanney Leo and Aoife Campbell, Jack, Luke and Cian Blake, Leo McCann, Edward and Katelyn Flood, Donal and Cait Plunkett, Julie Tighe, Colin Hawdon, Ben and Ned Brunton, Gary Goldrick Leah and Eimear Delaney, Ivan and Philip Carroll, Bobby Masterson, Ellen Murray, Rory Smith all competing well for the club. Meath senior 800m track champion Thomas O Reilly is another athlete with great potential.
The senior athletes have embraced many new challenges with Eamonn Fitzsimons and Anna Edgeworth running the 78 miles from coast to coast in England along Hadrian’s wall. Johnny McEntaggert has competed in the Barcelona Iron Man competition. The club has also taken part in the Wicklow Way Relay, a 127k run from Kilmashogue in Dublin through the Wicklow Mountains to Shillelagh in Carlow. Martin Briody and Joe Usher have taken part in adventure races such as Sea to Summit challenge up Croagh Patrick in Mayo and Gael Force West also in Connaught. Mike Ginnell took part in the Burren marathon in Co Clare. Karen Crean won the Leinster masters indoor 800m and Paul Smyth was 3rd in the masters 400m at the new state of the art indoor track in Athlone.
Off the field, there also were many officials who represented the club at county, provincial and national level. Founder-member and first club chairman Michael Heery served as Meath County Board chairman and Leinster Council Chairman, He was national president of NACAI from 1997 to 1999 and was instrumental in bringing the athletics organisations in the country into a united body. Marie Monaghan and Maureen Gilsenan held positions at the county level and worked tirelessly for the club for a number of years. Martin Heery is currently secretary of Athletics Leinster.
The club holds a number of competitions each year including a 5km hill run in Mullaghmeen; a 5km. road race in Oldcastle with the winner receiving The Marie Monaghan Memorial Cup; a schools cross country event with the best school winning the Geraldine Dolan Memorial Cup. The club also presents the Ronan Sheridan Memorial Cup annually for outstanding contribution to the club.
In 2008 chairman Pat Plunkett initiated the purchases of four acres of land adjacent to the GAA grounds and the club are in the process of developing the new grounds for the benefit of all in the community. The present officers of the club are Chairperson Paul Campbell; Vice Chair Robert Caffrey; Secretary Martin J Heery; Treasurer Mary Heery Flood & Catherine McNamee; Registrar Catherine Hawdon; PRO Gerard Heery & Dermot Hawdon; Children’s Officer Karen Crean & Dermot Hawdon.
A Man Who Stayed the Course
When the St Brigid’s Athletic Club was founded in 1970 few could have foreseen that its founder, Michael Heery would one day be elected to the highest post in Irish Athletics. He is generally credited with being one of the principal architects of the uni cation of athletic organizations in the island of Ireland. Around Ballinacree Michael’s capacity to survive long meetings is legendary. He needed all of that when he set out to heal the divisions – sporting and political – that had for long been an unapproachable mine eld; but a combination of persuasion and persistence won the day and a new united national athletics organization was founded. He served as vice president of the new Athletics Association of Ireland from 2000 to 2002 and was its president from 2002-2008. Where did it all begin? He remembers when he was in about h class in Ballinacree a letter came from Kilnacrott Abbey asking that the school enter a team for a relay event in the annual sports. e selection process was democratic. Master Connaughton brought the students out to his eld across the road and lined them up for a 100 yards dash; the first four across the line would be the team. e winners were Owen and Brian Comaskey, Owen Traynor and himself. ey ran away with the race at the sports and brought home the first cup ever seen in the school. After that, he never looked back.