“THE club's development in both athletic achievement and physical infrastructure was nothing short of miraculous.”
The verdict of current Harriers Chairman, Adrian Curley, who, in the opening address at last Thursday's launch of “Tullamore Harriers – A History: 1953-2018”, stressed the success story had been led by the late Paddy Larkin and his “two wingmen”, Brendan O'Shea and the late Noel Gowran.
He extended a special welcome to the launch to Billy Dowling who attended the very first gathering of Tullamore Harriers on November 13th 1953.
Mr Curley also welcomed Mrs Liz Fox and Mrs Maureen McDermott whose late husbands, Larry Fox and Mick McDermott, were also in attendance on that fateful night; Eanna Gowran, son of the late Noel Gowran; Adrian Larkin, son of the late Paddy Larkin who travelled from Canada for the launch and Mrs Benny Beatty, wife of the late Paddy Beatty.
Welcoming the President of Athletics Ireland, Georgina Dumm, Mr Curley recalled she had been elected to the post in the very room the book launch was being held in 2016 when Offaly Athletics County Board hosted the bi-Annual congress. He noted that the Harriers John Cronin held the post of Deputy President of Athletics Ireland while club stalwart, Michael Gillespie had served in numerous positions at national level over the years.
Extending what he described as a “huge Tullamore welcome' to Catherina McKiernan, Mr Curley said: “We as a club have followed and admired your fabulous career throughout the years, Catherina is no stranger to Tullamore having spent many and evening training on our track.
Turning his mind back to 1953 when the club was founded he noted that Ireland was a very different country with Eamon De Valera as Taoiseach and Sean T. O'Kelly as President, On a lighter note, Mr Curley revealed that Ian Fleming had introduced the world to his character, James Bond in 1953 while Playboy hit the shelves for the first time in the USA.
“But they are only in the ha'penny place behind the event that happened on November 13th when a group of young men gathered under a street lamp in William St . . . that night a flame was lit that burns brightly to this very day.”
Mr Curley said the book gave a very detailed account of the club's staggering progress from that day but noted “it wasn't all smooth sailing with some choppy waters to be navigated along the way.”
He continued: “When people think about Tullamore Harriers I'm fairly sure the first thing they think about is out fabulous stadium, our now world famous track, our training lap and our substantial clubhouse. In recent times and especially now as I have cast an eye back in time in preparation for this book, I have come to realise that Tullamore Harriers is not the physical buildings but rather the people who have passed thought our club as members over the years. Sadly some of them are no longer with us but we remember them fondly tonight.”
He stressed there had always been an ethos of inclusivity and welcoming in the club, values which were implanted on day one and which current members endeavoured to maintain.
“We have produced some of the finest athletes the country has ever seen and with the pool of young talent in the club, the future looks bright. It's very inspiring to see young athletes being guided by coaches who only a few short years ago were young athletes themselves. This attitude to give something back to the club that has given us so much is surely the lifeblood for the future. We have been blessed over the years with the calibre of people who have taken care of our young athletes and from my own experience Mrs Phyllis Delaney, the late Michael Graham and Barry Woodnutt, minded us like we were their own.”
Congratulating the author, Kevin Corrigan, Mr Curley noted “Kevin came late to our sport but has immersed himself totally in the club. This book is a fantastic piece of work that Kevin can be proud of.”
He also thanked those who had helped with the research, Anthony McCormack of PrintPlus, the book launch organising committee, headed by Club Secretary Sharon Daly and including Mary Fox Mann, Mary Daly, Anna Hyland, Aoife Marron and Adrian Martin.”
Noting that 65 was a number associated with retirement, Mr Curley said nothing could be further from the minds of club members when it came to the Harriers.
“We're only getting into our stride,” he added.
Concluding Mr Curley reminded the huge attendance: “Remember once a Harrier, always a Harrier.”