Longford Athletics Club – A Brief History

This page recently highlighted the achievements of some notable athletes from County Longford over the years (link below). As an accompanying piece, this is a look back at the history of Longford Athletics Club. Prior to the club’s formation in 1969, local athletes competed in cross country at national level during the 1950s under the name Longford Wanderers. Tommy Reehill, Ardagh Road, was the trainer during this period.

Athletics activity declined somewhat in the 1960s before the club’s founding at the end of the decade. Rev. Fr Peter Brady of St. Mel’s College, Paddy Flynn of Dublin Road (father of Ray), John Kilemeade of Battery Road and Mick Glennon were all instrumental in the formation of Longford Athletics Club. Paddy Flynn was the club’s first chairman and committee meetings were held monthly in the Longford Arms. Outdoor training took place in Abbeycartron on land owned by Peter McLoughlin. Indoor sessions were held in an old industrial building on the Dublin Road. Cross country training sessions took place in Lisnamuck at ‘The Greenfield’ site which is now the location of industrial units such as Birds Eye and Panelto Foods.

In the 1970s, the club was thriving with numerous athletes achieving success at national and international level. These included middle distance star Ray Flynn, Nicholas McHugh, multi-eventer Richard Cheevers, Martina McHugh in the high jump and sprints, the White & Yorke families from Ardagh, the Kilemeade’s from Longford and the Healy’s from Dromard. The Greenfield played host to the provincial cross-country championships in 1975 which saw a large number of athletes converge on Longford. Club members and volunteers all helped organise and manage the event which was by accounts a great success.

From the late 1970s; John Fitzpatrick of Clonrollagh, Noel Caslin of Ballinalee Road, Mick Wall of Farnagh Glebe, Liam Glennon of Deanscurragh, Pat O’Brien of Dublin Road, Pat Reehill and Pat Barden were involved in the running of the club and coaching for the next decade or so. Notable local athletes who achieved success from this period included high jumpers Sinead Fitzpatrick and Noreen Glennon, middle distance stars Enda Fitzpatrick and Martin Flynn, Peter Kilemeade, Dermot Caslin and Tommy O’Brien and also the Mahon family from Stonepark.

In the 1990s, juvenile training took place in the Mall with club activity linked in with Community Games. Patsy & Josie Kenny, Seamus Gilchrist and Anne Duffy were among those who continued the running of the club and coaching at this time. Prominent juvenile athletes during the period included multi-eventer John Fitzpatrick, Mark Gillooley in the shot put/discus and middle-distance runners John Campbell and Adrian Gurn.

Club activity declined for a period before the club was revitalised in the late 2000s with Stonepark’s Liam Fenelon involved. Ardagh’s Paddy McPhillips became club chairman in 2012 and, along with dedicated coaches and committee, has helped develop the club over the past decade with membership growing annually to its current level of over 300 members. Friday evening in the Mall, during normal circumstances, is the focal point of our week where it becomes a ‘hive of activity’ with juvenile training (for children aged 9+) and Little Athletics for younger members.

Club members, past and present, came together in December 2019 at a Civic Reception hosted by Longford County Council in which the club’s achievements over its 50 years were recognised along with other local sporting organisations and individuals. This was a great honour and much appreciated by all involved with Longford AC.

In March 2020, the club lodged its application for a proposed indoor facility to serve as a home for our club and its activities and we await the outcome. The planned site is appropriately on the grounds of St. Mel’s College – a school where many club members nurtured their athletic talents over the decades. With considerable funding secured through the LEADER programme, complimenting the funds raised in our recent fundraising campaign of which we are very grateful to all who supported it, Longford Athletics Club is confident it will deliver this amenity which we believe will be of a major benefit to the county.

Notable Athletes from County Longford