Athletics is one of the mass participation sports these days but that wasn’t the case half a century ago, albeit with lots of clubs dotted around the country in times when taking part in sports amounted to little more than getting the least amount of gear required and turning up to get involved.
The success or otherwise of an athletics club in the 1960s was as much about the guys or gals on the committee as it was about the quality of the athletes themselves.
And one of the best in the province was based in the Coalisland Youth club and one of their highlights every year was their race on St.Patrick’s Day and it is obviously appropriate to feature a piece about it on the nostalgia page in this particular week, the event covered by Tyrone Courier whose soon-to-be photographer Davy Dugal was one of the big local fancies.
‘The annual St.Patrick’s Day road race took place this year from Dungannon to Coalisland and over fifty runners entered the event, sponsored by Coalisland Youth Club.
Runners came from the following clubs: Belfast, Dungannon, Derry City, Keady, Milford, Monaghan, Glaslough, Armagh and Coalisland, the athletes in their multi-colours singlets setting off from Castle Hill and, after circling the Market Square, heading into Thomas Street into a heavy head wind.
Local runner Dave Dugal was the early leader but, at the Oaks Road, George Williamson took over, Harry Rocks from Belfast and Danny Sherry from Glaslough also moving up to displace Dugal from second and third place at that stage.
At Edendork the Derryman had increased his lead and at the finish line in Coalisland he had over a minute to spare. The time for the run was 22 minutes and 59 seconds. Second man home was Sherry, third Rocks and fourth Dugal.
The ladies race starts at Edendork, with Irish international Vera Sherry from Glaslough of the scratch mark. Fifteen seconds was hardly enough of a handicap for the Glaslough flyer as she soon overhauled the field as she won convincingly from Ethna Todd with the youthful Ann Coney from Coalisland in third place.
This was a grand performance from the Coalisland runner, who is only twelve years old. She can be a champion at sixteen. There were 34 runners in the ladies race.
Fourteen year old Pat Scullion turned in a great display when he romped home twelve seconds ahead of the next runner in the Under 15 event which also started at Edendork. The large crowd gave home a ‘Coalisland welcome when he crossed the finishing line.
This Gortgonis lad, the Tyrone and Ulster boxing champion, is a great all-rounder and, with the track season ahead, will collect a lot of glory for himself and the club’ concluded the article.