This account is based on my own work and the contribution of several club members. Important contributors were Pat Murphy, Denis Looney, Pat Twomey, Colin O’Herlihy and Joe Murphy, but special credit must go to former club member and long-time chairman John Quigley, whose contribution went a long way towards recovering information on the club’s history which was lost in 2014 when the old website, created in 1999, was deleted in circumstances which are unclear. The old site had been full of news, photos, history, videos, and all was lost.
The Early Years
The club was originally known as the Eagle Track Club upon its foundation in the Autumn of 1982. The three founding members were Fred and Sheila Gilbert and Mick Clancy. As stated by Fred Gilbert in an article in ‘Marathon’ magazine in 1984, the sole function of the club was then about training under-age athletes for track and field and cross country. Fred had operated earlier as a well-known coach with the juvenile section of St. Finbarrs Athletic Club. While Eagle TC had adult members from the beginning, their main role lay in coaching the juniors and juveniles. The club was based in the CIT (now MTU) track every Tuesday and Thursday evenings just as we still do today (lockdown allowing).
The following account of the early years of the club is based on several sources, including interviews with Joe Murphy, Pat Murphy, an article written by club member Paddy Lenihan for a book published by club member Colm Murphy in 1993, as well as my own researches. Unfortunately, Paddy was not very explicit in giving exact dates in his article and it is clear that his account spans the period from circa 1985 to 1993, though several references are not dated. As we shall see, the three founders left the club in 1988 leaving it in the care of a number of adult members who had been there from the first few years. These would go on to give many years of service, at least of fifteen years or more duration, some of whom remain members to this very day, 35 years later. This core group, responsible for developing and growing the club over many years, consisted of Liam Doherty, Pat Murphy, Joe and Ann Murphy, Denis Hegarty, Paddy Hegarty, Noreen Lenihan and her father Paddy, Monica Twohig, Hugh McSweeney, Ted Twomey, and Fidelma Kirwan.
Fred Gilbert was a passionate coach and the little club he directed between 1982 and 1988 fostered several excellent junior athletes. A sample of the club’s success follows:
• Mark Carroll, whose early career in athletics before he joined Leevale was with Eagle TC.
• The Lenihan sisters. Helen, Kathy, and Noreen Lenihan were trained by their father Paddy. The three dominated women’s field athletics in Munster throughout the Eighties. Helen, the eldest, was a prominent shot putter and javelin thrower, winning many a championship medal in these two events. However, showing great all-round ability, she was also a capable race-walker, competing up to and including national level. Her younger sister, Kathy, was a first class sprinter and high hurdler and, again, secured many a championship medal. There were also successes in the discus for Kathy, thus again showing her good form as an all-rounder. Throughout the early and mid ‘eighties’ both Helen and Kathy were a regular force at sports meetings throughout the county and beyond. Noreen, the youngest of the trio, was yet another all-rounder with a particular liking for the hammer. It was in multi-events that Noreen first came to prominence at National level, back in the mid-‘eighties’. In 1986, she won the National junior heptathlon. Her jumping and sprinting ability was very evident in her hammer throwing. At the inaugural running of the national womens hammer Noreen took the bronze medal, a placing she repeated the following year, in 1988. She achieved gold in that event in 1989, and successive silver medals in 1990 and 1991. At regional level Noreen has won all the womens hammer titles that have been held; from the very first in 1988 to 1993, inclusive. This surely must rank as something of a record – to have won six Southern Region titles in a row. In 1993 Noreen won her first International ‘cap’ when competing in the hammer at the Cork City Sports – the first time that the event carried international representative honours, and it was only fitting that Noreen should be among the first to represent her country in the event.
• Tony Gilbert, Fred’s son. A middle distance runner who won a scholarship to the University of Lowell near Boston. Other Eagles who won such scholarships in the States were Declan Gilbert and Tony O’Gorman.
• Fidelma Kirwan, a Celtic and Schools’ 400 metres hurdles international. She won gold in the girls under -17 four hundred metre hurdles and a silver in the 200 metres. On the track she remained one of the top 400 metre hurdlers in the country. Fidelma’s best time in the 400m hurdles of 61.10 seconds was set in 1985.
• In 1993 sprinting at the club was at a high standard – under the care of Denis Ahearn. The quartet of Donal Cronin, John Corr, Mark Smyth and Gary Ahern were one of the best squads in the country at this time.
• Pat O’Leary was yet another very capable thrower. Specialising in the shot putt, he was a regular over the 13 metre mark. He was also quite an exponent with the 56 pound weight. Paul Lynch and Seamus Manning were both 40 metre plus hammer throwers and Kieran Stack, when not steeple chasing, proved a very able javelin thrower in 1993.
• In 1993 the club boasted of several first rate weight throwers; at senior level, there was Jonathon McSweeney in the shot, Tim O’Herlihy in the discus, and Martin O’Sullivan, all under the guidance of Paddy Linehan.
• At longer distances, (wrote Lenihan in 1993), national medals had been won at distances up to and including the marathon and members such as Joe Murphy, Eddie Noonan, Denis Hegarty, Pat Murphy and Tommy Ryan were prominent distance runners.
• In 1993, wrote Lenihan, the juvenile branch of the club boasted many exciting prospects, including Susan O’Rourke and Ciaran Foley. At the same time the ‘veterans section’ of the club was strong and household names such as Michael Kiely and Hugh McSweeney were its leading runners. Both were national champions and competed successfully abroad, including securing medals at the World Veterans Indoor Championships in Budapest in 1991, when Mikie took a double gold and silver and Hughie two bronzes. Mikie’s times in this period were 54.8 for the 400 and 2.03 for the 800.
• In 1989 Ciara White won gold at the 60 meter distance in the Irish indoor championship.
• In 1991 Pat O’Leary won gold in the Junior Shot Put at the indoor nationals.
• In 1992 Mark Smith won gold at the Junior 400 meters in a time of 50.81 again at the indoor nationals.
In terms of coaching in the club, from its early years there was Fred Gilbert and Mick Clancy. Since then, wrote Lenihan, the coaches in the club have included Mick Sheehan, Denis Ahern, Donal Cronin, Paddy Linehan, Colm Murphy, Liam Doherty, Pat Harrington, and Catherine Murphy. Paddy himself was well known for his expertise in the throws as was Colm Murphy, a former national throws coach and national triple coach.
1988 – 2001: Re-organization and the Lean Years
The original club structure under the Gilberts was loose, there was no committee but there were three officers, chair (Sheila Gilbert), secretary (Fred Gilbert) and registrar (Michael Clancy). An extraordinary general meeting was held on June 9, 1988, following the resignation of Fred and Shelia Gilbert from the club. Their resignation from the club appears to have resulted from a disagreement as to the future path of the club, with the Gilberts wanting it to remain primarily a juvenile club and a majority of the adult members wanting it to be both for juveniles and adults. As a result of this EGM the club organized a committee to meet regularly and an AGM to be held every year. The first AGM was held on September 14th 1988 in the Glen Hall, Blackpool, and was attended by forty three members. At this meeting a committee was elected and rules such as meeting monthly were adopted, all under the guidance of new chairman Liam Doherty. During these early years most of the committee meetings were held in various pubs in the Dillon’s Cross area.
The juvenile coaching structure inherited from the days of the founders was continued for the next few years. This saw a dedicated coach appointed for each discipline, whether track, field or cross country. Each coach could have as many as ten athletes to train. Initially these coaches were all unqualified but following Liam Doherty’s qualification in 1989 several other coaches obtained qualifications in the following years. It is clear that club support for the coaching of juveniles continued in a dedicated way, even to holding a separate Christmas party for under-age members (in December of 1989). The following table is indicative of the club membership over the following years in terms of under-age and adult athletes:
As we see from the above table, large numbers of juveniles continued to form part of the membership from 1989 to 1992 inclusive, and a smaller group between 1993 to 1995. The last under-age club member was registered in 1998. These figures reflect the healthy state of under-age coaching within the club up to 1993, after which it is apparent that numbers declined. As late as 1997 motions were being passed at the AGM concerning the recruitment of under-age athletes, but clearly no progress was made. Part of the problem must have been the choice by the adult members to compete in the various competitions instead of just coaching under-age members. Formal recognition of this shift in emphasis took place at the AGM in October of 1993, when the name of the club was changed from the Eagle Track Club to the Eagle Athletic Club. The change was proposed by Joe Murphy and seconded by Liam Doherty.
Another major issue during this period was funding, which seems to have been a constant headache during the first ten years of the ‘new’ AC club. Among the methods tried were church-gate collections, ‘attic auctions’, door to door collections (in parts of the Northside), and an annual Christmas raffle. The raffle proved particularly successful and remained a regular feature into the 2000s. The main club fundraiser, however, was the Carrigaline Five Mile road race. This was first run on February 19, 1989, along pretty much the same route as it does today. In addition to the usual inputs from members, such as stewarding, providing food and drink and so on, the early years saw constant efforts to procure local sponsorship in Carrigaline. The key figure during the first few years was race director Ted Twomey and he was followed by Joe and Ann Murphy in the mid-1990s.
In 1998 the name of the race was changed to the Tommy Ryan Memorial race in commemoration of club member Tommy who had died in December of 1997. Tommy had been an Eagle member for nine years and was a noted distance runner. He was known for the flaw of going out ‘too hard’ and thus loosing position towards the end of the race. One of his best marathons was the 1993 National Marathon in Clonmel. Joe Murphy had warned Tommy to stay back with him. It worked as Joe, Tommy and Denis Hegarty ran together and all finished within a few minutes of each other to win National silver medals for the second team. Eagle AC also appears to have contributed to hill running in Munster during the 1990s.
We can take a typical year as an example of club activities in this period, and I have chosen 1996. In that year various events took place. Carrigaline was organized, the annual raffle was held at the Christmas party, a new line of club gear was introduced, and the CIT authorities were contacted to complain about the lack of hot water in the showers (which everybody took back then after track sessions). Another issue discussed by the committee was the small numbers using the track despite the cost of keeping our two evenings. As against this it was noted that the track authorities were not happy about Eagle members using the track at times outside of our booked sessions. The committee threatened to suspend any members found doing so.
There were things happening in 1996 that no longer happen today. At track members arrived at 6.30 and did a warm-up before beginning the main training at seven. This warm-up went around Murphy’s Farm and back to the track via Rossa Avenue in the summer and in the winter it went around Uam Var and back down Malborne Road. This practice died out around 2005. At the same time the main track evening was Thursday, unlike today when it is Tuesday. Another difference was the organizing of a Sunday morning long run as against the modern habit of a Saturday morning long run. Back then the long run was often ‘up the viaduct’ and along the Liberties to the back of the Airport before coming down Spur Hill and back to base in the UCC Farm. For several years around 1996 a special Women’s Mini Marathon group was organized from track. During the second half of the 1990s there were three officially appointed coaches in the club, Joe Murphy, Paddy Lenihan and Liam Doherty. Ann Marie Healy was ladies team captain for much of this time.
As can be seen from the table above, recruitment was a major problem for the club from 1996 onwards, with numbers dropping as low as 25 in 2001. Lack of a PRO may have been partly responsible. Little was done about this however, apart from floating ideas such as a leaflet drop in the Bishopstown area, which never materialised. It is only at the end of this period, in 2002, that numbers began to rise sharply, largely due to the recruitment efforts of new chairman, John Quigley.
By the mid-1990s official club race habits were largely those we would see for many years after. Cork and Munster cross country and road races, as well as the various ten milers and the Ballycotton 5 series were entered. The one athletic form that saw more participation than today was Track and Field, which continued among a small contingent on a regular basis each summer.
2000 – 2013: Expansion
In 1999 John Quigley set up the club’s first website. Shortly after, in October of 1999 tragedy struck when former club chairman Tim Morrissey was struck by a car while crossing the road in Cork City Centre, leaving him confined to a wheelchair. At the time, Tim was the club’s best runner, and had been Irish Army Champion some 11 times or so. The website allowed for the publication of Carrigaline race results on the day of the race, an innovation back then. Eagle were the first club in Cork to offer this service to competitors. On the track, Thursday was the busiest night, with some dozen or more turning up. Tuesday was quieter, generally with only a few attending. One of the regular sessions John remembers was himself and Pat Murphy ‘banging out’ 30 minutes of 90-90-90 on the track, in Lane 1. Another typical session was a 6×800 with short recovery.
In April of 2000 the CIT Track shut for 6 weeks, so that the tartan surface could be completely replaced/re-laid. The project required six weeks of good dry weather for completion. Of course, being Ireland, the weather was simply awful, and little progress was made over the summer months, or over the autumn and early winter. Even when the surface was fully re-laid, reopening was further delayed, as fine dry weather was required for line painting. In the end the track was closed and off limits until February of 2001. The track closure had a devastating effect on club membership, with many members drifting away. Nevertheless a core group remained, and the club continued to run out of CIT on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with weekend group runs from the car-park on Carrigrohane road, usually with a small group running the 4 mile loop of Carrigrohane Road/Model Farm Road via Inchigaggin – generally in 23 or 24 mins, before meeting up with a larger group for a 10 mile run to Ballincollig Roundabout, via Inchigaggin, then past the Angler’s and on to Healy’s Bridge and a nice bit of a hill on Kerry Pike, down to Lee Road and on to Sunday’s Well and the Shaky Bridge, before finishing back at the car-park – usually taking some 70 to 75 minutes.
Another favourite club Sunday morning run was ‘up the viaduct’ from the UCC Farm to the Liberties and so along the ridge arriving at the back of the airport and so down Spur Hill, through Bishopstown and back to the Farm.
The re-opening of the track saw the Eagle time slot shortened from ninety minutes to sixty and the cost of hire doubled. At the same time lanes’ one and two were off limits to reduce wear. Our session was also joined by the Belgooly club but the hire fees did not change. This doubling of hire cost represented a major problem for the club, which then had little money (thankfully not the case today). Again, the small numbers at the Tuesday track session given the limited number of members at the time was another problem for holding on to our two track evenings.
The committee decision was to go on a recruitment drive and also open up the sessions to members of other clubs on a €10 track membership basis, whereby members of other clubs, and none, who didn’t have track access, could join in our sessions, or use our track time for their own plan. The campaign was very successful, and the club gained many new members. Members of other clubs who took up the ‘Track Membership’ offer were never pressurized in any way to join, though many did join. Two such people were Midleton AC members Kevin Sievewright and Joe Roche, who both transferred in Spring 2003 and who would go on to play significant roles in the club for many years, Kevin as treasurer and Joe as chairman, among other roles. Another person to join via the Track Membership was Belgooly AC member Pat Twomey, who joined in July 2005.
After the track re-opening and the increase in membership number, the 2002 County Road Championships in Ballinascarthy was probably the first sign of the club’s renaissance. Twenty two members turned out and between team and individual success we came home with a host of medals – some 38 or so. Our recruitment drive was further aided by featuring in an article by running journalist John Walshe in the Evening Echo. Four club members qualified as AAI Coaches, Pat Murphy, Tim Smith, John Quigley, and Kieran McKeown. John Quigley would go on to build on this later, in 2011, by qualifying as an AAI National Grade Measurer later again to go on to become an AIMS/IAAF International Grade ‘A’ Measurer, in 2018.
Between 2002 and 2015 membership ‘grew year on year’, in spite of a number of departures from the club of long standing members in 2009 and 2013. On both occasions good friends were lost and the club was the less for these departures.
In September 2003, Douglas Women’s Meet & Train Group was set up by the HSE Health Promotion Unit, meeting in Nemo Rangers. However, in November 2003 the Group leader left, after which the HSE reached out to Cork clubs for help in keeping the group going. Eagle AC met the call and several members supported the group from time to time, especially John Quigley. The group proved to be a valuable ‘feeder’ for Eagle AC with many of its members becoming Eagle member, such as Elaine Guinane, Deirdre O’Callaghan, Karen Bevan, and several others. In 2015 the club severed ties with the group, which in hindsight may not have been the best policy. The group continues to this day and, pre-Covid, fielded teams in BHAA races, while several members are members of other AAI clubs.
The same year of 2003 saw Mark McGloughlin join the club. Not long afterwards he set up the second version of the club website, and eagleac.net was born. The previous Eagle website info was rehosted on the new website, retaining all data. Women’s teams won Gold in all of the County Cross-Country Championships, with the sole exception of the County Senior. Spearheading the Eagle charge were Patricia Vasquez and the Blanckaert twins Juliette and Marie, who were studying in CIT.
In the early to late 2000’s, several club members went on various annual away trips, mostly around marathons. Among the many trips was the Annecy (France) Marathon, which was chosen on account of club member, French native Emma Le Grand. The Barcelona Marathon came about from Eagle’s former member Emiliano Munoz, with whom the group met and ran. The Berlin Marathon in 2005 came into the picture as a ‘Big City Marathon’, as did Amsterdam. A big Eagle contingent took part in the Krakow Marathon, which came about due to club member Wieslaw Sosnowski. The Great North Run was an ever popular event with Eagles, particularly veteran club member Joe Murphy. One of the largest contingents went to the Edinburgh Half-Marathon in 2008. Perhaps the most notorious of these trips occurred in 2006, when thirteen members went on a skiing trip to Andorra, when all but one came back nursing some sort of injury or other, none more so than club webmaster, Mark McGloughlin, who suffered a severe injury coming off a ski-lift, which to all intents and purposes ending his running career. Eagle took part in the 127k Wicklow Way Relay in 2004 and 2005, when two teams were fielded.
A track committee was founded in early 2006 to facilitate organizing track-related events such as showing new members the ropes and coaching-related activities. The committee consisted of Liam Doherty, Bridget Liston, Joe Roche, and myself as Chair (I had joined the club in 2001). This lasted for around a year until its duties were taken over by the main committee.
In 2007 the club celebrated its twenty fifth anniversary in a number of ways. A three race series was organized, including the regular Carrigaline race, a seven K in Little Island and a ten K in Whitechurch. Those members doing all three of the races received a black top with the club logo. Then there was a party in the Cricket Club on the Mardyke in the summer. Former member Eddie Noonan, a professional media producer, compiled a video of Eagle memories. Special awards of commemorative plaques were presented to Fidelma Kirwan, former National Hurdles Champion, who was the last remaining ‘Ever Present’ Eagle member, having been with the club since it’s foundation, and club Chairman John Quigley, presented with an ‘Outstanding Contribution’ award.
In August 2007 after the Cobh 5k, a runner collapsed and was given CPR for almost an hour, and remarkably, was chatting and eating breakfast the following morning. The next week Gerry Mullane, a former National Champion died during a race in Limerick. As a result of these events, a campaign to promote defibrillators and CPR training was begun, with Eagle members to the fore. An appeal was made to Cork County Board, and Cork Athletics embraced the appeal, and very many clubs acquired defibrillators. Another aspect was the involvement of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, who, through Deirdre O’Reilly, fully funded CPR training for sixty four AAI members at it’s Sports & Social Club in Ringaskiddy. Back home in Eagle, club member David Hogan, a businessman, presented the club with its first defibrillator.
Between 2006 and 2013 the club organized regular running seminars, many presented by club members. Topics included Nutrition by our original member Dr. Fidelma Kirwan, Ph. D, Strength and Conditioning, Training Periods, Sports Psychology by Willie Hempel, and Athlete Testing, inc VO2 Max, by UCC’s Trevor Woods.
In March 2008, Eagle hosted it’s one and only County Championships, when it organized and hosted the County Road Championships in Whitechurch, with separate 2 Mile (Women) and 4 Mile (Men) courses.
2008 marked the year that Eagle won it’s first ever County Senior Cross-Country Championship, when Rhona Lynch won the individual championship for the club, leading Anne-Marie Healy, Anne-Marie Power and Jane McGrath to the title. Jane was intended as the club’s fifth runner but was moved up as our fourth runner was ill and couldn’t turn out. So, Jane became the club’s vital fourth scorer and earned what most of us covet…a County Senior Cross-Country Gold medal! The club retained the Title the following year, 2009 and again in 2010, and were runners up in 2011.
2007 – 2013: Highlights
A number of other events and happenings around these years give some flavour of club life.
In 2007 our Polish star runner Wieslaw Sosnowski won the Cork Half Marathon title as did Ann-Marie Holland the womens. Earlier in the year Wieslaw had done Dungarvan in 54 minutes, followed by Tony Kelleher in 57 minutes. Tony was a leading club runner for many years until he transferred to Togher. That same year we introduced a ‘Featured Athlete’ cameo on the website, among the first of whom was Monica Twohig.
Also in 2007 we held our Christmas meal in the Clarion Hotel. Most years something ‘Christmassy’ was held at this time of year. In 2006 or 2007 nothing looked like happening until I organized drinks in the Well Tavern (who needs food!). Four or five years later we began the habit of meeting for Christmas at L’attitude across from the City Hall and spent several seasonal visits there. This pub had a connection with club member Emma Legrand and a great spread was always provided. In more recent years the main seasonal feature was the club awards night held in the Bodega in the Coal Quay.
In 2008 the Eagle senior women won the National Road Relays in Raheny, the team being Niamh Roe, Rhona Lynch and Ann-Marie Healy.
In 2009 Wieslaw Sosnowski of Eagle came third in the Cork City Marathon in a time of 2:35. The next two Eagles in were John Desmond and Dave O’Leary, both on 3:06.
In 2010 Eagle member Norman Kelly competed in triathlon at European level for Ireland. The same year Ann-Marie Holland came second in the Dingle Ultra and our top two finishers in the Dublin Marathon were Aiden Thompson in 2:50 and Derek O’Keeffe in 2:54. (I got my only national medal in the same race as part of the 0-50 team silver, coming in at 3:30). In the Cork City Marathon our top finishers were Wieslaw Sosnowski, 2:36, Kevin Geary in 2:59 and Colin O’Herlihy in 3:00.
In 2011 the Connemara Ultra Marathon was completed by John Desmond, Paul Daly, Maura Regan and Grellan McGrath. In that year also we saw Feargal O’Leary finish Dungarvan in 58:19 while our top three in Dublin were the same Feargal and Paul Tierney in 2:52 and Derek O’Keeffe in 2:55.
One of the highlights of 2012 was victory in the Dungarvan Ten Club Challenge trophy, our team being Sinead O’Connor, Ann-Marie Healy, and Niamh Roe. To finish this overview, we might note the holding of the first club awards in 2013 in L’atitude on the corner of Union Quay and Anglesea Street. All three main victors were women: Caroline Kilty ‘Most Improved Athlete’, Maura Regan, ‘Athlete of the Year’ and Elaine Guinane, ‘Club Person of the Year.
Another track committee was formed in mid-2011. This organized training courses, protocols for the smooth entry into the club of new members, coaching sessions at track, and so on. This was eventually absorbed into the main committee in early 2013 but not before it had done good work. I was the original chair but Liam Doherty took over this role after some months. Other members were Noella Carroll, John Desmond, John Dunphy and Elaine Guinane.
Cheetahs, Publicity and Resignations
In 2009, Stephen Ryan, then Marketing Director at Fota Wildlife Park, and nephew of the late Tommy Ryan, approached the club about the possibility of the club organizing a race in Fota Wildlife Park. Recognizing the uniqueness of ‘running a race through a zoo’, the club threw its weight behind the idea. Sponsorship was obtained from Laya Healthcare, Brooks and John Buckley Sports, and the event duly took place on May 21st. Traditionally Eagle had used manual timing/results recording but as entries were set at 600, a huge number by the standards of the time, for the first running of the event, it was decided to go with chip timing for the first time ever. Online and paper entries were used for that first year, with paper entries being taken at two local races, with 200 places being snapped up. The remaining 400 places were sold online and were snapped up in just 36 hours. The event captured the imagination of the public, particularly women. A very large proportion of the entries came from women who had not previously ran. In 2010, the entry limit for Fota was raised to 750, and sold out in 9 hours, with the server crashing several times. The following year, 2011, entries were increased to 900….but closed in nine and a half minutes…with many missing out. The early years of the event saw the course shortened from four miles to Five K (in 2015) and various innovations were adopted, such as allowing competitors to bring up to four free guests to the park for the run. The introduction of a one mile race in 2016 for children aged eleven to fifteen before the main race also proved popular and continues to this day. Over the years numbers increased and were capped at one thousand. Various club members served as race directors in the years after 2009, in particular Joe Roche, Denis Loony, Ed Fitzgerald and more recently Tracy Cotter and Ruairi Egan.
The Irish Independent newspaper featured a piece on Eagle in March of 2014 which contained various news items. It said of the Cheetah Run that it ‘is a truly special event sponsored by John Buckley Sports, has an entry limit of 900. Last year  the race featured on Fox News and Good Morning America. It has been recognised globally as the only mass-participation running event to take place in a wildlife setting.’
Membership at the time was ‘just below 200’ while ‘over one hundred club runners competed in the recent Ballycotton Ten’. The article mentions several prominent club veterans including our top man Wieslaw Sosnowski, as well as Joe Murphy, Pat Murphy, Denis Carroll, and Pat Twomey. Other well-known members mentioned included Maura Regan who finished third in the Waterfront Marathon in Clonakilty in 3:09.52, and Grellan McGrath who won the 100-mile ultra-race in Connemara in 2013.
The article also goes on to mention ‘other long-standing members’ including Mick Dooley, a leading light in the Business Houses Athletic Association. The article finishes with mention of club chairman John Quigley and his great work in promoting cancer awareness and treatment among runners as John is a cancer survivor himself.
In April of 2014 long time club Chairman John Quigley resigned his position, citing ‘personal reasons’. John had been fighting cancer successfully for several years and, being largely responsible for the fact that numbers in the club were at an all-time high of nearly two hundred, felt that it was time to pass the baton on to others. In 2020, after twenty two years an Eagle member, John moved from Eagle AC to St. Finbarr’s AC. He now serves as webmaster for the Cork Athletics County Board. The club owes John a huge debt of gratitude for all he has done to promote the club over those twenty two years.
2014 to 2020.
Joe Roche succeeded John Quigley as chair and held office for the remainder of 2014, followed by Pat Twomey as chair in 2015 and 2016, Colin O’Herlihy between 2017 and 2019, and so to our current chairperson, Grellan McGrath.
The club awards continued and became an integral part of club life under Joe Roche, with a poll of members taken each year to fill the awards at various dates. Held in L’attitude in 2014, the venue was the Old Oak the following year. January 2015 saw the first holding of the AGM in the Imperial Hotel, and this continues to the present day.
There were many highlights in 2015. A training evening was held in UCC and hosted by tri-athlete Trevor Woods, attended by over forty club members. Gold in the National Marathon (Dublin) was achieved by Frank Hill, Ronan Boland, and Martin Leahy. Richard Piotrowski won National Gold in his category in the 5,000 meters on track. Richard remains one of our leading runners to the present.
Novice bronze in the county roads championship was won by a team of Ann-Marie Power, Adelle O’Connor, Elaine Guinane and Deirdre O’Callaghan. Tim McCarthy continued his thankless task as gear master while on a sombre note our leading female athlete, Rhona Lynch, retired from competition for family reasons. Note now Alan O’Brien and Vivian Foley who won Gold medals on the Cork team in the Munster Masters Cross Country Championship. We might note finally our race winners for 2015:
• Ballyclough 5k John O’Callaghan
• Inniscara 4m Alan O’Brien
• Brandon Bay Half Marathon Ed Sutton
• Cork Woodland Trail 5k Maura Regan
• Cork Rebel 10k run Alan O’Brien
Eagle AC had 209 members registered at the start of 2015, its highest number ever.
Highlights of 2016 were numerous, with the following medalling. Derek O’Keeffe, Track and Field, John Desmond, Track and Field, Denis Looney, Track and Field, Richard Piotrowski, Cross Country, Alan O’Brien, County Roads and National Marathon, Ronan Boland the same, Joe Murphy, County Roads and Cross Country, Keith Burke County Roads and Track and Field, Pat Murphy, the same, John O’Callaghan, Cross Country, Ray Harrington the same, Pat Twomey the same, Frank Hill, National Marathon, Martin Leahy, National Marathon, Vivian Foley Cross Country, and Ken Higgs Cross Country. Special mention must be made of some medallists. Deirdre Nagle won four races but relocated to Killarney and so left the club. John Dunphy completed 100 park runs. Special mention must be made of Olympian Niamh McCarthy who won a silver at the Rio Olympics to add to her World Championship bronze and European silver discus.
Outside of the medals a couple of things were noteworthy. A November bus outing to compete at the Eyeries five mile attracted only twenty club members despite earlier indications of much greater interest, and the committee were disappointed at the poor turnout. Earlier in the year Precision Timing had gone bankrupt owing Eagle (among other clubs) several thousand Euros. Denis Looney followed up the liquidation process and was able to obtain 20% of what we were owed.
2017 saw twenty seven championship medals won in total, including seven national and international awards. These were won by Vivian Foley in the National Half Marathon in Dublin (gold M45), a bronze at the same competition M35 for team Vivian, Alan, and Frank Hill, two UK Championship medals for Richard Piotrowski, and a World Championship medal for Niamh McCarthy. The remaining medallists were Ronan Boland, Adelle O’Connor, Mark Smith, Pat Twomey, Ruari O’Callaghan, John O’Callaghan and Maura Regan.
Membership numbers remained strong, with a total of 194 registered for 2017. The club ran two successful races, in Carrigaline and Fota, with Fota Wildlife Park benefiting by €5,500 and two local charities in Carrigaline by another €800. In May we ran a shot putt tutorial and in July, four members completed a first aid course. Between September and November, the club ran courses in foam rolling, sports psychology, sports nutrition, and strength & conditioning. In October the club organised a training run on the new Deise Greenway in Dungarvan and in November the Eyeries bus outing was held again. The website began including the popular member profiles. The new Club crest/logo was launched, largely the work of Mark Gallagher, and two new gear managers stepped up, Ruairi Egan and Eddie Trindle. After many years of pre-Christmas socials, the annual club social was moved to January in the Bodega.
2018 was our best year yet in terms of championship medals, with a total of 95 medals in all competitions. These 95 medals were won by 28 different Club members. The break-down was as follows:-
• 1 World Championship (by Richard Piotrowski in the World Master’s in Malaga in September).
• 20 at National level.
• 35 Provincial Championship medals.
• 39 County Championship medals.
I will not list all achievers but only the higher ones. Top achievers were Ken Higgs, who won 12 in total, Mark Smith who won 9 and Hugh McSweeney, Alan O’Brien, and Richard Piotrowski, each with a haul of seven. The standout performances were Sandra Manning and Mark Smith both winning four gold medals in the County Track and Field, followed closely by Tom Fox and Ken Higgs both securing 3 gold medals each. There was also Alan O’Brien’s excellent second place overall at the National Masters Cross in Galway plus a National gold for the Club’s M65 team of Ken Higgs, Richard Piotrowski, and Pat Twomey. The other standout performance was again Alan O’Brien, taking overall championship gold along with M35 gold in the Munster half marathon championship in Limerick in May, in a brilliant time of 69 minutes. There were also notable gold medals in their categories in Limerick for Lisa Boland, Ronan Boland, and Mike McGrath. The other great achievements were at the National Masters Track and Field championships in Tullamore in August, with Ken Higgs and Richard Piotrowski taking gold in their categories and Neil Kingston and long standing member Hugh McSweeney both winning 3 medals each.
There was a notable tail-off in championship medals in the latter half of the year, particularly in the Cross season. This was due to a combination of injuries and the impact that the Dublin marathon had on the Cross season. Dublin itself was in turn impacted by the Berlin marathon, which attracts a number of members each year. Accordingly, the club did not field its strongest teams for the Dublin marathon. Outside of the championship racing, it was another busy year for members. I will only mention the leading performers: Vivian Foley, Maura Regan, Damian Kenneally, photographer Derek Costello, and Alan O’Brien.
Given the abandonment of the Ballycotton Summer Series the club ran a new venture, based on five pre-selected races and club members times at these. Five races were selected, the best four to score. The selected races were Midleton, Inniscarra, Coachford, Army/Navy Ringaskiddy, and Rathcormac. The club awarded prizes by age category, and these were presented in the Awards Night held in the Bodega in August. The primary organizer was Damian Kenneally and Ed Fitzgerald handled the Bodega.
Anne-Marie Power had a fantastic year on the triathlon front, qualifying for and competing in the Ironman Word championships in Kona, Hawaii in August, which was a brilliant achievement.
As in all years all roads led to the Dublin marathon, where the ladies really outshone the men on a great day out. The first five ladies home, Karen Bevan, Mairead Lonergan, Helen Cronin, Catherine Murphy and Dolores Gibbons all recorded PBs on the day. The men didn’t do too badly either though, with seven going under the 3-hour mark, but most notably, five of those were for the first time. Andrew O’Farrell also recorded his first sub-4 and then went on to lower that further still only a few weeks later. In a fitting round-off to the year, Mark Smith also rounded-off his World Marathon Majors Series with an excellent 2:34 in the Chicago marathon, being the first Eagle to complete all six.
Various training plans were devised and offered to members online, and there was a good take up. John Desmond was the key member behind these. The weekly club emails containing all sorts of club news continued apace, chiefly the work of Karen Bevan and Mairead Lonergan. Race Directors during the year for Carrigaline and Fota were Tracy Cotter, Ed Fitzgerald, and Denis Looney. Some problem areas highlighted at the AGM included making more use of the track on Thursday nights, the need for an online forum to facilitate interaction among members, as well as more participation from members in club-organised events. In December a new idea was embarked on, a membership survey where members were asked to give their views on a variety of topics with the intention that these should then form the basis of new club policies. The subjects were training, coaching, club organised runs, the integration of new club members, club social activities, the club website, the club newsgroup, and some others. This survey resulted in a number of club initiatives carried over into 2019.
2019 was an encouraging and good year for Eagle AC: membership numbers held at 178 for the year, the same as 2018, while Cork clubs memberships as a whole decreased by 9% in 2019. The club remained true to its Mission Statement by continuing to provide for improving and new members to the club in addition to its many ‘stars’. These of course continued to ‘shine’: some highlights being the arrival in the club of (later Olympian) Aoife Cooke, the selection of two members, Ken Higgs, and Alan O’Brien, to represent Ireland in the British and Irish Master’s Cross in Liverpool, Anne Murphy, Jacqueline Slyne and Niall McSweeney reaching the milestone of one hundred Parkruns, Denis Carroll running one hundred races, and James Quinlan running twelve marathons in the year.
2019 was another great year on the championship front, getting close to the total of 95 medals won in 2018, with 89 medals secured. The break-down was as follows:-
• 39 County
• 26 Provincial
• 21 National
• 4 International
I won’t list all medals won, the winners were Damian Kenneally, Ken Higgs, John Quigley, Pat Twomey, Neil Kingston, Hugh McSweeney, John Sheehan, Tom Fox, Tony Cambridge, Andrew O’Farrell, Mark Murphy, Alan O’Brien, Mark Smith, Pat O’Connor, Anne-Marie Power, Anne Murphy, Karen Bevan, Richard Piotrowski, Richard Hawkins, Pat Murphy, Vivian Foley, Aoife Cooke, Sandra Manning, Catherine Murphy, Martin Leahy, Brian Maguire, Mark Smith, and Denis Looney. Just as many members featured in high placings in non-championship races, many of the above championship winners in particular. As can be seen from the accounts above, from 2015 onwards Eagle AC rose up the ranks of championship clubs to become one of Munster’s leading clubs by 2019. August 2019 saw the completion of another successful Eagle Summer Series with the Rathcormac Road Race. Other races featuring were Inniscarra, Coachford, Midleton and Kinsale, once again organized by Damian Kenneally. This year our annual awards night was held in the Old Oak in August. The Spring saw the implementation of several of the ideas resulting from the Membership Survey, including a Buddy System for new members. In a club such as Eagle AC a huge amount of work is done by a number of key members behind the scenes to keep things going smoothly. During the period 2015 to 2020 these key members were Ray Harrington, Damian Kenneally, Pat Murphy, John Desmond, Colin O’Herlihy, Mairead Lonergan, Tracy Cotter, Grellan McGrath, Ed Fitzgerald, Denis Looney, Elaine Guinane, Kevin Sievewright, Karen Bevan, Ruairi Egan, Derek Costello and myself. New members to this group have continued to come from within Club ranks, as for example Finbarr Lehane and Siobhan Holland.
Little did we know, as 2019 moved into 2020, what lay ahead in March. This club history ends here for the moment, for the horror caused by Covid 19 still rages. How the club is coping with this under its new chair, Grellan McGrath, must be a story for another day, and it will be a positive one. More generally, suffice it to say that the running scene in Cork is making a slow recovery after nearly two years of lockdown, and how it coped in these difficult times is a tale for others to tell in a few years time.
About the Author
I am Paul Cotter Senior, a professional historian who uses the nom de plume Paul MacCotter. I joined Eagle AC in November of 2001, having been recruited by a then casual acquaintance, John Quigley. I was forty three. As a runner I was average but loved the company of club members and especially racing. From the start I also loved the CIT track and speed training. Over a two year period I reached my best form and held this plateau for another two years, between 2004-5. Here are some of my PD’s:
5 miles, 30:25
10 miles, 64:46
Half Marathon, 90:59
My main race activity was the BHAA road races and the club’s Masters Cross Country races. I have a dozen Cork cross country medals and one precious National Masters Marathon 0-55 medal from Dublin. I also have a few Cork road championship medals. I also achieved a fair fistful of BHAA age category prizes. It is a regret that I did not partake in more championship races, although I did perform at the County Track and Field last year and hope to remedy this in the current year.
In 2012 we lost a child, after which running was one of the things that prevented me from going mad. The effect grief can have however was graphically illustrated by my times falling through the floor after this and never recovering. Companionship from club members was a great help however. Participation in club organization roles was another help. I’ve served on the committee on and off for many years, held the offices of PRO and (currently) vice-chair, and been particularly active in various roles to do with our use of the track. This history is another contribution, and I hope to remain an active member of Eagle AC for many years to come.