ATHLETICS: Paddy O’Donnell Memorial proves huge success

City of Derry's Angeline McShane, winner of Paddy O'Donnell Female 800m race, with Paddy's wife Mary and son, Martin O'Donnell.

City of Derry's Angeline McShane, winner of Paddy O'Donnell Female 800m race, with Paddy's wife Mary and son, Martin O'Donnell.

Olympian Youth & Athletic Club kicked off their summer open track and field meetings with the inaugural Paddy O’Donnell Track and Field Memorial last Sunday at the Templemore Sports Complex.

This event, which is set to become an annual fixture in the local athletics calendar, was held in honour of Olympian’s late club leader, Paddy O’Donnell, who passed away last December after being a pivotal figure on the local athletics scene for more than 40 years.

City of Derry's Fintan Stewart, winner of Paddy O 'Donnell male 800m race,  with Paddy's wife, Mary, and son, Martin O  Donnell at Templemore track.

City of Derry's Fintan Stewart, winner of Paddy O 'Donnell male 800m race, with Paddy's wife, Mary, and son, Martin O Donnell at Templemore track.

Starting out first as an athlete competing in the various marathons, including the very first Derry marathon, Paddy moved into coaching within the then Sparta Youth Club and was made leader of the club in 1988. Paddy believed that sport should be for all, no matter what walk of life you came from and no matter what ability you were. He was the driving force behind a resurgence of numbers and coached many athletes and teams in a variety of disciplines to Ulster and N. Ireland, All Ireland and International success, particularly in middle distance running.

Sparta Youth Club eventually changed their name to Olympian in 1994 but Paddy continued on as head coach right up until 2014 when ill health limited his activities. The new event should proved a fitting tribute.

Overall, the event was a great success as, despite the prestigious Ulster Schools being held on the same weekend, it certainly did not deter over 100 juvenile, senior and masters athletes from clubs all over Ulster travelling from as far away as Finn Valley, Lifford, Letterkenny, Tirchonnail, Inishowen, Ballymena and Antrim to compete against the host club as well as other local talent from Foyle Valley and City of Derry.

The competition catered for all athletes from the ages of Under 9 right up to Senior and Masters level. With some great performances from all involved, it was a fantastic early test for club athletes as they prepare for the up-coming Ulster and N.Ireland Championships which commence at the end of this month and run right through June.

It was fitting on the day that 14 of Olympian’s own young athletes amassed an impressive 10 Gold, 8 Silver and 2 Bronze medals against some top quality opposition.

The club would also like to pay tribute to all the new athletes who competed in their first track and field competition on Sunday. Every one of them equipped themselves more than adequately with some even bagging themselves a few medals for good measure.

The main event of the day was the Paddy O’Donnell Memorial 800m. The occasion was marked with a minute’s applause before the race in honour of Paddy. Boasting a strong line up, it was the relatively new to the sport but ever improving Angeline McShane, from City of Derry, who won the Female Perpetual Trophy in a very swift 2.22.9 mins.

The European Youth Championships bound Fintan Stewart, also City of Derry, just fresh from winning the Intermediate boy’s 1,500m at the Ulster Schools the day before, led from gun to tape to win the Male Trophy in an impressive 1.58.0 mins time.

The club thanked all the athletes who participated, parents, coaches, grounds men, first aiders and Templemore Sports Complex staff who helped out on the day to make the competition run smoothly and make it a success.

The club’s second summer meet will again take place at the Templemore Sports Complex on Thursday, June 9th. If you are a keen athlete or a beginner from aged 8 and above; or just have an interest in spectating, you are more than welcome. Registration will begin at 5.30pm with the first event kicking off at 6.30pm. Entry is £5 which covers all events for each individual athlete’s age category.

Donegal Children’s Games

Olympian Youth and Athletic Club recently contested the ‘Donegal Children’s Games’ in the Finn Valley Centre and came away with a fantastic four medals from a small squad of six competitors. Boyd Russell again struck gold in U11 600m while Ellen claimed bronze in U11 turbo javelin and the multi-talented Orla Faul grabbed silver in U9 Long Jump and bronze in turbo javelin.

Other athletes who competed brilliantly were Eoghan O’Donnell (U10 Long Jump, turbo javelin), James Russell (U10 60m, Long Jump, turbo javelin) and Cadhan Friel (U11 turbo javelin).

Ulster Schools

Well done to Olympian’s Henry Bose and Aishling Gallagher who both placed an incredible sixth in the junior boys’ and girls’ 80m/75m hurdles in their first appearance at the Ulster Schools on Friday last. Henry and Aishling both qualified from ‘District C ‘by claiming a well deserved silver and bronze medal respectively.

Training

Training continues at the Templemore Sports Complex every Tuesday and Thursday night, from 7:00- 8:30pm. The club caters for any and all abilities from 8 years of age right up to senior and masters’ level who wishes to train, keep fit, have fun, and/or compete at a local to national/ international standard. New members as always are more than welcome.

For further details, please contact Michelle O’Donnell on 07857426545 or message us via Facebook (Olympian AC) or feel free to come have a chat at the track on any of our club nights.