The four surviving members of the first County Board P.J. O’ Carlin, Raphoe Chairman, Eamon Giles, Cranford, Vice Chairman, Patsy Mc Gonagle, Stranorlar, Secretary and Ulster Delegate and Bernie O’ Callaghan, Killybegs, Public Relations Officer will all be in attendance and the late Ben O’ Donnell who was treasurer of the first board will be represented by his family.


The evening will begin at 7p.m. with the launch of the latest book on the history of Donegal athletics written by County Chairman Bernie O’ Callaghan who has previously published a history of the first forty years of the County Board called “Footprints in the Sands of Time” and brings the story up to date. This will be followed by a meal and then presentations to athletes who have achieved notable milestones in the last fifty years. The book also contains letters from Sebastian Coe President of the I.A.A.F. and Sven Arne Hansen President of European Athletics congratulating Bernie on the publication of the book and the Board on its Golden Jubilee. Seb Coe says that “without committed volunteers the sports simply could not function or grow and the roll of honour of County Champions contained in the book is testament to the work of the Board”. Sven Arne says in his letter that European Athletics and Donegal County Board “are both passionate athletics organisations, run mainly by volunteers whose mission is to promote the sport of athletics” and he goes on to say that “I wish the current and future generations of athletics leaders in Donegal the strength to keep up this great work and continue to promote and develop our sport for the next fifty years.”       


The County Senior Champions, individual and team, in Track and Field, Cross Country and Road events in each decade since the first championships were held in 1970 have all been invited back and will receive a token to commemorate the event, so as well as the 1970 champions we will see the champions from 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010. The County Senior Record Holders and the athletes who have won the greatest number of titles in each event since 1969 will also be honoured, as well as athletes who have been scoring members on the fifteen County Senior teams who won National Inter- County team titles. These include legends like Danny Mc Daid, Brendan Boyce, Paddy Marley, Paddy O’ Donnell, Kay Byrne and Anne Marie Mc Glynn. Families have always been an integral part of Donegal Athletics and a small presentation will be made to fathers, mothers sons and daughters, brothers and sisters who have each won County Senior Championships. Four families stand out with four members winning titles. Eamon, Jackie, Michelle and Louise Harvey from Donegal Town, Ben, Sean, John B. and Brendan O’ Donnell from Lifford, Barry, Rosemary, Camilla and Noelle Harron, from Castlefinn and Patrick, Rosemary, Kathleen and Bernadette Gallagher from Carrigart.


Six Donegal athletes have won medals at major senior championships (European, World or Paralympics) they are Paddy Haughey, Teelin, International Cross-Country Championship 1949, Danny Mc Daid, Glenswilly, World Cross-Country Championship 1979, Bridie Lynch, Manorcunnigham, Discus and pentathlon Paralympic Games Mark English, Letterkenny, European 800m medallist, Anne Marie Mc Glynn, Letterkenny, European Cross-Country Championship 2014 and Sommer Lecky Castlederg, High Jump at World Junior Championships 2018.


On the Masters side three Donegal athletes have won World Masters titles they are Hugo Duggan, World Masters Long Jump, Anne Mc Gill, World Masters 20Km Walk, Hugh Gallagher, World Masters Throws, I saw a copy of the book recently and one section caught my attention, the main events of 1969 are chronicled for the benefit of those who weren’t there and I reproduce the section with the permission of the author.


 “For those who weren’t there in 1969 I will try to give you a taste of some of the big events of that year firstly the things that everyone remembers is that the USA landed a man on the moon on July 21st and the Beatles played their final gig a rooftop concert in London on 30th January and went their separate ways. Joe Dolan had a world-wide hit with his first million seller called “Make Me An Island” which made number one in fourteen countries  


Here in Ireland Free Secondary Education was introduced, we celebrated the fiftieth Anniversary of the first Dáil, a general election was held which was won by Fianna Fáil. Donegal had a record representation in the cabinet with Neil Blaney appointed Minister for Agriculture, Joe Brennan, Minister for Labour   Liam Cunningham was the Junior Minister for Education and Cormac Breslin was Ceann Comhairle. The Civil Rights movement organised marches in Derry and other towns, the British Army arrived in Northern Ireland and the civil unrest resulted in thousands of refugees fleeing to Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth


In sport Swilly Rovers won the FAI Junior Cup, and Finn Harps entered the League of Ireland, Clonliffe’s Frank Murphy won a silver medal in the 1,500m at the European Championships in Athens, Sonia O’ Sullivan was born on 28th November and Catherina Mc Kiernan was born two days later. BLOE was set up to administer Juvenile Athletics, Cranford were Ulster Senior Cross-Country Champions, and The Ulster Senior Women’s Cross-Country was held for the first time Vera Sherry Glaslough was the individual winner and Glaslough won the team title. Danny Mc Daid was selected on the Irish Cross-Country team for the first time Hugo Duggan, Paddy Marley and Neil Sweeney were selected on the National Track and Field team for the Ireland v Switzerland Match in Santry and of course Donegal County Athletics Board was formed.


A County Board to organise competition for Secondary Schools was also set up the first officers were Chairman Bernie O’ Callaghan, Glenties Comprehensive School, Secretary Patsy Mc Gonagle, Glenties Comprehensive School, Treasurer Tom Francis, Holy Cross College Falcaragh.


The UK were in the fourteenth year of their negotiations to join the EU or EEC as it was then called.” 


Two Donegal Athletes Neil Sweeney from Dungloe and Bernie O’ Callaghan from Killybegs have had the privilege of first being selected to represent Ireland at Senior level themselves and then having their sons selected as Internationals. Neil Sweeney was an International Triple Jumper and his son Nicky is an Olympic Discus Thrower and his son Mark was selected for Ireland in the Shot.


Bernie O’ Callaghan represented Ireland in the 3,000m, 10,000m and 20Km Walks and his son Pierce was also selected in the same events.




Someone once wrote “to be forgotten is to die twice” and on Sunday we will honour one of the forgotten. When the Athletics Team of the Millennium was selected in 2000 Paddy Haughey would have been an automatic selection if the selectors had known of his exploits. We hope to set the record straight on Sunday when he is honoured posthumously by the County Board.


He was born in Teelin in 1918 he joined the Army at the outset of World War 2 and was stationed in the Curragh where he joined Curragh Athletic Club. He was successful in Defence Force championships at 10,000m on the track and over the country. He made his first National breakthrough in 1944 when he won the NACA Junior Cross-Country Championship and led the Curragh team to victory, he finished fourth in the NACA Senior Cross-Country Championships later that year.


In 1945 he again finished fourth in the national Senior Cross-country Championships and he led Kildare to the silver medals in the Inter-County championships and he was third in the National Senior 4 mile track championship.


 In 1946 Paddy joined the Brownstown Athletic club in County Kildare, Brownstown is situated just outside the Curragh military camp and was affiliated to the AAU at that time and this opened up the possibility of International competition for him. He finished second in the AAU Senior Cross-Country Championships, led Brownstown to the team title and was selected on the Irish Team for the International Cross-Championships which were held in Ayr in Scotland that year. Paddy became the first Donegal athlete to be selected to represent Ireland He finished in eleventh place in the race and was the second Irish scorer. Paddy also won the 10 mile track championships and third in the 3 mile track championship that year.


In 1947 Paddy retired from the Army and went to work for Guinness in Dublin, he transferred to Donore Harriers Athletic Club where he continued to flourish finishing fourth in the National Senior Cross-Country Championships and leading Donore to the silver medals. He finished in the silver medal in the IAAB championships. He was again selected for the International Cross-Country championships which took place in Paris where he finished in thirteenth position and was second Irish scorer. He was also second in the AAU senior three mile track championship.


In 1948 he finished third in the National Senior Cross-Country and led Donore to the silver medals again. Paddy was second in the National 3 mile track championship and finished thirty first in the International Cross-Country championships in Reading.


1949 saw Donore again finish in the silver medal position in the National Cross-Country Championships with Paddy a prominent scorer. He earned selection for the International cross-country championships which were held in Baldoyle. Ireland were not expected to feature in the top six teams but they confounded the critics Paddy finished fourth Irish scorer and the team won the bronze medals. The race was won by the great Alan Minoun of France. Paddy retired from athletics after that race and moved back to Donegal when he retired from Guinness in 1983. He died in 1998 and two of his sons Al and Patrick still live in Killybegs.


Paddy was the first Donegal athlete to be selected to represent Ireland, he was the first Donegal person to be selected for a major Championship and he was the first Donegal person to win an International medal. The International Cross-Country Championship began in 1903 and initially consisted of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, however other countries were quick to apply for membership and soon France, Spain, Portugal Belgium, Denmark, New Zealand, Holland, Tunisia, Morocco USA and Canada were taking part. At its peak the number rose to eighteen countries in total with over 200 runners taking part and was the major Cross-Country event in the World. The Championship lasted until 1972 when the last edition was held in Cambridge and it was replaced by the IAAF World Cross-Country Championship and the first Official World Cross-Country Championship was held in Waregem in Belgium in 1973.  


Ireland hosted the event on nine occasions Baldoyle 1905, Belvoir Park Belfast 1910, Belvoir Park Belfast 1920, Baldoyle 1925, Baldoyle 1931, Royal Ulster Showgrounds Belfast 1938, Baldoyle 1949, Leopardstown 1964, 




Donegal County Board will announce that five new perpetual trophies will be contested annually at the County Senior Track and Field Championships as a tribute to the members of the first county board.


EAMON GILES CUP for the best performance in a sprints event P.J. O’ CARLIN CUP for the best performance in a middle-distance event PATSY MC GONAGLE CUP for the best performance in a jumping event BEN O’ DONNELL MEMORIAL CUP for the best performance in a throws event BERNIE O’ CALLAGHAN CUP for the best performance in a Race-Walking Event. The trophies are open to both male and female athletes and confined to Donegal Athletes. Performance will be calculated as a percentage of the County Senior Record in each case.

Donegal County Board are deeply indebted to all its sponsors in particular Donegal County Council as well as individuals and businesses all over the County and the full list of sponsors will be acknowledged on Sunday, without sponsors Sunday’s event could not happen. It was the intention of the organisers to hold a fireworks display to honour the thousands of athletes who have won All Ireland medals since 1969, but this was not possible due to county fire regulations.   

Twelve Killybegs athletes Seamus Gillespie, Bernie O’ Callaghan, Michael Gallagher, Thomas Mc Brearty, Paddy O’ Donnell, John Burke, Willy Melly, Gerry Melly, Claire Cassidy, Noreen Conaghan, Sean O’ Donnell and Robert Alcorn, will be honoured on the night. 

So The Finn Valley Centre is the place to be for every Sports enthusiast on Sunday evening. For those Glenties fans it’s on your way home from Omagh and why not celebrate with us after you win the Ulster title.



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