The record of Donegal athletics from 1969-2009 - Footsteps in the Sands of Time - was launched in the Clock Tower, Fintra, Killybegs on Saturday with representatives of clubs from all over the county present.
The book, or rather two books, which runs to well over 1,000 pages, was compiled by Bernie O’Callaghan, who was one of those present when the Donegal Athletic Board was set up at a meeting in Logue’s of Cranford in 1969.
It was fitting that the launch took place in Fintra, as the first cross-country competition was held there after the formation and there were stories at the launch of the tide intervening during the second lap of that race with athletes having to walk on water to get to the finish.
The first chairman, John Carlin, was present at the launch and congratulated Bernie on the work carried out - as did all the speakers at the launch.
Present county chairman, Neil Martin, said that today there are 11 clubs in the county with all areas covered. “When you said that you were taking on this task, I replied better you than me,” said Neil, who added that he had started reading three pages a night. “I’ll be finished when I’m 75,” he quipped.
Patsy McGonagle said it was the first real record that has been recorded. Speaking of Bernie he said: “You have a passion for it and have done us a great service.
“Bernie has given us a focus, something to talk about and something to argue about. There was a time when Killybegs had the best cross-country team in the Donegal,” said Patsy, who said Bernie had contributed to athletics in Donegal, national and internationally.
The launch was addressed by Thomas Pringle, TD; Senator Brian O Domhnaill and Lord Mayor of Donegal, Cllr. Noel McBride.
The President of Athletics Ireland, Liam Hennessy, was also present and paid tribute to Bernie for taking on the challenge of producing the book. “We are indebted to you and it will bring huge enjoyment to a lot of people,” said Liam, who said he looked forward to the book being updated in ten years time, especially given the high class of the current crop of athletes in Donegal.
The author, Bernie O’Callaghan, said it was an emotional day to finally get the book to launch. He said the one aspect of the journey which made it worthwhile was recognising a Donegal athlete that had been forgotten - Paddy Haughey of Teelin, who had been very prominent at national level in the mid 1940s and he was glad that his son, Al, was present at the launch.
He said the reason for the format was that he didn’t want opinion in the finished article, just results and to make it brighter we just added photographs.
He thanked his wife Mary for her help in the ‘great journey’ and urged that someone take on the task of updating the records in eight years’ time so that the first 50 years of athletics in the county would be covered.
He finished by quoting Churchill: “I hope this not the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning.”
The book (or books) was on sale at the launch and will be available in local bookshops and will bring back many memories from the past 40 years.