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Louise enters Lifford AC Hall of Fame

The chairman of Lifford AC, Patrick O'Donnell, welcomes Louise Gillespie to the club's Hall of Fame, at a function in Strabane, Co Tyrone, last week

The chairman of Lifford AC, Patrick O'Donnell, welcomes Louise Gillespie to the club's Hall of Fame, at a function in Strabane, Co Tyrone, last week

LOUISE MCGETTIGAN from Lifford was an exceptional young athlete in the 1970s.

And was not alone recognised as an outstanding young athlete locally in Donegal, but she was also recognised both national and internationally as a serious talent.

She has the awards and medals to prove it, with 42 national titles and a number of international golds.

McGettigan’s achievements were once again recalled last Sunday night at the Fir Trees Hotel in Strabane when she was inducted into the Lifford AC Hall of Fame. She was presented with the award by John O’Donnell, current chairman of Lifford AC.

“It is a great honour and I suppose it was ironic that it was presented to me by John O’Donnell, whose late father Ben O’Donnell was my coach and mentor and the man I owe so much of my success too,” said Louise.

Now Gillespie, Loiuse lives in Carrickfin in west Donegal. She is still in athletics and is coach with Rosses AC and also number of schools in the area including Belcruit NS and Rosses Community School.

She was a multi-discipline athlete and won honours ranging from 100m to long jump, triple jump relay and cross-country and is the most decorated Donegal female athlete of all time.

Her trophy cabinet boasts of national titles at both at juvenile and senior while it also contains a fair number of international honours as well. She first came to prominence in 1970, as a 13 year-old, when shortly after joining Lifford AAC, she claimed two gold medals and one silver at the Irish Track and Field Athletics Championship.

She was also something of a pioneer for female athletics in Donegal. Louise was the first Donegal female athlete to win a national athletics title.

In the years that followed Louise was to break many Donegal, Ulster and Irish records in her age group.

She followed up her 1970 success, the following year, by capturing seven gold, two silver and one bronze medal at the championships - a truly remarkable haul and one that has never been achieved since.

This success did not go unnoticed. By now she had become something of an athletics sensation. This was recognised when she was named the most outstanding athlete in Ireland by the BLOE (the Irish juvenile athletic association).

Louise’s talents and achievements was also recognised on home soil and was also Donegal Athletic Board Female Athlete of the Year over the same four year period. She also wore the green vest of Ireland with distinction on numerous occasions and acted both as vice-captain and captain.

In 1972 as vice-captain of the Irish team she won the 100m and long jump in at a meeting in Germany and also was presented with an award for best performance at the meeting. In 1973, she captained the Irish girls team which competed in the AAA Championships in Liverpool.

During her school days at Raphoe Vocational School she enjoyed a fair degree of success too and All-Ireland medals at 100m, 200m, 400m and long jump. In 1974, Louise was voted Derry Journal Sports Star of the Year as the most outstanding sports person of all the sports in the north-west.

She graduated to senior athletics in 1975 and though just 18, she won gold both in the 200m and silver in the long jump. And the following year she swept the boards at 200m. 400m and long jump to claim national U-19 titles.

“I really thought nothing of it at the time. But back then athletics and especially female athletics was not as big or as popular as it is nowadays. But looking back on it now, I have to admit that I did enjoy a good deal of success. But even more important I have really great memories from back then and enjoyed every minute of it.”

Louise is the third member of Lifford AC’s many great athletes to enter their Hall of fame as she joins Sharon Foley (2010) and Liam Doherty (2011) among the clubs greats of the past.

 
 
 

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