Margaret expresses thanks to all who helped develop all weather track
Address by Margaret Daly, chairperson, Mullingar Harriers AC at the official opening of the all weather track
I’m delighted to welcome everyone on this very special evening that marks a significant milestone for MHAC. It was two years ago last week that the track was completed and we were able to return to the club grounds after spending three months over the summer of 2021 at Mullingar Rugby Club, who showed tremendous sporting solidarity by giving us unfettered access to their grounds so we could continue training.
As the club approaches its 50th anniversary in 2025, it’s worth looking back very briefly on the history of the club and reflect on what has been achieved since its foundation in 1975.
The club started by using a classroom in the CBS as its base for several years, before being granted a lease by Westmeath County Council on a sloping field well removed from town at the time, thus beginning a close relationship between the club and the council that has endured ever since.
It’s hard to imagine that in the early days, the club grounds were surrounded by fields and all the houses we can see around us now were only built since we moved here. MHAC has come a very long way since and I’m sure the founding members must take particular satisfaction in how the club has grown and developed since being formed in 1975.
Starting with building the original clubhouse in 1985 and levelling out the sloped field by bringing in many tonnes of stones and clay so a grass track could be laid out, the focus from the beginning was always to work to improve the facilities for all the members.
Our first venture into Sports Capital Funding was when the clubhouse roof needed replacing and we upgraded the toilets and dressing rooms. This was followed by further successful funding applications to construct the all-weather sprint lanes and then to purchase gym equipment.
Other improvements included constructing the gravel track around the perimeter of the grounds and upgrading the floodlights, all done to improve facilities for the growing membership.
However, all the previous improvements pale in comparison to the massive leap forward when the decision was made in 2018 to develop an all-weather track. This was the most significant step taken by the club in its history but everyone rowed in behind the project to deliver the facility we have now.
We’re very grateful to the support of the Department of Sport through the very significant grant allocated under the Sports Capital Programme. We’re indebted to the work of our politicians, both in the council and in the oireachtas, in supporting the application, the generosity of club members and sponsors to raise our own funds towards the cost, the work of ORS Consulting Engineers in designing the works, preparing the contract documents and supervising the construction, the performance of the contractor, Midland Sports Surfaces, and in particular how Colin Delaney worked closely with us from day one to deliver a project that both he and we could be proud of.
Behind all this was the invaluable input from Athletics Ireland, who supported the application for capital funding and the input from Westmeath County Council on extending the lease to ensure it met with department requirements. The total value of the work is about €570,000, which is a huge investment, and we’re extremely grateful to everyone who contributed in any way.
The new track has undoubtedly contributed hugely to the big increase in membership we’ve seen in the last two years, currently standing at about 530, compared to about 250 only a few short years ago.
I’ll conclude by thanking everyone again for attending and I’ll invite our guest of honour John Cronin, the president of Athletics Ireland, to say a few words and perform the official opening.
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