News & Star, September 2001

Article by Catherine Power THE first track and field sports were held in Ferrybank in 1869

THE first track and field sports were held in Ferrybank in 1869. The event was staged in Power's Field, a short distance from the Clover Centre, which is now the venue for many sports fixtures.

That meeting catered for senior men only and included disciplines such as sprints, hurdles, middle-distance. jumping and throwing events.


Athletes from allover the country participated, including the Davin brothers. Maurice and Pat from Carrick-on Suir. Maurice Davin was to go on to become the first President of the G.A.A.

Sporadic attempts were made over the next hundred years or so to establish an athletic club in Ferrybank.


In the sixties Clover Athletic Club was established and based at the Clover Meats factory where many people in Ferrybank were employed. At the time the club mostly catered for the children of Clover employees.


According to Andy Hallissey who was instrumental in the revival of Ferrybank A.C. in 1979 there was tremendous support for the development of the club.

"We have to thank a large number of people for their help in getting the club off the ground including Noel Power, Mary Hartley, Billy Doyle, Ned Connolly and Johnny Treacy in the Clover Centre. We also received invaluable assistance from Sr. Madeleine in the Convent School and Dick Hayden in the boy's school."


The club was based at the Clover Centre, in the Convent grounds and also at Belmont Hospital Grounds. Within a few years Ferrybank A.C. were competing with distinction at Community Games level and went on to be very successful at this level for a considerable length of time.

The juvenile structure at the club was excellent during the eighties and many national titles were won at this level.


Athletes of the calibre of Brid and John Hallissey, Jackie Stokes. Lisa Murray, Breda Murray and Sheila Quinn emerged through the juvenile ranks and went on to compete both at national and international level in the following years. "These young primary school children went on to become the basis of a very strong senior club which won division two of the women's and men's National Senior Leagues during the nineties," Andy Hallissey said.


The success and development of any club can be attributed to those involved in the organizing of it and there's no doubt that the Hallissey name is synonymous with Ferrybank A.C.Andy Hallissey, a former footballer with Brickey Rangers, has been involved with the club for over twenty years and although reluctant to highlight his own role, remains extremely proud of the achievements of the athletes who competed with Ferrybank A.C.


"Jacqui Stokes was the leading long jumper in Ireland for a number of years and is one of the few Irish athletes to have jumped over six metres on a number of occasions." With their father so involved in the club it was always probable that the Hallissey children would also make their mark. "Brid broke the Irish record for the heptathlon when she was sixteen. and continued to improve on it over the next 12 years. In addition she won national senior hurdles titles and went on to win British combined events titles in 1992 and 1994." John Hallissey's main interest was in the pole vault where he enjoyed considerable success, especially indoors. "John won the senior indoor title eight years in a row and was the first Irish athlete to exceed five metres indoors."


Another to come through the ranks is Larry Morrissey, a promising middle distance athlete, currently in his final year of a scholarship to Providence College, Rhode Island. Prominent sportsmen who would go on to play rugby successfully began their careers in athletics at Ferrybank, most notably Jack Clarke, Brian Cusack , the Cronin brothers Donnagh and of course Ben who played internationally and has recently been installed as new coach to Waterpark Rugby Club. With the considered success of the seniors during the nineties and the concentration on their exploits it was inevitable that the juvenile side of the club would suffer. A decision to move the club's base to the Regional Sports Centre was taken in 1999. Brid Golden (formerly Hallissey) now teaching in St John of God primary school in the city had retired from competition and decided to give a hand in the coaching of the juveniles. "With all the success the seniors had achieved over a decade the junior side of the club had faded somewhat," she explained. "We decided early in 1999 to concentrate our efforts on developing young talent and over two and a half years later we're delighted with the results." The fabulous facilities that are on offer at the RSC, including a modern track have helped to renew an interest in athletics and Ferrybank A.C. has seen the membership soar in the last two years. "When we were a strong juvenile club in the eighties we catered for 50-60 children, now our membership exceeds 150 and rising!" With so many young athletes to be looked after plenty of help is required and Brid is very grateful to those who have come on board to help in the running of the club. "My brother, John, is back working in Waterford and is helping with the coaching side of things. "We also have the assistance of Maria Tierney, a teacher in St. John of God and her sister Teresa Murray and of course some of the students from the Recreational Management Course at W.I. T. give a hand." The club train every Thursday night from 7pm to 8.15 and during the cross-country season also train on Tuesday night. The cost is minimal, the children pay 1 per night to cover the cost of equipment, and the hire of the R.S.C., registration to Athletics Ireland costs just 5 annually. Although retaining the name Ferrybank A.C. the club now draws it's membership from allover the city as Brid Golden explained. "We seem to be attracting prospective athletes from allover the city, perhaps the move to the R.S.C. is a factor in this but we're delighted with the present level of interest in athletics."

Over the past two years Brid has seen the emergence of athletes with great potential like Sonya Kennedy and Dara Foley. "Sonya has enjoyed a fantastic season winning the shot putt and discus at the Irish Schools and Irish Club Championship. In addition she captained the Irish u I5 girl's team at the recent Celtic International in Wales and was also selected on the u l7 team for the school's international."


"Dara Foley, a very promising high-jumper had a brilliant indoor season and was picked to go the British 3A's where he finished third."

The club has seen the emergence of a very exciting prospect in Mairead Murphy who won three gold medals at the recent national championships. "Mairead competed under 12 and won the high jump, long jump and shot putt. In this age group the athletes are only allowed to compete in three events, Mairead is definitely a talent to watch out for."

Other medal winners at national level included Kelly Proper, Kalyn Sheehan, Gillian Rohan, Michelle Mc Carthy, the under 12 relay team Holly Kavanagh, Hayley Murphy, Kalyn Sheehan and Mairead Murphy and newcomers Sinead Donnelly who finished first in ulll high jump and her brother Ciaran who won gold at the Community Games Finals in u/10 hurdles, the only Waterford winner at this year's Community Games.

The club has also enjoyed an excellent year in Munster and Ferrybank is now ranked as one of

the top clubs in the Province.

"Last year we were the 16th best club at Munster level but this year we've seen a huge improvement and are now in the top six," Brid Golden explained.



Brid is especially enthusiastic about the under eight cross-country team who won at Munster

level this year. "Amy Brennan, Aisling O'Donoghue, Emily Hallissey, Gillian Walsh, Sophie Molloy and Ciara Murray were all on that team and they should also do very well in the future."

Although delighted that so many of the athletes are making a name for themselves at national and international level Brid is quick to point out that the most important aspect of training is

participation and enjoyment. "We really emphasize the fun aspect, not every child can be a medal winner but keeping them all involved and enjoying themselves is perhaps the greatest satisfaction."

For the past 20 years Ferrybank has hosted open sports, track and field in April and September and

cross-country in November. The events regularly attract the very best of talent from allover the Munster and South Leinster area. T.J. Kearns who went on to compete for Ireland won his first open hurdles at the Ferrybank sports. The Regional Sports Centre should be packed on Sunday next, September 16th for yet another sports day, a date that is never to be missed.

There's no doubt that the running of a modern athletic club takes up a huge amount of time and

calls for total commitment from those involved. The Hallissey Family have invested much of their leisure time in athletics over many years and fully deserve the success and strength of

Ferrybank A.C. New members will be catered for each Thursday evening at the Regional Sports Centre on the Cork road from 7pm onwards. Young children with an interest in athletics could do no better than join this progressive and successful club where Brid Golden and her team foster an understanding and deep enjoyment of a fantastic sport.