A long-term vision has finally become a reality for the impressive Cork athletics club.
Before a gathering of dignitaries and present and former stars, the Leevale Athletic Club High Performance Centre on Farranlea Road was officially opened on Saturday by seven of the club’s Olympians and Paralympians.
In what must be one of the few such centres anywhere to be entirely funded from a club’s own resources, it has a main hall of Mondo surface which is temperature and climate-controlled and incorporates a sprints and hurdles straight and also comes with a fully-equipped free weights gym.
The club has also invested in technology to bring sports science to athletes and coaches, including speedgates, treadmills with VO2 max measure and an embedded force plate for the measurement of force direction and contact time for jumping events.
The funds came in the main from the sale of Leevale’s previous premises, which prompted Simon Coveney, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to say that there were very few clubs in the country, outside of the universities, who could boast of such a facility.
“It’s a real tribute to how this club is being run and how the finances have been managed cleverly that funding an €1.8 million from your own funds is an extraordinary feat in itself. This says an awful lot about where this club is going, and where it’s come from.”
Probably the club’s most decorated athlete, three-time World Indoor champion Marcus O’Sullivan, spoke passionately of the vision and dedication evident since his young days which has now come to fruition with this state-of-the art complex.
“The one thing that was present to me from the start was leadership. They taught us how to respect our competitors, the taught us humility but they also wanted us to win. But the thing that struck me as I got older is the tenderness they had, but at the same time the vision they had.”
That vision was alluded to by Leevale president, Finbarr O’Brien, one of the founding members: “It took 50 years of effort, but the dream never died,” stated Mr O’Brien.
Lord Mayor, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, said the contribution made to the life of the city by Leevale was huge. “Not only on the local stage but on the international stage as well.”
Current chairman, Donal Murnane paid tribute to all who had made the dream possible, especially the coaches and one name that was mentioned with the highest affection over the afternoon was that of Donie Walsh, a founding member and 1972 Olympian and now the club’s leading distance coach.
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