A magical weekend planned 51 weeks in advance

Saturday afternoon, the heats of the girls U10 200m. Showtime for the Crossan family.

Demi Crossan, draped in the green and gold of Donegal, walks nonchalantly to the starting block, her involvement hugely significant in the continuation of a 35-year family tradition.

The nine-year old fails to advance from the opening round, but her placing is immaterial. The Letterkenny sprinter, along with the rest of her family, will return to the midlands next summer, and the summer after that and the summer after that.

The Crossans aren’t one of those families emblematic of the Community Games. They are Community Games. Demi’s grandparents Michael and Mary first dipped their toes at local level in 1978, moving up the ranks in the ensuing years to the position of County managers, ranks they still hold to this present day.

Indeed, Mary was bestowed the honour of presenting medals to various winners throughout the weekend.

In any event, their son Sean was part of the Letterkenny U12 soccer team that reached the national finals in 1983 and so to Mosney they went. Bronze was secured on that occasion, Sean carrying the distinction of bringing the first Community Games medal into the Crossan household, usurped, however, by his sister Helena who won gold in the soccer in 1989, with Ann Marie adding to the family’s medal collection in 1991 with a further bronze on the soccer field.

Three decades on, Sean, his wife Bernie, Michael and Mary are still returning to the national finals, the third generation of Crossan’s now fully established on the Community Games scene.

In truth, it was only a matter of time before Sean and Bernie’s three daughters, Arlene, Laura and Demi, made their own mark, the living room of their Letterkenny home awash with pictures of past outings in Mosney.

Mind you, this latest crop have greatly swelled the family’s medal haul.

Arlene is competing on the national stage for the seventh consecutive year and only once did she return north without a medal in the back pocket. On Sunday, second place in the U16 triple jump was annexed, adding to the one gold, two silver and two bronze captured across the long jump, sprint and relay events in recent years.

Younger sister Laura, having participated every August since the switch from Mosney, was out of luck in U14 800m and U13 mixed relay, but has medalled in previous sojourns.

In short, the Crossan’s year revolves around this weekend. A couple of summers back, Arlene was selected to play in the exhibition match at half-time in Croke Park during the All-Ireland football semi-final. Only problem was that it coincided with Community Games. The decision was an easy one.

Indeed, once Sean manages to get hold of an official programme on the Friday evening, he is instantly swarmed by the three girls, each one keen to find out who will provide the competition over the weekend. For Arlene and Laura, almost veterans of the Games at this stage, it is the same faces that return year after year.

“Once they see me coming they are looking at the programme to see are the same girls still there,” Sean laughed. “You do need the bite, you do need the hunger. This is an important weekend for us.”

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