Present Day - By Lisa Clarken

Westport AC is a growing club, which has new members joining each week, with 440 members, 330 of whom are Juveniles and 56 of the senior members are coaches.  There are training sessions three times a week.

The club has strong representations at all the Cross Country and Athletics Ireland events around the Country.  At the recent Mayo Evens Cross Country event which we hosted in Westport House on the 1st October 2023, over one hundred club members ran from 7 years old up to Seniors.

It was agreed by both the Juvenile and Senior Westport AC Committee's to launch a fundraising appeal for the installation of a tartan running track in the spring of 2023 spurred on by the imminent opening of the Sport Capital 2023 funding application.  Westport AC Development Committee was formed to look into the possibilities and funding for this endeavor. It was agreed that Westport AC, in conjunction with the other two clubs, Westport Squash Club and Westport United, who call Westport Sports Complex their home in Horkan's Hill, apply for funding for a tartan track in this tranche of funding. 

The Westport Community have overwhelming supported this effort with funds currently raised of over €158,000 since launching the appeal at the end of July 2023 (Our sponsors can be viewed here).  The Sport Capital application went in at the end of August and we are patiently awaiting word from this.  In the meantime, we are organising a host of fundraising events for the upcoming months to secure funding as there are other improvements the club wishes to implement in advance of the tartan track, not least of which is a wheelchair accessible footpath.  Our wish list also includes moveable goals, new set of hurdles, renovated toilet and changing room to be made wheelchair accessible.

The Sports Complex has been opened up to a host of different groups, Sacred Heart School, Rice College, Scoil Phadraig, Gaelscoil na Cruaiche, Holy Trinity and Carrowbeg Enterprises who are using the facilities each week.

For any further information or if you wish to get involved in helping the club achieve its goal, please email [email protected]

Club History - By Ernie Deacy

Westport Athletics Club was formed in 1979 and the track was laid around the football pitch in 1983 forming part of what has been known since as the ‘Sports Complex’ in Horkans Hill, Westport.

The Early Years

The club gradually developed through the eighties both in the number of the athletes attracted and in reputation. Two very  famous athletes who were members of Westport Athletics Club during this period were the Joyce sisters whose ancestors came from Aughagower and Tourmakeady, but were born and brought  up in England. Between them they broke every Senior Irish record from the mile to the marathon, and they both competed for Ireland in the 1984 Olympic Games. In fact Regina held a world best for the 1500m by a 15- year old, until the very famous Mary Decker, an American who won several Olympic and world gold medals during her career, bettered it.

During the late eighties and early nineties the club became predominantly a juvenile club and has remained so up to the present time. Around this time the club had one of its most successful periods when a remarkably talented group of athletes represented the club over a period of three years. The pick of these were Alan McLoughlin, Brian Langan, Dermot Flynn and Paddy O’Toole. This quartet won numerous All Ireland gold medals, set a number of all Ireland records in field events and relays as well as winning medals in the prestigious British AAA’s Championships. Indeed a tribute to the quality of their performances is the fact that the long jump mark of 6m 10cm by, Alan McLoughlin as a 14- year old boy stood as an Irish record for more than ten years and Brian Langan reached a remarkable 1m83cm in the high jump also at the age of 14- years old. The success of these athletes spurred others on during the early nineties to win All Ireland Championships such as Eilish Cunningham in hurdles, Sinead Kelly in javelin, Nigel Madden in the walk, and Paul Mulroy in the triple jump.

The Middle Years

The track was re-laid in 1995.  Eamonn Coughlan was invited down to reopen the track, which he duly did in October of that year. It was a memorable weekend of celebrations and in spite of it all, Eamonn togged out on the Sunday and ran a 4 minute and 48 second mile on the track, which the club is proud to have as a stadium record to this day.

However everything works in cycles and during 1998 and 1999 the number of registered athletes dropped off dramatically, success in championships was nil and the club was at a very low ebb. The resurgence of the club was in no small way due to the fact that in 1994, a tall skinny 9-year old girl from 5 miles beyond Tourmakeady joined the club. She was obviously keen on athletics because she made the long journey to Westport and back twice a week for training. This girl was of course Sharon Heveran. Sharon won her first All- Ireland medal at the age of 14 in the high jump and over the next five years she became the most successful under age athlete ever to have come out of Westport Athletics Club. She won a total of 28 All- Ireland medals, juvenile and junior medals, including 15 individual gold. She was also ranked number one ladies high jumper in the country in 2003 at the age of 18, and represented her country at home and abroad on numerous occasions. Her highest jump as an 18 year old was 1m 80cm. Such was Sharon’s all round talent that she won All- Ireland gold in no less than four disciplines- the high jump, long jump, hurdles and multi-events.

The 2000's

In the meantime, no doubt spurred on by Sharon’s exploits, a number of very talented athletes came up through the ranks to win All- Ireland gold medals. They were Michelle O’Malley and Maria Harrington in the high jump, Katie Hyland in the long jump, Pamela Hughes in the high jump and 800m, Conall McNamara in the 400m, Cian McManamon in the walk, Laimonas Ruibys in the shot, Tom Applett in the Javelin and Nigel Madden in the walk.

In 2004 a member of Westport Athletics Club who hailed from Achaill, Conall McNamara, represented Ireland in the Athens Paralympic Games, He performed magnificently with the eyes of the world on him, taking a silver medal in the 400m sprint, which was just reward for the many hours of training and hard work he had put in over the previous years.

2005 saw 16 year old Pamela Hughes qualify for the European Youth Olympics and the World Youth Championships with a mark of 1m 76cm and she went on to be placed a magnificent 6th in Europe. Pamela is a fine all-round athlete having won All- Ireland medals at cross-country, on the track, 800m and her favoured event, the high jump.

In 2006 Sharon Heveran competed in the Senior Championships of Ireland multi-events, winning the silver medal, but the best was yet to come. On Saturday 18th of February, history was made when Sharon became the first home produced athlete from Westport Athletic Club to win a National Senior Title. At the age of 20 she won the Ladies Senior High Jump title in the odyssey, Belfast, and to add to the uniqueness of the occasion the silver medal went to Pamela Hughes to make it a double celebration for the Club. This underlined the strong tradition of high jumping that has built up at the club over the past eight years.

In 2007 High Jumper Sharon Heveran came tenth in the European U-23 Championships and in 2008 Pamela Hughes competed in the World Junior championships in Poland, qualified for the final pool in the Ladies High Jump and ended up a magnificent 13th in the World.

To complete the Roll of Honour of All-Ireland Champions produced by the club who won gold, there is Jenny Hughes(High Jump), Katie Hyland(Hurdles and Combined Events), Aoife King(Race Walking), Sarah Lavelle and Allannah Gannon( Team Long Jump) Caoimhe King(Triple Jump and Long Jump) and Niamh McLoughlin(Shot).

It is also worth mentioning that the club can boast a number of very impressive club records. For instance Sharon Heveran holds the girls U-19 High Jump record at 1m80cm and the senior record at 1m86cm. Pamel Hughes high jumped 1m 76cm at U17, Brian Langan 1m 83cm at U15 and Alan McLoughlin long jumped 6m10cm at U15. The boys U16 record for the shot in 15m22cm by Laimonas Ruibys and Tom Amphlett holds the boys U19 record with 53m95cm. Caoimhe King holds the girls U16 triple jump record with 11m31cm and the U17 record with a distance of 11m73cm which was achieved in the Schools finals and not only did this mark break the girls Intermediate record but equalled the Senior record of Mary McLoone set in the year 2000.

In 2007 Westport ranked an impressive 9th out of 266 registered atheltic clubs in Ireland.


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