It was an historic day for Hollymount. There was a real buzz about the village as the 50th Anniversary International road races took place on Sunday. Conditions on the day were tough to say the least. It was a day for digging in, supporting, enduring and above all celebrating a unique event in Irish athletics. For a race that was 'baptised' in 1966, uisce played a big part in the day, not least during the short flood on the Kilrush loop. It never dampened the enthusiasm or enjoyment of participants, and reminded us that sport reveals the greatest of the human spirit. And we needed that reminder after recent events.
It was fitting that the women's 6k race was won by one of Ireland's greatest athletes, Catherina McKiernan. Her name will be added to the illustrious roll call of men and women winners at Hollymount when the plaque is inscribed and erected in the village. McKiernan had Regina Casey (a winner in 2006 and 2013 ) for company in the lead for most of the race but took off with 800 metres to go to win in 21:41. Liz Egan from Liverpool has been on the podium a few times over the years and she finished third. It was good preparation for her ahead of the upcoming Irish cross country trials. Egan was followed home by five Mayo AC athletes. Edel Reilly in fourth returned from Vancouver for a short visit and family reunion to add to the Reilly celebrations. Pauline Moran finished seventh and won the W50 category having competed for the Irish masters team at Santry 24 hours earlier. And her Irish team mate Mags Glavey was there also, still on a high, having led the W65 team to gold and an individual bronze in the Masters Home International. Between them Mary and Kathy Gleeson battled it out as they have in a number of races this year finishing fifth and sixth respectively.
Matt Bidwell (GCH ) became the 50th Hollymount winner. He won the 10kin 33.10 - a great time in the conditions, and his second victory in the event. Another former winner Gerry Ryan turned up, and on the back of very little training finished fourth and first M50 in a very creditable 34:30. He was three places ahead of another M50 and four-time Hollymount winner in the 1990s Olympian Noel Berkeley. Regular Liverpool visitor Alan Ashton was first M40 and sixth overall.
Throughout the fields there were athletes from clubs near and far paying homage to Hollymount history, and for many revisiting the scene of many great days in the past. Among them were Brian Geraghty, Danny Carr, Bernie Kelly, Martin McEvilly from GCH, Ian Egan from Tuam AC, former winner John Kelly (1986 ) from Whiston, a bunch of Athenry ACs led home by Mick Rice, and of course that great local woman Josephine Gardner (Macken ) a keen Hollymount competitor and organiser down through the years.
Among many other former winners in attendance were - PJ Leddy, (1966 ) Tom Flanagan (1967 ), Mick Molloy (1968 ), Mick Hayden (1971 ), and Michael Casey (1988 ) .The 50th Anniversary booklet "the story of one of the oldest races in Ireland", edited and produced by Neil Chester will be a valued memento of the occasion.
Sean Reilly, Marie Healy, and their team and volunteers organised another great day. They have the involvement and support of the whole community. In addition, the contingent who continue to make the annual trip from Liverpool make that vital connection. Hollymount Roadrace is much more than a sporting event. It is about people - a traditional race and a real community event - well worth preserving to ensure the enduring legacy of Tom Reilly for years to come.