The following articles, from a publication on Wexford athletics, provide a good history of the origins and early days of the United Striders.
NEW ROSS Juvenile athletic club was established at a public meeting in the De Lare Hotel, New Ross in 1975. The meeting was organised by the then County Secretary of B.L.O.E. , Francis Murphy of Horetown. The late Fergus Coughlan was elected Chairman thereby establishing a link with Wexford and Garda athletics of earlier days. John Godkin was elected Secretary and Paddy Walsh was elected Treasurer, a position which was taken over by the late Mrs. Kitty Flannelly in 1976. The new club received great support from the townspeople and in particular from committee members Pat and Sheila Hamilton, Matt Flannelly (Snr), Billy Tench, Pat Kehoe and Frank and Celine Warren.
Much credit for the success of the club must go to the many local businesses whose sponsorship kept the club operating successfully. Also very much appreciated was the use of the Good Counsel College grounds and St.Mary’s Youth Centre for training purposes. Advice was always available from members of New Ross Senior club, in particular Phil Quigley, Emiel Heynen and John Delaney. Both clubs worked independently in those years but now compete under the banner of United Striders sporting the all black running strip made famous by the New Zealand athletes of the fifties and sixties. The New Ross based club is now fortunate to have its own running track and dressing rooms at Marshmeadows on a site made available by the New Ross and District Urban Council.
New Ross juveniles were a strong force in competition for about eight years. A cross country team of John Hamilton, Nicky Druhan, Paul Harrington, Andy Ronan, John Kehoe and John Darby finished second in the Leinster championships under thirteen and second in the All Ireland championships in 1976. In 1977 the same team won out the Leinster but on All Ireland day ” faith” took a hand – it was confirmation day for a number of the team. Martin Kehoe was dominant in the upper age groups at cross country and middle distance races and along with John Hamilton and Andy Ronan figured on many Leinster teams.
Also in cross country, Ted Flannelly established a record of winning the country championship in each age group from eleven to seventeen which has not been equalled since. Other prominent athletes were Raymond and David Warren, Andrew Foran and Aidan Moran in the sprints and Peter Bennett in the middle distance events. Prominent in a wide range of events was Jimmy McDonald who had a great natural talent for race walking in which he later represented his country at Olympic level. The club also had some very good athletes in the girls events particularly Marie Furlong, Jacqueline Bennett, Ann Cody and Bernie Cashin who all went on to compete in senior ranks while prominent in the juvenile competitions were Jane Kennedy, June Warren and Jane and Julie Walsh. For a couple of seasons the club had some very good relay teams and in one great afternoon’s sport captured six county titles at Bree Sportsfield.
The club faded somewhat from Juvenile competitions in the early eighties but the opportunity is now there again for the young athletes to develop their sporting ability under the United Striders banner and when one sees out training in the environs of New Ross, one wonders “is there gold in them thar hills” . The challenge is there to be met.
UNITED STRIDERS are, within the context of Athletics in Co. Wexford a relatively young club. It was formed in 1976 and came about as an amalgamation of the senior sections of Adamstown A.C and of, the then newly formed, New Ross A.C Both clubs had difficulties in fielding teams in senior cross-country competitions and a joining of forces seemed the best solution to the problem , a feeling which was reflected in the name chosen for the new senior outfit. Both Adamstown A.C and New Ross A.C remained in existence as B.L.O.E. clubs and kept their identity and the idea was that once their member left the B.L.O.E. ranks, they would join the senior club. At the outset the club relied heavily on the organisational structure and the manpower of the Adamstown section of the club, with Mick Murphy as chairman and Jim McGee as secretary. Success came quite quickly, when the ladies won the Co. c.c. Championships and came third in the Eastern Region championships. And this of course helped to strengthen the ties between the two sections; because after all the amalgamation was quite a new departure in the age-old divide between town and country. It must be said that there was never any sign of tension between the two groups, who gelled very well together and the idea of co-operation was soon to bear fruit in the creation of possibly the strongest senior club in cc and road racing in the county for the period 1981-87. The reason for this success was particularly noticeable in the 1981 season when Striders won all the mens’ cc and road championships with the exception of the senior cc and the ’82 season when they only missed out on the novice cup. With that kind of in depth strength it was no accident that the teams became difficult to beat in the following years. It was also around this period that the majority of the membership became New Ross based which in turn led to changes in personnel with people like Peter Duffy and J.J. Hoyne as secretary and Margaret Rossiter as cha irperson. The Adamstown connection was still present however with Mick Murphy as President. Key elements in this development were the fact that young promising talent like Peter Bennett, Marie Furlong, Andy Ronan, John Hamilton, Ted Flannelly and Jimmy McDonald, who had been nurtured by John Godkin through the B.L.O .E. ranks, were ready to get involved in senior competition, that John Delaney more or less convinced all his friends, sometimes entire families (the Cashins, the Bennetts) tbat running was good for them, while the running boom of the early eighties also brought the likes of Dick Boland and Matt Flannelly into the sport. Nicholas (junior) Cashin was the person who brought a group of young women together, who still today form the nucleus of the women’s team that has dominated cc and road running in the county in the eighties.
Of course success didn ‘t come without it’s share of suffering. Sunday morning runs of round 15 miles were the staple diet and there was always someone, who was “feeling good”, to make sure it wasn’t going to be an “easy run”. In the run up to the senior cc coaching courses were put to the test on the Wexford road , around the Barrowland and in Kennedy Park. These sessions were sometimes harder than the races themselves, because at that time you had to be very fit to even make the Striders team. In the 1983 cc championships for example Jacky Bennett and Ann Coady finished in 9th and 10th position overall, yet didn ‘t make the scoring team. On the same day Ted Flannelly finished in 13th position in the men’s race as last scorer, yet the team had on ly 6 points to spare over the D.M.P. team , a good indication of the close and dogged battles those teams fought out over country and road during these years.
Luckily it was’t all sweat and tears and the club was blessed with characters like John Delaney and Paddy Breen, who with their jokes and wit made sure people didn’t start taking things too seriously and that the club didn’t adopt a win-at-all-cost attitude. So the spirit didn ‘t really flag when from 1982 onwards the club started to experience, for a variety of reasons a gradual draining away of its talent. Andy Ronan and John Hamilton got scholarships to the Utd. States. Peter Duffy and John Donellan got transferred in their jobs. Injury began to take it’s toll (Junior and Billy Cashin) as well as emigration (John Delaney on a regular basis). Death didn’t spare the club either. We lost our best supporter when in 1983, Nan Murphy, wife of our club’s President, suddenly died and Shay Walshe, an athlete of great courage and generosity lost the unequal battle against a lingering and fatal disease in 1983 at 28 years of age.
So it was the women’s team that kept the flag flying in latter years, winning Co. Championships from 1982 onwards until this year. The nucleus of the original team of Kathleen Hamilton, Marie Furlong, Jackie Bennett and Deirdre Somers was gradually strengthened and replaced by Margaret and Bridget Rossiter, Bernie Walshe and Catherine Hennessy. The men’s team, although still incorporating fine individual talent like Matt Flannelly was gradually finding it difficult to field a team. So the idea, which had originally inspired it’s birth, now led to the club’s demise, when it was decided to once more join forces with other clubs in the area so as to be able to field a senior team. This led to the establishment of SDS, while the UTD Striders name still survives in the B.L.O.E. ranks. Life seems to have come full circle and hopefully some fine talent will come through again out of the present crop of young athletes in New Ross. The presence of the new Track in town will hopefully contribute to a strong and vibrant club in the New Ross area.
Over the years the club has had great individual talent in it’s ranks. Athletes like Andy Ronan and Jimmy McDonald who represented Ireland at international and Olympic level are featured elsewhere in the magazine. But a mention should be made of John Hamilton, who was All-Ireland U-21 1500m champion. Others to gain honours for the club at regional and National level with outstanding individual performances were Kathleen Hamilton, Catherine Hennessy, Ted Flannelly and Emiel Heynen as a veteran .
The following is a list of club members, who over the years won gold medals at county, regional and national level, as individuals or as members of a team : Billy Bennett, Jackie Bennett, Peter Bennett, Dick Boland, Bridget Bradley, Pauline Bradley, Paddy Breen, Bernie Byrne, Billy Cashin, Nicholas (Junior) Cashin, Ger Cashin, Joan Cloney, Ann Cody, Michael Connolly, Maurice Cummins, John Delaney, Rosie Delaney, John Donnellan, Nicky Druhan, Kay English, Matt Flannelly, Ted Flannelly, Marie Furlong, John Hamilton, Kathleen Hamilton, John Harington, Catherine Hennessy, Emiel Heynen, Pat Kelly, Linda Kidd, Jimmy McDonald, Ged McGuire, Michael O’Leary, Pat O’ Leary, Andy Ronan, Bridget Rossiter, Margaret Rossiter, Andy Rothwell, Deirdre Somers, Thomas Walsh, T.P. Walshe, M.J. Walsh, Kieran Walshe, Shay Walshe, Albert Gallagher, Margaret Kent.