History - Dunleer AC

Dunleer A.C.  Established in 1896
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Rás na hÉireann

The History of Rás na hÉireann

Founded in 1970 in Dunleer, this event, Rás na hÉireann has elevated to become one of the top International cross country events on the calendar. To date 43 countries have competed, the only International cross country event held annually in Ireland. The programme caters for Special Olympic category athletes, juveniles under 9 to 19 years, junior, senior and masters athletes.

Some people might remember that first day in January 1970 when over 50 senior competitors marched from the Parochial Hall to the famous Athclare castle course owned by the Sloan family. The race was won by local man Micky Johnston from 3 time winner Willie Keane from Clare. A few names still associated with the Rás are élite athlete co-ordinator Charlie Breagy and the winner of the boys under 10 winner in 1970, and Colm Rennicks from Bohermeen who won the boys under 16 race that day and still competes in the Rás. 1975 saw the first International athletes from France take part. From there that Rás took off and we have had World and Olympic Champions testing the green pastures of the wee County since in Charles Kamathi and Million Wolde. Since 1970 the Ras has been held at 6 venues within the County.

Catherina Mc Kiernan, one of Ireland's best cross country athletes ever: a world silver medallist 4 times, and a gold medallist at the European Cross Country Championships in the 1990's was the most popular winner of the ladies race ever (1998).

For the 40th celebration in 2009, the Rás had a surprise for the people of Louth, with the participation of Keith Kelly. Keith, from Drogheda, a Providence College USA graduate and NCAA Champion in 2000, won the irish National Senior Cross Country title in 2009.

In April 2010, Louis Duffin, PRO for Rás na hÉireann sadly passed away. His daughter Jacqueline had taken over as Rás Director in 2009 when asked by Larry as his health was in decline. Together with Charlie Breagy, Louis, Larry, Jacqueline and their Rás committee, a sub committee of Dunleer AC had managed the Rás from the Centenary year of the Club in 1996. They recognised the fantastic amenity that exists in Oldbridge and brought the Rás to this fantastic venue where it has been lauded one of the best cross country venues in Europe. Carl Dunne was the first winner of the Louis Duffin Memorial Cup as the first Dunleer AC man home in 2011, while Martin Quinn won the Cup in 2012.

Our thoughts at this time of year are on those who worked so hard to build up the Rás and are no longer with us, people such as Louis as mentioned, but also the Father of Athletics in County Louth, the late great Larry Mc Guill.

The Rás na hÉireann was of particular importance in 2012 when Dunleer Athletic Club celebrated the life of long time Rás Director Larry Mc Guill, who sadly passed away during the summer of 2011. Rás 2012 was called the Larry Mc Guill Rás na hÉireann in Larry's honour and a special 3km run was held at the end of the programme so that all of Larry's friends could run together and remember the "Big Happy Larry Man" as he was christened by James Kariuki. Larry's family presented the Larry Mc Guill Memorial Cup to Landon Peacock from the USA who was the winner of the Rás.

Our thanks must go to all the sponsors who have supported the event over the years which is now part sponsored by the Irish Sports Council and supported by former world cross country champion John Treacy. Coca Cola has always been a great support also as have local businesses over the years. The support of local people and athletics fans is very important to us and we hope to continue this great tradition with your help.

List of Past Winners Here

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