FOR a club that has produced nine Olympians and four Paralympians in its 50-year history, it was appropriate that six of those were present on Saturday to cut the tape for the official opening of the Leevale High Performance Centre at Farranlea Road.
One of the club’s most decorated athletes – three-time World Indoor champion Marcus O’Sullivan – spoke passionately of the vision and dedication evident since his young days which has now come to fruition with this state-of-the art complex.
“The one thing that was present to me from the start was leadership.
"I always had this sense there was a body of men looking after us, not just in the running sense but in growth and development.
"They taught us how to respect our competitors, the taught us humility but they also wanted us to win at the same time.
"But the thing that struck me as I got older is the tenderness they had, but at the same time the vision they had.”
That vision was also alluded to by Leevale president, Finbarr O’Brien, one of the founding members of the club.
“It took 50 years of effort, but the dream never died,” stated Mr O’Brien, who went on to document the early days of Hilltown AC, the forerunner to the club, to the many successes achieved by Leevale over the past half-century.
John Treacy, CEO of Sport Ireland, said it was an absolute pleasure for him to be present.
“My connections with Leevale are all about the great friendships formed over the years.
"I was looking at the wall and saw the nine Olympians and that’s some achievement.
"I’m delighted as well that Leevale AC is vibrant with 700 members and people can walk into the club and get support and get guidance from the volunteers and that’s really what it’s all about.”
Lord Mayor, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, said the contribution made to the life of the city by Leevale was huge.
“Not only on the local stage but on the international stage as well.
"It’s a credit to them that now, in their 50th celebration, they are advancing to this magnificent centre which will give young people in particular an opportunity to excel in their skills and talents on the world and Olympic stage.”
Funded entirely by the club, mainly from the proceeds of the sale of its previous premises on Dalton’s Avenue, the centre has a main hall of Mondo surface which is temperature and climate-controlled and incorporates a sprints and hurdles straight.
It also comes with a fully equipped free weights gym, specifically designed and tailored to meet the strength and conditioning requirements of athletes.
The club has also invested in technology to bring sports science to athletes and coaches, including speedgates, treadmills with VO2 max and an embedded force plate (at a cost of €20,00) for the measurement of force direction and contact time for jumping events.
Simon Coveney, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said there were very few clubs in the country, outside of the universities, who could boast of such facilities.
“It’s a real tribute to how this club is being run and how the finances have been managed cleverly that funding an €1.8 million from your own funds is an extraordinary feat in itself.
"This says an awful lot about where this club is going, and where it’s come from.”
Current chairman, Donal Murnane, along with giving a brief history of the club, paid tributes to all who had made the dream possible.
“After 50 years of success, which has lived up to the founding members’ dreams and ambitions, I think it is appropriate that the clubhouse is officially opened by the athletes who have been icons of the club during that period.”