The following is an article about Bree Athletic Club which was included in the book "WEXFORD ATHLETICS" published in 1989 by Wexford County Boards of B.L.E. and B.L.O.E.
Athletics has been a way of life in Bree parish for a long number of years. From the 1930's many stories are told of men like Jimmy Carton, Gerald Clancy and Paddy Broaders performing notable feats in 100 and 220 yard events throughout the county. In the mid 1950s the then curate of Bree, Fr. Ml. O'Regan C.C. formed a club which took part in a number of Cross Country Championships. The only notable success was John Curtis winning the Co Novice title in 1955. The duration of the club was short however, perhaps the reason being that all athletes involved, were also leading members of the Ballyhogue Football Team -Co. Junior Champions of that year.
The present Bree Athletic Club was founded by Tony Green and Dan Walsh in May 1970. From a humble beginning, nursed along by Tony as Chairman, Dan as Secretary and Treasurer Frank Dunne, the club grew in strength and were soon a formidable force in Wexford athletics. The first success of a registered Bree athlete came in August 1970 when Bridie Dempsey won the 100 yards event at the Oylegate Open Sports.
Early years of Bree Athletic Club. Although perhaps better known nowadays for its achievements in B.L.O.E. circles, Bree Athletic Club in its early years of existence had remarkable success in Track and Field and Cross Country events. In 1972, the Bree team of the Tomfarney brothers, Michael and Pat O'Leary, Dessie Nolan and Tommy Kehoe won the county novice Cross Country Championship with Michael O'Leary taking the individual award. Michael repeated this feat in the Intermediate event, with the team taking the runner up position. Other top class runners in the Bree colours in those years were Seamus Denton, Peter Kehoe, Willie Green, Jimmy Kennedy, Jimmy Broaders and Johnny Denton.
In Track and Field, Pat O'Leary had many brilliant wins in middle distance events. He was placed second in the 400m, 800m and 1500m of 1971. He followed this by winning the 800m and 1500m of 1972. Two other successful athletes with Bree Athletic Club at that time were Peadar Kehoe and John Roche who later made athletic headlines with Enniscorthy and S.B.R. clubs.
B.L.O.E. With the formation of new clubs and the re-organisation of others in adjoining areas, a number of athletes went their separate ways but fortunately for the club, a number of young athletes were coming on the scene. Early successes by Stella Byrne in Rural Schools, Bridie Dempsey, Anne Dempsey and Eileen Byrne in Community Games in 1972 augured well for the future. In 1973, those four athletes along with Brideen O'Rourke, Assumpta Crean, Maura Byrne and Mary Shannon were to establish themselves as top class athletes at county level. Mary Shannon and Eileen Byrne were later to compete successfully at Provincial and National levels. Mary Shannon must rate as one of Wexford's best ever juvenile athletes. She is the proud holder of 29 Co. Championships, 12 Leinster and three All-Ireland medals under B.L.O.E. rules. Mary also has in her medal collection, ten county titles and two All-Ireland medals in Community Games. She was also a member of that brilliant relay team of Eileen Byrne, Imelda Kanvangh, Paula Kavangah and in later years Caroline Kelly, that were undefeated at county level from 1973 to 1979. This team won many Leinster events and the All Ireland U12 title in 1975. Brideen O'Rourke was the only athlete of that era to take part in B.L.E. Championship and won many competitions in the high jump event.
By 1979, under the guidance of Peter Byrne, Peter Shannon, Tony Green and Paddy Sheridan, Bree had become one of Wexford's top juvenile athletic clubs. Names such as Peter Shannon, Malachy Sheridan, Mary Green, Margaret Cloke, Peter Byrne, Jim Byrne, David Reck, Brendan Winters, Barbara Sinnott, Dolores Kavanagh, Patsy Green, Paul Nolan and Anne Marie Byrne had made athletic headlines in rural schools, Community Games and B.L.O.E. Championships. This was not alone in Co. Wexford but also at provincial level, with a number of them winning National honours. The Secretary's report of 1979 showed the club had a total of 95 registered athletes and their achievements included a staggering total of eighteen Co. Community Games, 78 Co. Championships, six Leinster and two All-Ireland medals. The two National medal winners were Peter Shannon and Malachy Sheridan.
The 1980s The 4x100 relay was, and in fact still is one of the great features of Bree Athletic Club. At training sessions relays always found favour with the athletes and most training in the club was done through the running of relay races. In 1981, seven relay teams travelled to the Leinster Club Championships in Tullamore and they recorded three firsts, three seconds and one third. The U14 girls team of Mary Green, Margaret Cloke, Dolores Kavanagh and Barbara Sinnott went on to take third place in the All-Ireland of that year. Other National relay medal winners were the boys team of Peter Shannon, Peter Byrne, David Reck and Jim Byrne third place in Mosney in 1983. Peter Shannon, Peter Byrne, Bobby Carthy and Donal Donovan were U17 silver medal winners in Limerick in 1984. Also in 1984, with Malachy Sheridan replacing Donal Donovan they gained third place in the Junior B.L.E. final in Cork.
Some top class athletes Apart from relays, there were many top class performers in the club. By the time he had reached the age of fourteen years, Malachy Sheridan had established himself as one of the country's leading athletes. A brilliant all rounder, he won Lenister medals in sprinting, hurdles, long jump and shot putt. It was in the pole vault event that he really excelled and through the coaching of Fr. Ml. Lavelle while a student in Rockwell College, he broke many records in College and B.L.O.E. Championships. He also competed at International level.
Peter Shannon was another who was capable of competing at all levels of athletics. He is Mary's brother and a son of Peter Snr. (well known to athletic followers). His brilliant sprinting ability gained him numerous medals and trophies. Peter represented Wexford in Mosney on eight separate occasions. winning three bronze medals. He also holds two National B.L.O.E. runner up medals for the 80m event.
A young star to arrive on the scene in the early 80s was Paul Nolan, another allrounder with talent in abundance. He won All Ireland gold medals in the 80m and Long Jump in 1980. He repeated his Long Jump success in 1981 also taking the runner up medal in the 70m Hurdles. He also holds silver National Community Games medals for the sprint in 1978 and 1980.
Joseph Carley first came to prominence in 1982 with a fourth place in the Long Jump in Mosney. The following year this talented athlete had a magnificent season winning nine County and three Leinster titles. He was also placed third in the All Ireland Long Jump competition.
Form 1980 to 1984 Bree club members won a total of eighteen All-Ireland, twelve National Community Games, 145 Leinster and 498 Co. Championship medals. This was a remarkable achievement for a club which competes in Track and Field competitions only. Athletes who contributed in no small way to that collection at Leinster and All-Ireland level apart form those already mentioned were Peter Byrne, Mary Green, Margaret Cloke, Barbara Sinnott, Dolores Kavanagh, Catherine Byrne, David Reck, Jim Byrne, Patsy Green, David Byrne, Laurence Byrne, Lorcan Wickham and that fine relay team of Marie Byrne, Nuala Byrne, Mairead Nolan and Margaret Hartigan.
1984-1989 The middle years of the decade also witnessed some great sprinting and jumping performances from athletes such as Siobhan Moloney, Catherine Byrne, Maria Byrne, Aidan Cox, Robert Reck and Kieran Morrissey. Siobhan Moloney first came to notice in 1984 by winning the U14 Long Jump in Mosney. She capped a great juvenile career with a silver medal win in the All-Ireland Long Jump in 1986. Siobhan repeated that feat in 1987, a year in which she also took the gold medal in the National Javelin Championship. Those performances gained for Siobhan Moloney the prestigious Bank Of Ireland Athlete of the Year Award. Aidan Cox won a silver and bronze medal in the All-Ireland U13 80m and Long Jump respectively.
Success in throwing events became very prominent in 1985 with Hughie Kinsella winning a National bronze in the U13 Discus. He followed this with a third place in the Hammer. An all rounder, he qulaified for successive All-Irelands in Shot Putt, Discus, Javelin and Hammer events. He won bronze medals in the Shot Putt in 1988 and 1989. John Colloton following in his fathers, (Mayler) footsteps has won All-Ireland silvers in the National Discus competition in 1987 and 1988. He also won numerous Leinster and Co. titles in Javelin and Shot Putt. His brother Tom also won an All-Ireland bronze in the Discus in 1989. Not to be outdone by his older brother Malachy, Donagh Sheridan, won All-Ireland titles in the Pole Vault as well as coming second in the British A.A.A. Indoor Championship. Other promising young throwers coming up through the ranks at that stage were Angela Cloney and Brenda Thompson.
Pride of place for 1989 must be given to Soibhan Moran, winner of the gold medal for the U15 Javelin, with a great throw of 33.06m. She was also selected for the Irish team to compete at the Celtic International Games in Wales. Although operating for many years as a juvenile club, Bree at that time had athletes competing at Junior and Senior level. Although still competing as juveniles, a number of those athletes received high rankings at National level at Junior & Senior level. The future of Bree Athletic Club is assured by the steady stream of young athletes joining the club. Names such as Simon Ring and Declan Cloney, bronze medal winners in Mosney 1989, Peter Kavanagh, dual gold medal winner in Leinster 1989 Championships. Fiona Cowman, Jason O'Brien, Sinead O'Leary, Suzanne Doyle, Aine Moriarty, Lucy Browne, Mary Redmond, Justin Browne, Robert Ring, Ciara Browne, Elaine Kinsella, Valerie Vaughan, Breda Keane, Liam Redmond, Catriona Leacy, Colm Moriarty, Tomas Moriarty, John Carty, Lorraine Leacy and many others will carry the Bree colours well into the 1990s.
These athletes, coupled with officers such as Paddy Sheridan, Paul Kinsella, Peter Shannon, Aidan Moore, Nicky Cowman, Peter Byrne and founder member Tony Green, with the co-operation of parents and supporters, guarantee that Bree Athletic Club will be there for many, many years to come. It is not an easy to cover adequately nineteen years of Bree Athletic Club in this short article. It is not easy to pay full tribute to the many athletes who wore the Bree AC blue and white singlet with pride and distinction. We hope this publication will revive happy memories for athletes and parents alike who found many new friends on the running fields of Wexford and beyond.