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History - Louth CC 1958


St Peter's AC was formed in September 1955 and just two years later the young club had an excellent group of cross country runners. Inspired by reading about the training regime of the legendary Czech long distance runner of the 1950s, Emil Zatopek, the St Peter's athletes had switched from running on the local roads to running on grass in the fields of local farms. This turned out to be a wise move, as the athletes built their fitness without enduring the punishing impact of the harder road surfaces.

During the winter of 1957-58 an internal cross country league was held within the club, as the athletes prepared for the county championships at Mountpleasant, which were scheduled for Sunday 2nd February 1958. The home club, Mountpleasant AC, was aiming for an incredible tenth successive county team title, with a winning streak dating back to 1949.

Between seventy and eighty men faced the starter for the eight mile race that day. There was no women's race, as women's athletics in Ireland was practically non-existent back then. Ahead of the large field lay some heavy ground, as there had been plenty of rain in the days leading up to the championships. A large crowd of spectators was also present, as was customary in the days before regular TV broadcasts of leading international sports events.

Less than three quarters of an hour later, as the athletes began to approach the finish line, the watching crowd knew that the team race would be very close. The individual gold medal went to Seán Callan of Ferdia AC in Ardee, who raced home some 200 yards clear. But St Peter's Hughie O'Connor put down a marker to his club's north Louth rivals by beating Mountpleasant's Tom Litchfield to the line in the duel for the silver and bronze medals.

Another St Peter's athlete, James McKeown, was just behind the individual medallists, as he finished in fourth place. Joe McCann in seventh and Paddy O'Connor in eighth also produced great performances to finish high up the field. St Peter's six-man scoring team was completed by Paddy Healy and 14-year-old Felix McKeown, who had originally intended just to run the first few miles as preparation for the following weekend's Louth Youths' Championships.

Willie Reilly, better suited to shorter distance races, also completed the eight mile event. Tommy Neary had been forced to retire shortly after to the start due to an injury sustained while playing in a Gaelic football match the previous Sunday. 16-year-old Noel Carroll also started the race, but just ran the early part of the race, as, like Felix, he was preparing for the Louth Youths' Championships.

When the results were tabulated, the St Peter's AC team emerged victorious by a narrow margin, with 63 points to Mountpleasant's 66. Ferdia AC was some way back in third place.

Unfortunately, despite this great victory for a club which had only been existence for a short time, a decline in St Peter's fortunes followed soon afterwards. By the 1960s the club was defunct, but thankfully was re-established in 1986. The second incarnation of the club has now lasted much longer than the first. Although the great cross country success of 1958 has not yet been repeated, the club has celebrated many track and field successes in recent years. And, unlike during the 1950s, athletics is now a very popular sport for females.