THE chairman of the Clare Athletics Association has called for funding to be made available to local authorities to ensure that the Lees Road athletics track can be upgraded to play host to major events in the future.
In making the call, Michael Lillis has told The Clare People that the Lees Road facility is “a magnificent arena”, but “a bit of a disaster” because it lacks the necessary facilities to enable senior athletics in the county to be showcased at a provincial or national stage.
“We had two Munster championships in Clare in 2012 – on the track at Lees Road at underage level and the cross country in Dromoland,” said Lillis, “and the county has a very good reputation for running things well, but we don’t get a chance to hold major track events because really as regards athletics, Lees Road is a bit of a disaster.
“It is a magnificent arena and Clare athletes can get in there, but there isn’t equipment there that we badly need, so it means that Clare can never play host to a full-blown championship.”
Mr Lillis made his comments as the Clare Athletics Association played host to its 13th annual ‘Clare Sports Star’ Awards in the Auburn Lodge Hotel on Friday night last when awards were presented to athletes in all age-groups and classes.
“They spend €1.5m on the track, but didn’t put in any equipment you need to have full track and field events. They didn’t finish it off properly. There’s no pole vault, no high jump, no hurdles. We are limited to the amount of practice that we can do,” he added.
In highlighting these deficiencies, the chairman has revealed that the Clare County Board has made efforts to source funding to complete the Lees Road project, but that government agencies have refused to allocate money.
“As a county board we applied for a grant to buy equipment, but we were turned down because Lees Road got a big grant before,” he revealed. “You spend €1.5m on a track but no more, when €70,000 or €80,000 would equip it and finish it off and enable senior events to be staged there.
“At the moment we can only hold competitions from under 13 down. We had to borrow a high jump to hold our own championships at Lees Road,” Mr Lillis added.
For more see our 8-page pull-out special on the Clare Athletics Association Sports Star Awards in The Clare People or visit our Digital Edition.