Cranford Athletic Club stalwart Eamonn Giles will become the 46th inductee into the Donegal Sports Star Hall of Fame when the Virtual Awards take place on Friday the 28th of January. It is fitting that in the year that he turns 80 Giles is being honoured for six decades of dedication to the sport of athletics. His name is already written into the history books of Donegal athletics as a founding member of the first club in the county in the winter of 1961.
That was a remarkable achievement for a 19-year-old who drove the project and overcame a series of obstacles on that journey. Eamon didn’t do it on his own and he is anxious to emphasise that. The late Jim Hunter is one man who certainly comes into that category. It was a two-man committee of Giles and Hunter when the club was officially affiliated to the Ulster Athletics Board in December 1961. “To be receiving this Hall of Fame is really a great honour for me. I never expected to get it. I know the likes of Patsy McGonagle a great friend of mine got the Sports Star Hall of Fame before so I am really pleased to get this award.”
By the time Cranford AC was officially affiliated to the Ulster Athletics Board, Giles had already been building teams to compete. Milford men Paddy Marley and the late Hugo Duggan were key signings. Patsy McGonagle who went on to found Finn Valley joined up along with the McDaid brothers Danny and Neily and the Hunters Bill and Jim. A lot of local young men bought into the Giles dream and it led to a string of success in the 1960s and 70s first at junior and then senior level in Ulster. The ladies became a big part of the Cranford AC story and they hit the headlines big time in the early 1980s with a couple of provincial team titles while Rose Gavaghan won the Ulster senior individual cross-country race a remarkable three years in a row (1981-83). Another woman Bridie Trearty went on to represent her country in the Masters category.
Rose Gavaghan has been a stalwart of the club ever since and is a key member of the Cranford coaching team along with Ernie McElhinney. The club has for many years now focused almost exclusively on juvenile athletes and that has brought some great days in competition at county, provincial and national level. Oisin Kelly (Kilmacrennan) and Caolan McFadden (Creeslough) are two of the current bunch of young athletes who have excelled.