Looking back … it all began in 1999, when Mayo AC decided to organise a series of Tuesday evening low key races confined to members in various parts of the county to provide competition. It was then called the Summer League, it had no prize fund and the races attracted about 15 to 20 participants. Seamus Breslin and Anne Lennon were virtually unbeatable in those days and claimed a number of league titles. Ann also won the mayo sports star for athletics on 3 occasions, She is still a key member of the mayo ac ladies team .
In 2001, Paddy Murray one of Mayo’s greatest distance runners ever returned to his form of the nineties and took the men’s league title while Ballina based Clare woman Anne Moran took the women’s title. As the league began to grow Ian Egan and a few of the GCH lads used to travel down and run it as guests, it was only fitting that Ian won it in 2002 when the league was opened up to all.
2003 was the year of the O’ Connors. Anglela who had just returned to live in her native mayo was in top form while Michael of GCH took the men’s title. In recent years Michael has gone to take national marathon gold.
Martin Conroy of Sligo AC took the title in 2004. Since then martin has also achieved national success indoors. Breege Blehien showed her dominance in the West of Ireland road running by taking two titles in 2004 & 2005. She was also mayo sports star for athletics 2005.
When somebody writes a history of Mayo road racing, the name of John Byrne will certainly be listed as one of our greatest runners since 2005. He has excelled at all distances from 5k to marathon. It’s only fitting that he took 3 titles to date 2005, 2006 and 2008 and Mayo sports star in 2006. Also, in 2006 Regina Casey the Mayo based GCH member ran some great races to clinch the women’s title.
In 2007, with the cooperation of Ballina, Westport and Swinford athletic clubs, the league was expanded to include all the major races in Mayo. Also, C&C Cellular and Vodafone became sponsors which, has continued since. This enabled the prize structure to cater for a variety of categories.
2007 also saw the emergence of a new name in Mayo athletics, Mary Gleeson. She was soon winning race after race, taking the league title in 2007 and 2008 and the Mayo sports star for 2008. Robert Malseed, then a Mayo based member of the Clonliffe Harriers took the men’s title in 2007.
2009 was an outstanding year for both league title winners. Catherine Conway of Mayo AC continuing on her progress of previous years won numerous races setting PBs over various distances. She took individual silver in the AAI half marathon and led her team to gold in Ballybofey. While the men’s winner was the evergreen Gerry Ryan [then with GCH] who certainly returned to his form of the 80s and 90s leaving the only question, who will follow this elite group of sportsmen and women in 2010?