04 Oct 2022

'Beyond The Line, Finn Valley Athletics Club, A History' launched to great acclaim

The detail of the 240-page publication is described by Pierce O’Callaghan, the head of competition management at World Athletics, as 'quite incredible'

'Beyond The Line, Finn Valley Athletics Club, A History' launched to great acclaim

Chris McNulty and Patsy McGonagle at the launch of 'Beyond The Line, Finn Valley Athletics Club, A History'

‘Beyond The Line, Finn Valley Athletics Club, A History’ was officially launched tonight in Stranorlar to celebrate 50 years of the club.

Pierce O’Callaghan, the head of competition management at World Athletics, was in attendance to officially launch the book, which was penned by DonegalLive’s multimedia journalist Chris McNulty. Patsy McGonagle, Director of Finn Valley, has been the bloodline of the club since its inception and his fingerprints too are all over the book.

From its humble beginnings in 1971, following McGonagle’s calling a meeting of interested parties at Jackson’s Hotel in Ballybofey, the club in the inverning years left its mark at local, national, European and world level.

“It was about getting Chris on board to tell the story and he did it his way,” McGonagle said. “It's in a story-type format instead of a list of boring statistics. He got to know the history and learned the history and we were very fortunate because local media took photos down the years and they were a great source. From a historical point of view, it’s great to have it in one place now. It’s a point of reference and will be for evermore.”

To emphasise the club and the book's standing, the President of World Athletics Sebastian Coe provides the foreword for the 240-page publication by Archway Press, Buncrana, with design and layout by Mary Campbell.

“My mother and father are both from Donegal,” O’Callaghan told DonegalLive tonight. “The Donegal Democrat used to be posted to our home in Ashbourne and I’d immediately flick to the back pages to see how Finn Valley was doing. I was always clearly aware, even from a very young age, of how vibrant the club was.

“My first impression of the book was ‘wow’ - the photographs, the quality, the history, the authenticity. When you open the book the first thing you see is from Sebastian Coe, who is a man who always frequently asks about Finn Valley and Patsy McGonagle. I’ve always supported Finn Valley whether it be from the newspapers coming through the letterbox years ago to today when there’s now a constant stream of information via the local outlets and social media.

“Chris McNulty is a forensic journalist - he doesn't sleep. The amount he generates from the various sports is amazing. He has done an incredible job and the detail he has in the book is quite incredible.

“Patsy is clearly the leader of the dynasty that Finn Valley is. He has managed the Irish teams at four Olympic Games, six World Athletics Championships. He’s just as interested in the children's cross-country championships. Patsy has brought that culture here. That’s his greatest legacy."

Beyond The Line, Finn Valley Athletics Club, A History, was written by Donegal-based journalist and author Chris McNulty and supported by Donegal Local Development Company (DLDC). It can be purchased here.

Chris McNulty added: “I’d a bit of homework done before starting this project, having done Patsy’s own autobiography 'Relentless: A Race Through Time' so there was a lot of Finn Valley pre-done. We just started the Finn Valley book at the start and began knocking off the blocks and bit by bit we came across these little nuggets.

"We thought we have one shot at honouring the 50 years and we thought 'let’s do it right.' We’re happy with the final result. Grainne Campbell became an accidental proof-reader and ended up a priceless proof-reader, burning the midnight oil to aid the end product.

“I’m proud of being chosen to document the 50 years of Finn Valley AC, not just a successful athletic club, but an institution in the community and an institution in county Donegal. To be a part of that history, I feel honoured.”

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