Neil Martin Finn Valley Centre’s Community Hero for October 2015
Neil Martin a native of Glenfinn and the eldest of a family of 13 has had a keen interested in sport from a very young age in both GAA and athletics. Growing up in Glenfinn he always took part in local matches and events whenever they took place. Initially he ran for Glenties AC from 1968 – 1971 under coach Patsy McGonagle and in time set up the Glenfinn AC in 1972 where he spent two years coaching and running the home club prior to its amalgamation with Finn Valley AC in 1974.
When Patsy McGonagle formed Finn Valley AC in 1971 and, being a student at St Columba’s at the time Neil continued
his own athletics career there. He competed for Finn Valley AC & Glenties AC at both Donegal & Ulster level.
Throughout his studies Neil became part of what was a very successful senior squad winning Donegal and Ulster titles at both individual and team level.
After years of juggling athletics with study Neil qualified as a psychiatric staff nurse in 1978 and worked in St. Conall’s in Letterkenny. This was a year of many changes for Neil as he also married his wife Mary in 1978 and today they have three daughters and five grandchildren.
As a competitive athlete Neil eventually progressed to national level and was a member of the team who took the national intermediate team title in 1990. He also held a Donegal Snr Cross Country title and three titles in the Ulster Snr Cross Country Championships. Not content with these accomplishments he turned his sights on the international athletics scene and competed for Ireland in the British & Irish Masters Cross Country Championships in 1994 where he finished 9th
Neil continued to combine his involvement in athletics with full time work in his nursing career alongside Mary who also competed and currently leads the Fit for Life group at Finn Valley AC.
Retiring from nursing in 2009 allowed Neil to engage in athletics on a full time voluntary basis but prior to this Neil with Patsy McGonagle had been instrumental in the purchase of the old factory site and some adjoining land that the FVAC is situated on and it’s development since 1978 and they both assumed the financial risks associated with the developments which considering the economic climate at the time was very risky. But they had a vision and it was going to be realised whether or not.
After Neil ended his competitive career he became more involved in coaching and team management and coached the
Finn Valley Snr Women’s to four national Snr Cross Country Championship titles & the FV Masters Men’s Cross Country team to five national Cross Country titles
In 1997 he also became involved with Irish Athletics as a team manager on an international basis. From 1998 to the present day he has been at every world & European Junior track & field championships, bar 2, and has travelled to Jamaica, Canada, USA, Japan, Korea, and all over Europe as a team manager
He has managed teams at the World Cross Country Championships in 2006 in Fukoaka Japan as well as at European and World Championship level culminating this year at the World University Games Gwangju Korea where they had a very successful championship with one gold medal and five finalists of the five athletes that travelled to the championships. To date Neil has worked as a manager with every athlete on the present Irish international team as a youth, junior or U23 athlete.
During the development of FVAC Neil has worked as treasurer over the years and still does to this day. He is extremely proud of the development at FVAC and the success of the athletics side of the club.
Since retiring Neil is as busy as ever with the development of the new FV Leisure Centre plus the continued coaching management and development of FVAC
As if he wasn’t busy enough with his role at FVAC Neil is also involved in his local community as a member of the Glenfinn Area Council and the Day Centre/Heritage Centre in Brockagh as a director and committee member and was instrumental in acquiring funding for the development of the day centre
He is also involved as Chairperson with Donegal SportsStar awards which are held annually to honour success and reward participation in sport and is a member of the North West 10k Road Race Committee which has raised over 600,000 for local charities in the past 19 years. He is also very actively involved in administration at the Donegal Athletic Board and Chairperson of the Ulster Athletic Council and a member of the board of Athletics Ireland.
It’s safe to say that there is never much spare time for Neil Martin, such is the effort that he puts in on a voluntary basis at club, national and international levels, and as an active member of his community. Therefore it would be remiss of us not to have him as one of our very deserving community heroes who work tirelessly for the betterment of many.
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