Finn Valley Centre
Michelle McGrory (nee McArdle) works in Donegal County Council and has a long history with the Finn Valley. We invited her to tell us its history.
The Finn Valley Athletic Club was founded in 1971 by Patsy McGonagle, who went on to coach the Irish Athletics Olympic Team and remains to this day the chairman of Finn Valley AC. During its early years, the athletics club operated from Sean MacCumhaill GAA club in Ballybofey before moving to a disused tool factory in nearby Stranorlar in the late 1970's. The club eventually purchased the factory building on a 2.5 acre site for the sum of £32,000 punts in 1984 and from this point onwards, the story of the Finn Valley Athletics Clubs began to evolve and make its mark on in the world of athletics.
Throughout the next 30 years, the Finn Valley Athletic Club grew in size and support and additional facilities were added along the way such as a 400m running track, indoor hall, accommodation, soccer pitch, rugby pitch and hospitality services. In August 2013, a 25m swimming pool and fitness suite were opened at the Finn Valley complex, which truly cements Stranorlar as Donegal's "Capital of Sport".
All of the above achievements both on and off the track would not have been possible without the relentless fundraising and support of the local community and assistance from the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport and Donegal County Council. The payback of this sizable investment is a hub that does much more than just nurture athletic talent. It caters for an entire community with activities as diverse as Irish Dancing, Gymnastics & Boxing as well as sustaining 33 full and part time jobs.
Finn Valley AC's commitment to serving and enriching all aspects of the community was recognised at a national level in January 2014, when it won the "Best Community Based Initiative" award at the Local Authority Members Association (LAMA) awards in Dublin.
On a more personal note, my earliest memories of the Finn Valley Athletic Club date back to the early 1980's when I was competing in the under 9's cross country . It is fair to say that the facilities in those days were humble in comparison to the fitness suites and cryotherapy pools of today but the culture and values of the club remain the same. Being a member of the Finn Valley AC is like being a member of an extended family and the lessons learned on the track and field stay with you for life.