What was once occupied by the Irish Free State Army is now a state-of-the-art cycling clubhouse – one of only a few in the country.
When Lakeside Wheelers received €20,000 in funding from the National Lottery, their goal was to build its very own clubhouse, with top-class equipment, somewhere in its hometown of Mullingar.
But little did they know they would end up moving into Columb Barracks, built in 1819 in response to the Irish Rebellion and taken over by the Free State Army at the start of the Civil War in 1922.
It’s an historic home for a historic cycling club that’s nearly 40 years old, one that has established itself as one of the biggest – and best – around.
With more than 200 members between the ages of eight and 80, the Mullingar outfit is continuously growing its brand for both competitive and leisurely cyclists.
On the competitive end of things, the club is home to numerous national champions at the junior and senior levels, but Lakeside Wheelers prides itself on accepting cyclists of all levels and disciplines.
It pays particular attention to its youth riders, as illustrated by the club’s appointment of Damien Shaw, former national senior road race champion with the An Post team, as an official youth coach.
Damien is currently a professional cyclist with the Holdsworth team in the UK.
Lakeside Wheelers chairman, Henry Whitston, said such success would not be possible without the monetary support it has received in the past.
He said: “We’re one of a few cycling clubs in the country to have a clubhouse and the money we received from the Lottery went towards buying top-class machinery such as Wattbikes, specialised exercise bikes and turbo trainers which are especially useful during the winter months.
“We are definitely beginning to see the results of having this equipment and without funding we absolutely would not be able to provide these facilities.”
Lakeside Wheelers’ new clubhouse and equipment is so state-of-the-art, Cycling Ireland regularly brings its squads to Mullingar for testing and benchmarking.
The goal for the future is to encourage more young people to take up the sport of cycling, and with a good youth system already in place, Henry says the club expects to see the fruits of it soon enough.
“Cycling is different to other sports, and we are competing against the popularity of the likes of the GAA, but at Lakeside Wheelers the emphasis is all about sport,” he says.
“You can be any rider that you want, cycling competitively or for leisure. Our goal is to continue to bring young riders through and provide them with a safe environment to train in and learn bike skills.”
Nearly 30 cent in every €1 spent on National Lottery games go back to Good Causes. Last year alone over €225 million was raised by the National Lottery and its players for Good Causes all over Ireland, equating to about €616,000 per day.