Women in Sport Wednesday - Kathleen Marks

Development

Women in Sport Wednesday - Kathleen Marks

Kathleen Marks, nee Griffin, was the youngest of 7 children. She was born in 1935 in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary. From a young age Kathleen loved all sports, whether it was playing, coaching, administrating or just watching. Her sons recall that she often joked that she would watch 2 flies going up a wall to see who would win! However, it was her passion for two sports, camogie and badminton, that shaped the remarkable sporting life of this incredible lady.

Camogie

Kathleen started her sporting career playing camogie with Roscrea. At the tender age of 15, she was already scoring in the 1950 Senior Munster Camogie final for Tipperary. She played for Tipperary for 18 years.

During her playing years Kathleen gathered an impressive array of accolades, including -

  • 13 Tipperary club titles (11 in a row)
  • 6 Munster titles
  • 7 interprovincial titles
  • 2 All Ireland club titles
  • Kathleen also played in 4 All Ireland finals but unfortunately Tipperary could not get past a mighty Dublin team.

Badminton - Playing

While Kathleen started playing badminton socially in Roscrea in the late 1950’s with her brother Danny and sister Terry, she didn’t really take it seriously until near the end of her camogie career in the late 1960’s.

Kathleen joined the Thurles Badminton team, which at that time was playing in 1st division in the Tipperary league. This Thurles team went on to become the dominant team in Tipperary and, indeed, one of the best in Munster during the late 1960’s and 1970’s.

Between 1968 and 1979 Kathleen won no less than twenty-one 1st Division individual Tipperary titles.

These included:

  • 8 Ladies Singles
  • 10 consecutive Ladies’ Doubles, 9 of which were with her great friend Kitty Craddock.
  • 3 mixed doubles

In 1976, while pregnant with her second son, Patrick, Kathleen decided not to play the County Singles. However, she reckoned she could get away with playing Doubles! Kathleen came back the following year to reclaim her Singles title.

Yet Kathleen’s love of being part of a team never waned. One of the proudest moments in her sporting career when, at the age of 43, she Captained Tipperary to win their first badminton Inter-County All Ireland Class 2 title in 1978.

This very proud occasion was 28 years after Kathleen has first represented Tipperary on the camogie field.  

Badminton – Administration/Coaching

Meanwhile, Kathleen was also actively contributing to the sport she loved. Like her husband, she held a wide variety of roles in Tipperary, Munster and Ireland.

She was elected as Tipperary Treasurer 1970 and apart from some breaks taking up other positions in Munster and Ireland she was treasure for the next 35 years.

She was Munster President 1983 – 1986 and Munster Treasurer 1997 – 2005.

From 1994 – 1996 Kathleen followed in her husband’s footsteps when she was also elected to serve as President of Badminton Ireland.

When her term as President was up she stayed on as a member of the Badminton Ireland executive for the next 10 years.

This was the first and, to date, the only time a husband and wife have both served as President of Badminton Ireland.

Throughout these years Kathleen dedicated much of her time to developing the sport of badminton for young people. At a local level, and in a single court hall, Kathleen coached youngsters all day every Saturday. During the week days and for more than 30 years, she coached at Roscrea CBS.

Kathleen was a Coach/ Selector/ Manager of underage teams in Tipperary, Munster and Ireland. She dedicated an incalculable number of hours to organising Juvenile Badminton Competitions. Kathleen coached thousands of young people over the years. Not only did she give many years organising tournaments all over Ireland, but she also took many young teams to Britain to play Quadrangular’s.

Meritorious Service Award

Through her sporting life she collected many awards as both a player and administrator. In 2002, at a ceremony in Belfast, Kathleen was awarded the Badminton World Federation’s Meritorious Service Award for her service to the sport. A fitting tribute to a remarkable sportswoman.

Support

Of course, in order to excel as an athlete, one needs support, even more so if you are a mother with young children. Throughout most of her playing years, Kathleen was lucky to have consistent support from her husband Paddy and also from her own mother, Mrs. Griffin.  When Kathleen returned from badminton training or meetings she would usually go running at night. Her mother would look after the boys, while Paddy would follow her in the car using the headlights to light her way!

Family

With her own children Kathleen, instilled a love of sport, particularly badminton. She also instilled in them the understanding that it is important to give back to the sports/organisations you have enjoyed in order to help the next generation.

Kathleen had two sons, James and Patrick, both of whom have embraced their mother’s love of badminton. James has represented Tipperary, while Patrick has won national titles and has representing Ireland at juvenile level.

In turn of James’s children, Niamh and Padraic and Patrick’s children Abi and Luke have played the sport with Patrick’s youngest, Luke, looking increasingly like an old chip off the block!

The Legacy

Kathleen passed away in 2016. Right up to her last years’ she was remained actively involved in her community and was never a person to sit down and allow things to happen around her.

At one stage, when she was in her mid-60’s, her sons suggested she might want to slow down a bit, as they pointed out she was a member of no less than 31 local, county, provincial and national committees!

She was very understanding of their concern, and they all agreed that she would take it easier over the next 12 months. Kathleen did keep her word and, when they discussed it a year later, she pointed out that she had reduced the number of committees by four, adding that she had done what she had been asked and she really couldn’t do anymore!

That sums up Kathleen Marks – a lady with tireless dedication, unending commitment, passionate involvement and incredible faithfulness. Kathleen Marks was truly a legend.

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