The club’s ‘mission’ is to promote canoeing as a sport that can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of age, gender or ability.
The club was founded in 1982 by a small number of canoeing enthusiasts and parents living in Celbridge to cater for children in the local area. For the first couple of years the club operated without a clubhouse. Boats and equipment were stored in members’ houses and gardens. Canoeing activity was centered mainly on the River Liffey at Celbridge. The club grew rapidly and in the early years occupied several temporary sites around the Celbridge/Newcastle/Ardclough area both on the Liffey and on the Grand Canal. In 1994 the club was fortunate to be offered a perfect site on land owned by University College Dublin at Aylmer Bridge on the Grand Canal (near the Lyons Estate, Newcastle). The club currently occupies this site under a license agreement with UCD. Finally settled in a permanent home the club has since been concentrating on developing its facilities and its athletes and has become one of the most significant and successful canoe clubs in the country. While our roots are firmly in Celbridge our membership is drawn from the North Kildare and West Dublin hinterland. We are an integral part of the local community with links to schools, scouts and local groups. We are well known as a ‘family oriented’ club. Our policy is to encourage parents to become involved in the sport as well as their children. Our experience over the years has been that if parents are involved then their children are more likely to persist and develop in the sport.
At club level we engage in many water-borne activities – competitive and non-competitive. The canal provides a safe environment for beginner and leisure paddlers, and also provides an ideal flat-water training location for serious athletes. In general, the main water-based activities include basic instruction for beginners, family/group sessions, training for competitive paddlers, river trips (for both instruction and leisure), competitive racing both in Ireland and internationally, and indoor pool sessions for beginners and families during the winter months at Clondalkin Sports and Leisure Centre.
The club currently operates from a collection of five steel containers which are used for boat storage and changing rooms. We have also constructed a gym between two of the containers. There is a water well on the site, and also a toilet block (fitted out container) and sceptic tank with a bio-cycle treatment system. There is parking for around 15 cars on the site. There is a path from the site up to the canal bank where the club constructed a jetty. There are also four ‘street’ lights along the tow-path for 1000 metres to facilitate evening training during the winter months.
On the competitive side the club engages mainly in marathon (long distance) and sprint kayaking (an Olympic discipline). We have had great successes over the years in these disciplines. Highlights include – · 2001: One of our young members, Neil Fleming, won gold in the Junior World Marathon Championships held in Stockton-on-Tees. This was the first time an Irish canoeist has become a World Champion in any canoeing discipline. · More recently Neil won a silver medal at the Marathon World Cup 2012 in Copenhagen. In the same year Neil also won gold in both the Irish and the British National Marathon Championships. · In 2012 the club won the Ribadesella Trophy for best club overall in the country in the marathon racing series. The club also won the trophy for the best junior club in the series. These are annual club awards given out by Canoeing Ireland (the national governing body for canoeing). Several of our members won individual awards also. · Over the years we’ve had many successes in the world famous Liffey Descent – most recently in 2015 when Neil Fleming and Robin Koenders won the blue-ribband K2 event (the fastest boat in the race).
Sprint kayaking is an Olympic discipline and CPCC is one of the top sprint clubs in the country. Over the years we have had great successes in sprint and on several occasions have come close to qualifying an athlete for the Olympics. Our club is used on a regular basis as a training venue for the national sprint squad. Every year athletes from the club feature in the finals of major international sprint events across the world. We currently have one young athlete, Michael Fitzsimon of Celbridge, who narrowly missed out on travelling to Rio 2016 coming fourth and agonisingly close to the top 3 in the Olympic qualifiers in Duisburg, Germany in May.
CPCC has always had a close association with the Special Olympics movement. Our club provides a safe environment for training and kayaking events. The Kayaking event of the Special Olympics National Games 2002 where held at the club and run by volunteers from the club. CPCC was very involved in the 2003 World Games held in Ireland. The kayaking event was run by club members Eamon Fleming (Sports Commissioner) and Eamon Devoy (Field Manager) – many club members took a week of annual leave to volunteer at the event. Eamon Fleming was subsequently invited to the 2007 World Games in Shanghai, China as an international official. In more recent times the club was used as a training venue for the Special Olympics kayaking team in preparation for the World Games in Athens, 2011 and in Los Angeles in 2015.
Links with the community
The club is associated with local schools and scout troops. Most of our junior members come from schools in the Celbridge/Newcastle area. We regularly run kayaking sessions for local scout and cub troops – most recently we ran sessions for Kildare 5th and 19th Scouts during the summer.
Charity Events - Annual Turkey Race!
The club has been running this charity event every year for the past 25 years – a fun race on the Liffey at Celbridge usually the Sunday before Christmas. Participants brave the freezing cold and compete in their kayaks in fancy dress – usually with a Christmas theme! Competitors collect sponsorship money and this is donated to the Vincent De Paul Society. As the name of the race suggests the prize for the winner is a turkey (oven ready!).
The club is located on a beautiful stretch of the Grand Canal beside a picturesque old stone bridge (Aylmer Bridge - a protected structure). The canal towpath is part of the Grand Canal Way walking route which is frequented by walkers, hikers, fishermen and boaters. We are acutely aware of our place in this sensitive environment and have made every effort to make the club facilities as completely non-intrusive as possible. We routinely clean up the area which can become badly littered with rubbish by some irresponsible members of the public especially during the summer months. Local residents and users of the canal have told us on many occasions that they are very happy to see us operating our club there – it brings life to the canal and improves the general security of the area.
Facilities at the club are extremely basic. Modest changing rooms have been incorporated into the steel containers but there are no showers and the toilet block doubles as storage space. This lack of proper accommodation has hampered the development of the club in terms of attracting and retaining new members and hosting canoeing events. It has always been an aspiration of the club to build a proper clubhouse that would cater for paddlers of all ages and abilities in a healthy and safe environment. With proper facilities the club could develop into a significant resource for the local community. Over the years we made several attempts to initiate development projects but circumstances (and the recession!) always conspired against us. We don’t, however, give up easily! We are very hopeful that we will soon be in a position to apply for funding under the Sports Capital Grant scheme which would go a long way towards funding a new clubhouse. We have already been granted planning permission for a development. Now all we need is a lease and the funding! That’s the next few years mapped out for club members!