The club’s juvenile athletes and a handful of seniors travelled to Athlone for the first day of the Connacht cross-country finals – the uneven juvenile age groups and novice men.  

Last year in the same age groups, the club had unprecedented success – winning 5 sets of team medals – gold and silver in the U11 boys 800m, silver in the U13 boys 1200m and bronze in both the U11 girls 800m and U13 girls 1000m. This year proved a much tougher challenge with 1 team finishing in the medals and 3 teams just missing out by finishing in 4th place. 

The U11 girls 800m was the first to get underway at noon. Claire Ryder put in her best ever performance in cross-country to take the lead in the early stages. Claire looked comfortable at they passed the half-way mark and it was only when the runners came around the final bend with around 100m to go that the chasing pack started to catch Claire. With the Burke twins from Ballinasloe on her heels, it was going to be difficult to hold on. For a while it looked like the tank was empty but Claire battled well to hold on to take 4th place with a fantastic run. Her team-mates finished strongly, packing well together with 8 runners getting into the top 28. The team scored 65 points from the first 4 runners and were delighted when the results were posted indicating that we had finished as third team, behind Swinford and Ballinasloe with 23 and 27 points.

Hours later, the medals were presented and the bronze handed to Craughwell AC. Unfortunately, when results were later emailed out, it indicated GCH in 3rd position with 60 points and Craughwell 5 points behind in 4th place. It seems an error was made earlier in the day – at this stage, its not clear whether Craughwell will proceed to the National finals since the results at the competition indicated they were 3rd. It’s possible that both clubs will go forward as joint third. What ever the outcome, it was a great performance by the Craughwell girls, with full details as follows:  

  4 Claire Ryder
19 Sarah Molloy
20 Ailbhe Greaney
22 Ella Bryan
23 Dearbhla Moloney
24 Sinead Treacy
25 Gabrielle Tobin
28 Grace Kelly
41 Emma Byrne
53 Shauna Burke 

The first 12 make up the Connacht team for the National finals, so Claire goes forward on that. Also the first 6 Galway athletes gain automatic qualification for the Galway team to go to the All-Irelands, with the next 4 also with a strong change of getting onto that team – so Sarah (10th Galway athlete) and Ailbhe (11th Galway athlete) have a chance of making what will be an exceptionally strong county team. 

In the U11 boys 800m, Matthew Freaney produced a fantastic race to finish 11th overall and qualify for both the Connacht and Galway teams to go to the National finals. Matthew is new to cross-country this year and has made a remarkable start. Also doing remarkably well, a number of U10s including Brian Concannon, Aidan Conneely and Jamie Spelman had great races, auguring well for next year’s U11 team. The Craughwell team were again unlucky to finish in 4th place with 73 points with the following finishing positions:- 

11 Matthew Freaney
14 Brian Concannon
18 Cathal Reidy
28 Aidan Connelly
30 Matthew Moran
34 David Kerse
35 Jamie Spellman
38 Christopher O'Connor
39 Michael Roche
45 Patrick Phillips
48 Brian Tarpey (?)
55 Craig McGill

Brian and Cathal were the 5th and 7th Galway athletes home and will make the Galway county team for the National finals. 

The U13 girls 1000m yielded the club’s only set of medals in the juvenile races on the day, with some fantastic running from the team. Linda Porter put in a super race to take the bronze medal and sister Laura put in arguably her best ever cross-country performance to take 9th place overall. Laura was followed in closely by Orla McDaid in 12th place – giving Craughwell 3 members of the Connacht and Galway teams for the National finals. The team’s scoring was completed by Katie O’Donoghue in 20th place to give a score of 44 points, just 3 points behind Swinford who took the gold medals. The rest of the Craughwell runners also finished strongly in what was a very high standard race:-  

  3 Linda Porter
  9 Laura Porter
12 Orla McDaid
20 Katie O'Donoghue
22 Debbie Kenny
28 Muireann Maloney
33 Caoimhe Quill
42 Orla Ryan 

The U13 boys team found it tough going as they battled it out in the 1200m. The team got off to a good start with Paul McGill leading the race out and a number of the lads in the top 15 as they entered the narrow hilly section. Perhaps lack of hill training worked against us at this stage as the team fell back a little and were unlucky in the end not to take bronze medals, finishing in 4th place with a score of 78 points (just 8 points off third place). The finishing order was:- 

15 David Concannon
19 Paul Joyce
21 David Farrell
22 Brendan Gallagher
23 Paul McGill
27 James Greaney
39 Pádraic Tobin
40 Cormac Dillon
41 Pádraic Hannon 

The first five Craughwell runners all have a good chance of been selected for the Galway team for the National finals. 

In the U15 girls 1500m, Craughwell’s team were not as strong as in previous years. Craughwell had won this age group at Connacht level when these runners were U11, U12, U13 and U14. This year however, the team was weakened by the absence of a number of experienced runners from earlier years.

Rachel Finnegan had a fantastic start to the race, coming out of the hilly first half of the race with a substantial lead. Unfortunately confusion over the actual course at that point led to Rachel drifting off the course and having to turn back to get onto the course again, putting her back the field and eventually finishing in 8th place. It was disappointing for Rachel as she would almost certainly have claimed the Connacht title but she can take some consolation from the fact that she is in strong running form. 

Amidst tough competition, the team finished in 6th place overall with a score of 101 points. Sophie Ralston, Noreen Murphy and Maeve Curley completed the team scoring, all running well to take 28th, 30th and 35th positions.

The U15 boys 2000m produced some great runs from the 3 Craughwell runners in the race. David Porter put in a strong run to come in as the 4th Galway runner home and taking 8th place overall. Shane O’ Halloran had perhaps his best run ever, taking 12th place overall and the 5th Galway athlete home to help Galway take the gold medals in the county event with a score of 53 points. Micheál Hannon completed the Craughwell runners, finishing strongly in 21st position. If the club had a 4th runner in the race, the team would have taken the silver medals in the team event, ahead of Athenry who finished 2nd with 70 points. 

The club had no competitors in the U17 and U19 races, so onto the final race of the day where the senior club’s Novice team were competing. The team won the gold medals by default since there was only 1 team entered. Finishing positions were:-  

  6 Michael Tobin
  7 Gerry Fahy
  9 Liam Nolan
11 Diarmuid Quill 

Despite the lack of opposition, it was still good to be able to field a team and compete on the same day as the juveniles. Running the same course as the juveniles makes you realise exactly what you’re asking of them when you encourage them to push hard during the race. It’s not an easy task and hats off to all of the kids for the fantastic effort that they make in cross-country.

Friday the 22nd. .