Juvenile athletes from the club had glorious conditions for the running of the Galway Finals of Community Games cross-country at the weekend in Renmore. This is a keenly awaited competition for many athletes as it’s a golden opportunity to qualify for the ‘mythical’ Mosney which many kids dream of – the land of fun and freedom and a small matter of National cross-country finals. In these races, the top 5 or 6 qualify on the Galway team, so if you’re a strong runner but not the strongest in Galway, it’s a great chance to get onto a good Galway team and go to Mosney. It’s a much different story in the summer Community Games where you have to be the best runner in Galway to go forward since only 1 runner is selected in each event.
The races were due to kick-off around 2.15pm and as usual, I wanted to err on the side of caution and asked our athletes to try to be there by 1.30pm. Most were but luckily the weather was splendid as it took quite a while for the race numbers to be organised and the races to get going. Eventually they did around 3pm, with the u12 girls the first to run. Their distance was 600m and the first 6 make-up the Galway team. The club had a number of runners in it representing their Community Games areas which generally are set out on parish boundaries. Our U12s were Claire Ryder, Megan Carr and Ursula Curley (all representing Ardrahan), Laura Porter (representing Carrabane) and Gabrielle Tobin (representing Craughwell). Claire and Laura had splendid races putting themselves right up in the frame for the medal positions from an early stage. As they approached the hill towards the end, they moved into 2nd and 3rd place behind Athenry’s Maria Touhy. Then as the end approached a burst from Anne Mai Bourne from Ballinasloe put Claire back into 4th with Laura holding 3rd place. Gabrielle crossed the line in 9th place with Ursula and Megan running well but finishing further back. Gabrielle will have another year in this age group and can look forward to next year's competition. So Claire and Laura make it onto the Galway team, which will be a relay event in Mosney with the relay legs been 600m, 400m, 600m, 400m.
In the U12 boys, we were represented by Cathal Reidy and Christopher McDonnell (Craughwell) and Nicholas Sheehan (Oranmore Maree). Nicholas and Cathal ran great races to take 1st and 3rd place, with Conor Payne from Ballinasloe sandwiched in between. Nicholas who joined the club last year after a super performance in the schools cross-country, is going from strength to strength. He had a great performance to take 4th place in the Connacht Indoor Track & Field 600m earlier this year. Likewise Cathal is coming back into strong form – having finished 4th in last year’s Connacht outdoor track and field 600m, he had an incredible race to take 7th place in the All-Irelands. It augurs well for a strong club cross-country team in this age group in the Autumn. Nicholas’s performance is all the more impressive considering that he has another year in this age group next year. Christopher is another runner with a year left in this age group and is making great progress, aspiring to match older sister Ashley's achievements in years to come.
The U13 races got off next with the club represented in the girls race by Linda Porter (Carrabane) and Caoimhe Quill (Craughwell). Debbie Kenny was also due to run but unfortunately for Debbie she had picked up a bad hand injury that morning in a camogie accident with a hurl when playing with an older sibling whose name cannot be mentioned in case she whacks me with the hurl next! :-) Linda was one of the pre-race favourites for a podium position and ran very much to form, moving into an early lead from Hayley Sommers and Newcastle’s Ruth O’Sullivan. Caoimhe put in a fantastic first 600m to stay in the leading bunch but ran out of energy in the latter stages of the race, perhaps a little tired from the exertions of the previous day when partying all-day long at club stalwart Nuala Keady’s wedding! Congratulations to Nuala by the way from the club … Nuala has been a key part of the club’s structure for younger ages and instrumental in motivating the rest of us to start senior running activities! Getting back to the race, Linda completed an impressive performance to take the gold with Caoimhe finishing in 7th place.
In the boys 1200m race, we had 2 representatives – Paul Joyce and Pádraic Tobin, both Craughwell. Both had fine races, putting themselves into the top 4 from an early stage and holding that position as they entered the closing stages. It looked like they might get up into 2nd and 3rd place but in the end had a sprint to the line to take 3rd place, with Paul edging in front with about 20m left and holding that place.
The U14 girls 800m was next with 3 strong runners from the club taking part – Sarah Helebert (Gort) and Ashley McDonnell and Katie O’Donoghue (both Craughwell). Sarah and Ashley were pre-race favourites with memories flooding back of their epic battle in the U12 600m finals at the Galway Community Games in Ballinderrin 2 years ago. That race has acquired legendary status in the eyes of many athletics followers in Galway as both runners sprinted for the line from 150m out, with Ashley only taking the title in the last stride to the line and going on as we all know to win the National 600m title. In today’s race, a tight group of 5 runners broke away as the race progressed, with Katie in particular having an outstanding run as she matched Ashley and Sarah stride for stride. At times, it looked like Katie was going to take over the lead such was her strength. As the race entered its final 200m, Ashley pushed to the front and started to open a small gap, with Sarah responding to open a gap back to 3rd place. It was between Katie and Georgina Healy from Claregalway (2nd cousin of Sarah’s incidentally) for the 3rd place with Katie eventually having to settle for 4th place – but an exceptional performance and a place on Galway’s team for the National finals.
Final race of the day was the boys 800m, with David Farrell and Eoin O’Connor (both Craughwell) and Niall Rooney representing Athenry (a geographical blip puts their house just outside Craughwell parish!). All 3 ran strongly but looked like they might not make the top 6 as the race entered its final 300m. Niall was lying in 7th place and picked up the pace up the final hill. David was further back but put in a huge effort on the hill to move up, with both getting into the top 6 and holding 5th and 6th place to the line. Eoin finished in 10th – a good race in tough competition.
So overall a very good day for club runners. 6 girls and 6 boys made it onto Galway teams in difficult competition. And judging from the results, these will be strong Galway teams for the Mosney finals if everyone is available.