Glorious sunshine lit up the beautiful grounds of Palace park in Tuam as the Galway Uneven and Senior Cross Country kicked off the season for 2019. Storm Lorenzo might have departed without causing too much damage, but the weeks of heavy rain had taken their toll on the course and large sections were muddy and heavy going underfoot. The route itself was changed slightly from previous years and was anything but boring always undulating and presenting the athletes with something fresh to consider (even if just "what the heck am I doing here?").
Clubs from all corners of the county were proudly sporting their colours and the grounds were full of smiling kids sporting wide grins. None were grinning wider than the Craughwell kids who enjoyed spectacular success at all ages and all did themselves and their area proud. Kudos to Tuam AC and the Country board on a fantastic event.
[Results are not yet published so apologies if I miss someone - just send me a message and I'll edit the article!]
Under 9: Girls and Boys run a stormer for Bronze
It's a big moment lining up for your first ever Cross Country and these under 9s performed brilliantly over the tough course.
First of the girls was Sophie Meehan, closely followed by Allie Brady and Lily May Grealish. The boys had a quartet and it was strong enough to win a superb bronze, with James Niland leading the way followed by his brother Sean Niland, Ciaran McNena and Donal Coyle. Well done guys and enjoy your athletics journey from here, it's going to be something special!
Under 11: GOLD for Hallinan! Girls take Bronze while Boys take Silver
Aisling Lavan ran spectacularly to lead her teammates Claudia Coyle, Aeveen Kelly, Ciara Niland, Laura Flynn, Ellie Niland, Leah Ryan and Laura Kelly to a richly deserved bronze. All the girls had fine races.
The boys went one better as Alan Hallinan led the field home in a spectacular show of front running to win an amazing Gold medal. WELL DONE Alan!! He was followed by fast finishing teammates Alan Warde, Keelan Griffin, Noah Brady, Zach Keane and Oisin Fallon in a great finish.
Alan Hallinan Storms his way to Gold!
Silver (mud) Surfers!
Under 13: Girls and boys power home
Multitalented athlete Claudia McGuinness was first Craughwell girl home in the Under 13s. Claudia was followed by Amelie Bocquet who after a smashing start had trouble catching her breath in the second half but finished very bravely. Third home for Craughwell was Katie Flynn in a fine run.
Claudia driving home in a fabulous run!
Stephen Ruane stepped up in age and came home 4th in a tight finish in the boys race - an incredible result. Keelan Moorehead ran hard all the way to finish in the top 10 overall in a very high standard and close-fought affair.
Under 15: Two Golds and a Silver!
Dream Team! The 2019 Galway Cross Country Champions from Craughwell, led home by Silver winning Aoibhe Carr
The under 15 girls race was one of the standout races of the day with incredible performances throughout. The brilliant Aoibhe Carr had an absolutely amazing performance to build up through the field and power home to a marvellous individual Silver behind an exceptional South Galway Athlete. It's the fact that she does almost of all of her running chasing after a sliotar that makes the achievement so remarkable. Holly O'Boyle who was stepping up to the age, had another incredible run to build up through her rivals and come second for the team. Next home was Clodagh O'Meara in a great performance followed closely by Anna Cotter, Siofra Davis, Leonore Church, Alana Grogan and Jade Moorehead. The team did enough to easily claim GOLD in a smashing team effort - well done ladies, you are just brill!!
Mathys all smiles after his Step-up win
In the U15 Boys Race, Mathys Bocquet stepped up in age to take GOLD in a typically fantastic run. The popular Mathys has endless endurance and chewed up the hills to win ahead of a very talented Castlegar athlete. In fact, the first 3 athletes home in this race were stepping up so we should see a similar battle again on the 20th in Bushfield! Great to have 3 such talented youngsters in the county. Killian Walsh had a smashing run to finish as next Craughwell athlete home in a great battle all the way with Liam Shaw of Athenry, followed by Evan Hallinan who is still recovering from injury.
Killian won this particular battle!
Under 17: Another two GOLDs and a Silver!
As often happens since they run the same 4000m distance, it was decided to combine the u17, u19 and Senior ladies in the same race. Emily Miskella ran with her traditional fluidity to a fine Gold in the u17 race, and in fact she was 4th overall in the entire field which included some very experienced and talented (not to mention tough!) ladies!. A smashing run from Emily yet again. Incidentally Craughwell AC Coach Jane Anne Meehan also race excellently after a rotten season with Injury to claim a Silver in the Senior ladies.
The u17 boys team won Bronze in the all Ireland last year, but were down a couple of members due to GAA and Snorkling commitments! The remaining two members Oisin Davis and Ross McGuinness (stepping up) acquitted themselves admirably taking Gold and Silver respectively. Oisin and Ross have a tradition of beating each other every second race and Oisin took his turn this time after Ross pipped him at Castlegar. It was a smashing run from both guys as they decimated the field with a pretty brutal pace. In 3rd place representing Caltra was honourary wolfpack member David Hillary.
Under 19 and Senior men: Craughwell win almost everything?
The u19 and Junior men started with the Seniors for the last race of the day, and had one of the best turnouts for many years. The large field of Senior men ran 8 Kilometers, while the Juniors and u19s ran a little over 6km. William Fitzgerald had perhaps the most head turning run of the day to drive home as first Junior. He caught up with the leading Senior about 4km in and really turned the screw for the last two km in a faultless display of effortless running, sailing over the mud and hills. Effortless is the only word to describe his running. Fellow u19 Patrick Noonan also had a cracking run to win a superb Silver medal, also beating the Senior men to the 6km mark.
Craughwell Men - Galway Senior Cross Country Champions 2019
In the Senior men's race, I (Mark Davis) had been training pretty hard recently and decided to push the boat out in the 8k at the start and see what would happen. As I ran around I could hear stuff like "Dad's gone off a bit mad again" from my peripheral hearing. Turns out they were right as the wheels duly came off at about 5 or 6k and got passed by a fine GCH athlete John Moroney. We were both suffering from the hard start but he bore it a lot better and had a decent lead by the end. In truth I should have made him work a bit more for the win, but it would have been tough and the result probably the same! Still, happy enough with second (or 1st o35 as it happens).. my best ever Galway finish I think!
3rd man past the finish line and second Senior was a massive surprise to me as I honestly thought he would die a death (no offense Paul!). Despite several years off and a very conservative training load, Paul Joyce breezed home comfortably in 3rd with just an outrageous run for someone at this stage - his ability is astonishing. Next home for the club was Gavin Cooney in a fine run - I didn't quite get his position but the 800m specialist was well in the top 10 or 12. Kevin Mooney who typically leads any Craughwell team home was 4th scorer in about 15th position. This was basically Kevin's first run of any sort since he he got married a month ago and if he was trying to find out which works best - training or not training, I think he has his answer!. He has signed up for a really interesting Spring Marathon so expect to see him revert back to the front shortly. David Evans was next home for Craughwell and I think 3rd o50 in another fabulous run on not his favoured surface! All in all it was enough to win the Senior County Cross Country championship for the first time in a good few years (I'd need to check the records but it's been a while since I was on one!). This is a great achievement from a small village and something to be very proud of.