The secondary schools cross country kicked off in style last Thursday with the holding of the South Connacht Schools Cross Country in Bushfield, Loughrea. The course in Bushfield is arguably the best cross country course in Connacht and provides a nice mix of hills and flat racing. Huge credit must go to Loughrea AC and the Connacht Schools organisation for a superbly marshalled event.
While athletes were lining out for their schools on this occasion, there was still a very strong sense of club amongst our runners. The minor girls’ 1500m was the first to get underway where Gráinne McDaid and Leanne Freaney placed 5th and 6th to help the Pres Athenry team to team gold. I should say that I don’t have the full results so apologies if I have missed the performances of some of the athletes from the club or incorrectly recorded a finishing place.
In the Minor Boys 1500m, Oisin Doyle put in a storming performance to control the race from the start, building a substantial lead at the front. Matthew Barrett put in yet another fine run behind him to come in 2nd. Two home for Calasantious Oranmore at this stage. Only slightly further back, Michael O’Dowd in his first ever cross country race had an extraordinary run to take 5th place out of what seemed like 90+ participants. Another man to put in the race of his life was James Delaney who took 13th place overall. Andrew O’Boyle completed the finishers for Calasantious Oranmore in 25th place with the team result going their way by a long margin. All 5 boys are members of the club so it was a proud moment for all involved.
Next to hit the hills were the Junior Girls where again we saw an incredible performances from …
athletes from the club. Ciara Greene led from gun to tape to take the individual victory and also lead her school The Bower to team victory by the narrow margin of 4 points. Sineád Treacy had a fine run also to take individual 2nd place for her school St Raphael’s Loughrea, while Tara McNally made light of her ‘sprinter’ label to take a fantastic 3rd place. With Tara’s club-mate and school-mate Emma Byrne finishing 5th, their school Loughrea VS really put it up to The Bower and had to settle for silver medals in the team event. Derbhla Maloney placed 7th in this race for St Raphael’s, making it a very impressive club performance with 5 out of the top 7 from Craughwell AC.
In the Junior Boys race, as far as I know Diarmuid Harvey was the only participant from the club and had a strong run to place about 10th from what I could seem while in the Intermediate Girls event, Laura Porter was the only representative from the club where she had a strong race to place 6th or 7th.
The eagerly awaited Intermediate Boys 4500m race was up next where the club had a lot of athletes in action. Conor Gillen (Athenry VS) signalled his early intent by taking a strong lead, one that he kept pounding out and stretching as the race went on. Behind him, his clubmates Neil Greaney and Nicholas Sheehan were battling it out for 2nd place. As the race went on, Neil pulled away a little only to be caught later by the hard-working Jamie Spellman. With Matthew Moran, Damien O’Boyle and John Cormican all running well in the top group and Paul Fitzpatrick (Pres Athenry) and Richard Noonan a little further back, it was a very impressive squad. Conor was first across the finish line with Jamie in 2nd, Neil in 4th, Nicholas 5th, Matthew 6th, John 9th, Damien 10th and Paul 20th. This was a super performance from all our athletes in what looked like a field of well over 100 athletes. With places 2,4,5,6,9,10 it was a great team result for Calasantious Oranmore and one that easily won the team title.
In the Senior Girls 1500m race, Linda Porter (Loughrea VS) ran a strong race to take 8th place while Muireann Maloney (St Raphael’s) had an impressive burst of speed to finish next in 9th place. The final race of the day was the Senior Boys 5000m. Finn Stoneman battled bravely at the front of race with Headford’s John Moroney but slipped back into 4th place as the race went on. But Finn had the honour of leading his St Enda’s team to victory in the team event. Paul Joyce (Athenry VS) had an incredible race to take 2nd place in same event, almost overtaking the race leader with about 400m to go but Moroney had enough left in the tank to hold Paul off in the closing stages. Paul made a serious return to the sport last autumn and this was by far his best race ever. As an U11 athlete in 2005, Paul first showed potential for distance races when finishing in 4th place in the National B cross country. In that particular race, Paul led the race for most of the distance before being overhauled with about 200m to go despite a superhuman effort, one which (I’m sure Paul won’t mind me saying!) took almost 6 years to recover from . But recover he did as shown over the hills of Bushfield last Wednesday.
The athletes and their schools (and the club of course!) look forward now to the Connacht finals in 2 weeks time in St Mary's Galway. If you're knocking around the city that day, pop in for a look as the excitement will be high and its pretty centrally located near the university.