There were some fantastic performances from club athletes at the Galway Community Games finals on Sat/Sun 3/4 June. Beneath glorious sunshine at the GAA pitches in Ballinderrin, all that was missing was sea and sand as families brought blankets, picnics and sun-cream to stretch out on the grassy banks overlooking the field where the main athletics events took place.
While I don't have detailed records from the Community Games archives, it is safe to say that it was the most successful ever for the club – with athletes claiming 9 gold, 3 silver and 5 bronze medals.
Congratulations to all the children who took part – there was many a fine performance which didn't result in a medal but deserves equal recognition and respect.
The day got off to a good start with Sophie Ralston taking the gold medal in the U14 girls 2km cycle. Sophie powered away in the early laps of the 2000m to build a good lead. Over the last 2 laps, the lead narrowed and Sophie had to redouble her efforts to steer clear of the Aran Islands athlete in 2nd place.
Sprinting action got underway next with Ashling Keady (U8 60m), Grainne McDaid (U8 80m), Ian Connolly (U8 60m) joined by Liam Forde (representing Ardrahan in U8 80m). Grainne, Ian and Liam progressed to the semi-finals, with Grainne going all the way to the final and running a fantastic race to claim the bronze medal in the final. In the U10 100m, Ellen Fitzpatrick and Eric Callanan ran well but didn't progress from tough heats. In the 200m, Craughwell had a big interest with Gabrielle Tobin, Tara McNally (representing Loughrea) and Dandy Murray (representing Ardrahan) all taking part in the girls race and Shane Finn in the boys race. Gabrielle, Tara and Dandy ran superbly to make it through to the semi-finals, with Gabrielle getting to the final to finish in 6th place. The older 100m races had Debbie Kenny (U12 100m), Katie O'Donoghue (U14 100m), Tomás Keehan (representing Ardrahan in U14 100m) and Liam Clarke (U16 100m). Debbie had a super string of races to make the final and finish in 3rd place to take the bronze medal. Tomás showed a clean pair of heels to all his competitors to take the gold medal in the U14 100m.
The distance races and the relays were probably the highlight of the 2 days for the club. In the girls distance races, the club dominated – taking the gold medals in each of the 3 races. In the U12 600m, Linda Porter (representing Carrabane) sprinted to glory in both the heat and final to take the gold medal in style. Linda took a strong lead from the early stages of the final and never relinquished it to the line. Club-mate Orla Mcdaid ran a strong race but didn't make the final. In the U14 800m, last year's 600m National Champion Ashley McDonnell ran a tactical race to take 2nd place in the heat, conserving her energy for the final the following day. In the final, Lyndsey Trainor (Knocknacarra) set the early pace – leading a group of 3 that also comprised Ashley and Claire Burke (Ballinasloe). As the 600m mark approached, Claire and Ashley moved to the front and pulled away. Coming onto the last straight and with about 80m to go, Claire had a slight lead but Ashley looked strong. As they sprinted to the line, Ashley managed to edge ahead to cross the line a metre ahead of Claire and claim the gold medal. Rachel Finnegan ran a stormer in the U16 girls 1500m to take the gold medal in style.
In the boys distance races, Paul Joyce ran a good heat – staying at the back of the pack for the early part of the race but moving up strongly over the last 200m to finish in 3rd place in the heat. Jason Kennedy (representing Ardrahan) competed in the same race and narrowly missed making the final. In the final the following day, Paul found the going tough in the early stages and fell well back – but at around 300m, he moved up strongly looking like he could get into a medal position around 450m. It was too much to ask on this occasion as the leaders had built up too big a lead in the early stages and Paul did very well to finish in 5th place. Micheál Hannon (representing Loughrea) ran well in the U14 800m, making the final and finishing a very creditable 4th place in the final. In the U16 1500m, David Porter (representing Carrabane) showed his continuing improvement to claim the bronze medal – with clubmate Shane O'Halloran also competing in this event.
The performances in the distance races were all the more impressive given that several athletes are young enough for the same age group again next year, including Ashley, Rachel, Micheál and David.
The field events also proved fertile grounds for club athletes with Conor McCann claiming bronze in the U14 boys shot putt, Niamh O’Halloran bronze in the U12 girls ball throw, Sean Moran silver in the U16 boys discus. The club retained its stranglehold on the U14 girls long jump, having won this event for the past 3 years, with Sarah Helebert ( representing Gort) leaping to the gold medal. Cathriona Farrell completed a jump double for the club by claiming gold in the U16 girl’s high jump, with Rebecca Helebert (representing Gort) taking the silver medal.
Tension was high for the last event of the day in Ballinderrin with strong Craughwell teams in the U12 boys and girls races. In the heats the day before, the boys lined up with Paul Joyce, Pádraic Tobin, Jack Raftery and Ross Haverty. Even though the 2nd fastest of the bunch, Peter Treacy was rested for the heat because of concern that a heel injury would reoccur and prevent him running in the semi-final. Only two out of six teams qualified from the heat, so there was no room for error. The team ran well, building a strong lead into the final baton change from Jack to Ross. The change was a little shakey but Ross powered home to win the heat. Our time was the 3rd fastest of the heats, with Ballinasloe and Claregalway faster. The girls team lined out with Maria McNamara, Debbie Kenny, Sineád Gaffney and Marieád McCann. Orla McDaid rested for the heat because of a sore heel after running the 600m earlier. The team had a very strong lead going into the final baton change. The change from Sineád to Maireád didn't go to plan with us very nearly zone faulting but thankfully the baton change occurred just before the end of the zone, with the team winning the heat and having the 2nd fastest time of the heats behind Claregalway.
In the semi-finals on Sunday, the girls lined up first with Orla replacing Maria for this race. Perfect baton passing saw us win the semi-final with Claregalway winning the other one. For the boys semi-final, we rested Pádraic and Peter started, passing to Paul, to Jack, to Ross. Again, perfect baton passing and we won the heat. Ballinasloe didn't make it to the final so in both races, the fastest times were held by Claregalway and Craughwell.
Onto the final and nervous energy flowed from the grassy banks as the vociferous Craughwell supporters yelled on the teams. The boys final got underway first, with Paul rested for this one and the order being Peter, Pádraic, Jack, Ross. It was difficult to see if we held the lead until the competitors came to the final baton pass – we had a 2 or 3m lead at this point as Ross collected the baton. Running strongly, he held this distance from the Claregalway athlete in 2nd place to take the gold medal for the team – Craughwell's first relay gold in a boys relay in the Community Games. A super preformance, particularly considering that the winner of the 100m sprint in Craughwell, Brendan Gallager, was not part of the team as he is unavailable in August. No time to relax and savour the victory as the girls race was on next. We kept the same team as ran the semi-final. Again, super baton passing and sprinting saw us hold a very slender lead of a half-metre at the final baton pass, with Claregalway in 2nd place. But we were up against the top sprinter on the Claregalway team for the final leg, Georgina Healy. Marieád ran a fantastic final leg but just didn't have the power to match the older Claregalway sprinter and we took 2nd place by about 1m. Again, a super result especially considering that 3 of the team are still young enough for the same race next year – Maria, Sineád and Marieád.
Congratulations also to Niall Rooney who is Mosney-bound having won gold as part of Athenry’s U14 boys relay team. All in all a marvellous weekend for the club.