13 athletes from Craughwell AC participated in the National Community Games finals over the last 2 weekends – Cathriona Farrell (U16 High Jump), Rachel Finnegan (U16 1500m), Sophie Ralston (U14 2k Cycle), Ashley McDonnell (U14 800m), Sarah Helebert (U14 Long Jump, representing Gort), Tomás Keehan (U14 100m, representing Ardrahan), Niall Rooney (U14 4×100 relay, representing Athenry), Linda Porter (U12 600m, representing Carrabane) and U12 4×100 relay team – Paul Joyce, Pádraic Tobin, Jack Raftery, Ross Haverty and Peter Treacy.
As always at National level in any event, competition was intense and for some of our athletes, there was elation and for others disappointment where races did not work out as hoped. Such disappointment was quickly replaced by the fun and games that Mosney provides, not to mention the evening disco.
Highlights of the Mosney finals for Craughwell AC athletes were the gold medal in the high jump for Cathriona Farrell, bronze in the 100m sprint for Tomás Keehan and 4th placed finishes for Rachel Finnegan in the U14 1500m and Sophie Ralston in the U14 2k cycle.
In the high jump, Cathriona jumped very consistently despite a strong breeze blowing left to right across the face of the high jump. Joining the competition once the bar got to 1.45m, Cathriona easily cleared 1.45m and 1.50m. The competition was down to a group of 4 at this stage. When the bar went to 1.55m, the Kerry athlete was eliminated at that height, followed by Aisling Costello from Mayo. Cathriona had a slight moment of anxiety clipping the bar at 1.55m before clearing it on her second attempt. Lisa Kelly of Tipperary had cleared 1.55m on her first attempt, so advantage Tipperary at this point. Up the bar went to 1.60m and both athletes knocked it on their first attempt. Cathriona was first to clear it on her second attempt and put the pressure on. The height proved a notch too high for the Tipperary athlete on this occasion and Cathriona claimed the gold medal. Impressive jumping and a fine record in this event, with silver medal last year in Mosney, gold this year and still young enough for same age group next year.
Tomás Keehan's bronze medal was a remarkable achievement. In the heats on Saturday, Tomás struggled a little and qualified in third place. He went one better in the semi-finals, taking second place with a fine run. And in the final, he defied all the odds to take the bronze medal with a brillant performance. Fantastic sprinting and great progress from his earlier performances in the AAI summer track and field where he took 6th position in the National U14 80m. The longer sprint suited him as he just gobbled up the distance in the final 20 metres to overtake several competitors.
In the 1500m heats, a very tactical race evolved with the race been run at a slow steady pace up to the 800m mark with the watch showing a time of 3 minutes at that point. The pace quickened a little from then and Rachel Finnegan ran very comfortably to qualify in 6th place in a time of 5.35. The pace was ideal as it allowed athletes to save energy for the final the following day. The final kicked off at a surprisingly slow pace – with the first 800m ran around the 3 minutes again. Rachel was well positioned in the pack of about 10 runners which started to open up with around 600m to go. With 300m to go, the race exploded with 2 athletes making a break for it – Ailish Brennan from Kilkenny and Eimear Tangrey from Kerry went into a full sprint at this point moving well clear of the field, with Sligo, Leitrim and Galway taking the next 3 positions at this point. These 2 athletes had 1500m times of 5.04 and 4.55 from track races earlier in the summer, so the earlier slow pace left them with plenty of energy in the tank. As the final bend approached, Rachel moved into 4th place and held that position to finish strongly in 5.23 – a superb performance and also young enough for this event next year. The race was won by the Kilkenny athlete in 5.14, with Kerry 2nd in 5.15 and Sligo 3rd in 5.21.
On the earlier weekend, Sophie Ralston competed in only her 2nd cycling race ever – the first been the Galway finals in Ballinderreen earlier in the summer. Sophie put in a lot of focussed preparation over the summer, cycling in and out of Loughrea in preparation for the event. All the effort paid off as Sophie finished in a fantastic 4th place in the mud-drenched final. Sophie's achievement is even greater when you consider that most of her opposition are members of cycling clubs, had all the right gear, racers, race experience etc.
For the other Craughwell AC athletes, the Mosney weekend provided huge excitement with just a tinge of disappointment for some – but those athletes should remember that the most important thing to do on the weekend in Mosney is to enjoy yourself – the competition is secondary to the fun and games on this weekend. The whole experience of staying away for the weekend is geared towards fun rather than the more serious nature of winning medals at National level.
In the U12 600m, Linda Porter ran a super heat to win it effortlessly in a time of 1.52 – 3 seconds outside her track PB of 1.49 earlier in the summer. All looked good for the final but unfortunately it didn't go as well as hoped for Linda. The group were tightly bunched as they ran the first 300m and Linda had to move out to lane 3 going around the bend at the 300m point in order to stay in touch with the leaders. On the back straight, the pace picked up and Linda still had to work on the outside going around the final bend. There was no option in order to stay with the pace but it added extra metres to have to do so and when the front runners hit the accelator on the final straight, it proved too much for Linda on this occasion and she had to settle for 6th place in a time of 1.54 – probably having covered 620m. The race was won by Rachel O'Shea from Cork in a time of 1.48 with Elizabeth Carr of Westmeath 2nd, Laura O'Dowd of Leitrim 3rd and Lily Ann O'Hora of Limerick in 4th. This race wasn't helped at all by the fact that a group of boys kicked a ball into the bunch of runners around the 400m point, with it crossing in front of Linda and Mayo athlete Nadine Rainey having to kick it away.
In the U14 800m, Ashley McDonnell was running a year under her age group so faced a much higher standard than last year when she won the U12 600m in Mosney. But training had gone well and confidence was high of a good placing overall – with Ashley in a group of 8 with very good times from track and field events earlier in the year. The heat got underway with a strong pace been set from the gun. The group stayed tightly bunched over the first lap, with Ashley well up with the leaders in about 4th place as they came to the 400m mark. Going up the back straight for the final time, the uneven ground was unhelpful to Ashley as she stumbled slightly as runners pushed for positions going into the final bend. Still well up with the pace as they reached the final bend, the pace accelerated rapidly at this point. On the day, it was too much for Ashley as 3 runners came past her to leave her in 7th place as they crossed the finish line, with the first 6 qualifying for the final. Ashley's time was 2.37 which was an excellent heat time – the other heat was won in a time of 2.38, so it was really unlucky for Ashley that she got the much stronger heat. Her time would have been good enough to take 7th place in the final, with the top 6 recording times of 2.28, 2.29, 2.30, 2.30, 2.31 and 2.36. Furthermore, 5 of the top 6 in the final were from Ashley's heat – emphasising the unlucky draw for the heats and a positive note for next year when Ashley will still be in this age group.
The U14 girls long jump provided the athletic club's final individual competitor, with Sarah Helebert taking part. Sarah found it difficult to get her mark on the day, recording a good jump of 4.06m but not strong enough to take her into the jump-off for the top eight competitors. Again, Sarah is young enough for this age group next year and should take alot of confidence from the fact that her PB of 4.66m would have put her very close to the medals this year.
The relays proved a difficult affair also for the club's athletes. In the U14 boys 4x100m, Niall Rooney was competing with the Athenry team because of a geographical oversight when parish boundaries were laid down centuries ago! Athenry had a strong team taking part but unfortunately narrowly missed out on the top 4 in the heats and didn't qualify for the semi-final. The Craughwell U12 team of Paul Joyce, Pádraic Tobin, Jack Raftery and Ross Haverty faced the same outcome when they placed 5th in the heat. From watching the finish, it looked certain that they had placed either 3rd or 4th, but the finish was tight and the finish officials placed them 5th to our dismay! The lads were disappointed as we all had hopes of making it as far as the final but possibly not as far as the medal positions. The team ran well and there was nothing between them and 3rd place in the heat – maybe a half-metre. The team's 2nd fastest runner Peter Treacy had returned from holidays the same day as the heats and would have been available for Sunday's final if we had qualified. Who knows what might have happened then. But there's always next year and the lads had a ball of a time in Mosney.
So with the highs and lows of all the performances, the buzz of the Mosney camp, the evening discos, the ad hoc rubgy and soccer games in the evenings, the luxury accomodation :-), the friendships built with competitors from other areas and counties, etc – its safe to say that all the athletes from the club had a great time in Mosney and hopefully will be back again next year, maybe with a larger contingent from the club. Its a great weekend for them and while some parents have misgivings about their children been resident on the camp for the weekend, the children have a fantastic time and will have fond memories of the weekend. Its a real reward for their strong commitment to the sport during the rest of the year and hopefully long may it continue.