Craughwell Power to Victory in Connacht Cross Country

Craughwell Power to Victory in Connacht Cross Country

It was another day to remember for the club at the Connacht Cross Country Championships in Sligo – with both young and not-so-young athletes racing to some fantastic performances and bringing home 1 individual Connacht title, 3 team titles, a team silver and 3 individual bronze.

The club travelled in small numbers to Sligo racecourse for this the first day of the Connacht Cross Country Championships – but showed plenty of grit and quality to emerge as one of the leading clubs on the day. Star of the show today was Dearbhaile Walsh who stepped up an age and raced to an outstanding victory in the U14 girls 3000m.

The Craughwell senior men had a fine victory, as had the U16 boys and U14 boys and a solid performance form the U14 girls to take team silver. Peter O'Sullivan added a fine bronze in the Senior Men's race, with Jamie Spellman doing likewise in the U16 boys and Matthew Barrett in the U14 boys.

Dearbhaile was part of a breakaway group of 4 on the first lap who quickly put some distance between themselves and the rest of the field. On the second lap of the racecourse, Dearbhaile managed to open a considerable lead to record her finest victory to date. Earlier Conor Lee put in an exceptional performance in the U12 boys 2000m to take individual 10th place, making the Connacht and Galway teams for the All-Irelands in the process.

Shauna Tobin battled hard in the U12 girls 2000m, finished in 42nd place – nice preparation for her U11 camogie final with Craughwell the following day, which I’m glad to say was won in style! In the U14 girls 3000m, Grainne McDaid followed Dearbhaile home in 13th place, with Aoife Greene 21st, Leanne Freaney 22nd and Andrea Tobin 26th. When the scores were totalled up, this yielded a score of 57 points for Craughwell which took the silver medals by the narrowest of margins ahead of a strong Athenry team who finished with 58 points. Again for Grainne, Leanne and Andrea, this was a warm-up for their camogie semi-final the following day in which all 3 girls played pivotal roles to help Craughwell to victory!

The U14 boys 3000m was up next where Matthew Barrett had an outstanding performance to take the bronze medal, just pipping James Cahalane who had to settle for 4th place. Brian Loughnane was next home in 8th place with Oisin Doyle 10th and Diarmuid Harvey having to withdraw with injury. The combined score of 25 points was just enough to record a sweet victory by a single point ahead of Swinford. Matthew, James and Brian are all U13 so this augurs very well for their own age group in a week’s time. Oisin had just returned from a long layoff through illness and to finish 10th in the Connachts was a remarkable performance – running the perfect race to take the 4th scoring place on the team and contribute those vital points which saw the team take the Connacht title.  Interestingly, this is the seventh year in a row that the Craughwell U14 boys team have finished in the medals in Connacht cross country.

In the U16 girls 4000m, another athlete who had a bad week of preparation because of illness had an exceptional performance – with Ciara Greene taking individual 5th place and showing what a great competitor she is. In the U16 boys 4000m, yet another outstanding performance saw Jamie Spellman step up an age to take the individual bronze medal and lead the Craughwell and Galway teams to a fine victory over Sligo teams. The first lap of the racecourse saw a tight group comprising 2 North Sligo, 3 Sligo, 4 Craughwell, 1 GCH and 1 Swinford battling hard at a brisk pace. As the group passed the PA announcer for the first time, he discussed the battle between the 2 Sligo teams momentarily not realising the presence in strength of the Craughwell team.

To emphasise the quality of the field, this race featured at least 4 athletes who have taken individual National medals in either cross country or middle-distance track. As the race progressed, the lead group strung out a little. North Sligo duo Cian McBride and William Crowe held the top 2 places, with Jamie Spellman hot on the heels of Crowe to take a fine individual bronze medal. Conor Gillen was in next only a 2 seconds behind Jamie – a super performance considering that this was the first time that Conor has ran in a month, having had to rest due to injury. Nicholas Sheehan ran though a stitch for a large part of the race to finish strongly in 7th place, wikth Matthew Moran having an outstanding run behind him to take 9th place. John Cormican who is improving with every race was in next in 13th place with Damien O’Boyle close behind in 15th and Keelan Ryan jsut 20 seconds back in 18th place. With 4 in the top 9, Craughwell were assured of the club gold – but we waited with interest to here the result of the county team event as it was going to be tight with Sligo.  When the scores were posted, it recorded a great win for Galway by 2 points over a strong Sligo outfit.

Saturday's victory makes it 4-in-a-row Connacht titles for this team – with victories in 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008, silver medals in 2007 and 4th place in 2006.

In the Junior Boys race, Peadar Harvey took 4th place in a tough race while the day was wrapped up by a famous victory for Craughwell in the senior men’s race – beating GCH by 2 points. The Craughwell team were lead home by Peter O’Sullivan who took individual 3rd place with Martin Corcoran 6th, Mark Davis 8th and Paul Keane 9th. The award for toughest runner of the year and best team contributor has to go to Paul Keane who ran a sub 3 hour marathon last Monday in Dublin and still lined out for the Craughwell team in the Connacht cross-country – well done Paul!

Full results are available here.

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