The National Juvenile Relays took place in Cork IT this year on 15 July, with a long trip in store for many families – most of whom made a weekend away of it.
The morning session was for the uneven age groups, commencing with the U9s at 10.30am. Craughwell had 2 good U9 teams taking part with the boys’ team comprising Oisín Coppinger, Eddie Madden, Liam Forde, Ian Connolly and Matthew Molloy; and the girls’ team comprising Tara McNally, Orlaith Maloney, Caoimhe Reidy, Hannah Rabbitte and Gráinne McDaid. The girls ran first, with Hannah passing to Gráinne to Caoimhe to Tara – finishing strongly with a time of 34.58 to qualify for the final later in the day. In the final, Orlaith switched with Hannah as the first runner. The team ran exceptionally well to finish in 5th place – ever so narrowly outside the medals recording a time of 33.82 which was just 0.14 of a second behind the time that took 3rd place and bronze medals. That’s approximately 0.8 of a metre off the medals in this age group – agonisingly close!
The U9 boys’ race was a straight final with no heats as there were 8 or less teams checked in. As with the girls team, the boys ran incredibly well and took 4th place in the final in a time of 34.11, less than a second behind the team that finished in 3rd place. You could see the disappointment on the boys’ faces to come so close in the National finals. One strong positive message that both boys’ and girls’ teams should take with them is that they are very competitive with the best in the country and will certainly feature in the medals in years to come. Each one of them is a strong runner and will benefit when the distance changes to 100m relays as they get older. This year’s U12 boys team which is possibly Craughwell’s best ever relay team, came 4th as U9s and again as U10s – having to wait until U11s and U12s for their silverware! This probably worked to their benefit as it make them hungrier for success each year.
Next race of the morning session was the U11s. Craughwell’s girls’ team were Sarah Molloy, Claire Ryder, Ailbhe Greaney, Ella Bryan and Gabrielle Tobin. This is a super team having won the gold medals in the U9s 2 years ago and finishing 5th last year. It wasn’t their day on this occasion, just narrowly missing out on making the final by 0.21 of a second. Interestingly, even though they did not make the final, their heat time was only 1 second off the time that took the bronze medals in the final – clearly a very competitive time and the girls can take heart from this. Again, once the distances move to 100m, it will really benefit this team as all are great runners and prefer the longer distance.
The U11 boys’ team were up next, with Christopher O’Connor, Oisín McNally, Cathal Reidy, Brian Tarpey and Conor Tarpey. This team had been plagued with bad luck this year – in the Connacht finals, a zone stewarting mistake meant that the 4th runners on the A and B teams were lined up in incorrect lanes causing total confusion for the baton change from 3rd to 4th runner on each team and resulting in the teams finishing outside the medals. As 4 teams were allowed forward to the National finals and the 4th placed team (Claremorris) were not going, it was possible to get the Craughwell U11s admitted to the National finals. However, disaster struck again – the team were going well when a dropped baton put us out of the race. The team shouldn’t let it dishearten them for the future – they have a strong team if they stick together and are very talented, as shown by their strong performances in the individual events the following day.
The U13 age groups were the final race of the morning where Craughwell had an interest. In the girls’ race, the team was Orla Ryan, Katie O’Donoghue, Linda Porter and Debbie Kenny. They all ran well with good baton exchanges but did not make it as far as the final recording a time of 59.10 in the heat. The boys’ team in the heat were Cormac Dillon, Pádraic Tobin, Paul McGill and Cillian Reidy – with Ross Haverty coming in for the final in place of Pádraic. The team ran superbly in the heat to qualify for the final in a time of 58.12 (a club record for this age group) and finished in 8th place overall in the final.
The afternoon session kicked off with the U10 girls. We had no U10 boys’ team who had a mishap in the Connacht qualifiers with a dropped baton ruling them out. The girls ran very well to record a time of 33.77 but didn’t make the final. This seems to be a particularly strong age group both at Connacht and National level, so the girls should not be disheartened and the team of Aisling Connolly, Ellen Fitzpatrick, Sineád Treacy and Grace Kelly will do well in the future.
Next up, the U12s where Craughwell had 2 strong teams. In the girls’ event, Craughwell’s team had come close to the medals in the past but again were up against strong competition from around the country. The girls ran a splendid time in the heat with Orla McDaid, Siobhan Gardiner, Sineád Gaffney and Maireád McCann running 59.26 and Laura Porter as substitute. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to make the final, missing out by the small margin of 0.32s. The boys U12 were our best medal hope of the day, having taken the silver in the indoors earlier in the year and the silver in the U11s last year. For the heat, the team lined up with Peter Treacy, Jack Raftery, James Greaney and Brendan Gallagher (and PJ Kelly as sub). Confidence was high of making the final and the boys ran well – with a couple of the baton passes not flowing as smoothly as expected. As the runners came into the final straight, it was going to be close as 4 teams battled it out for the automatic qualifying spots 1, 2, 3. It looked like we took 3rd place but when the scores were posted we were in 4th place in the heat, 0.2s from 3rd place. The heat was much faster than the other one and Craughwell qualified with the 5th fastest time overall – 0.22s separated the teams in 2nd to 5th place.
For the final, PJ swapped in for James as per the initial plan and with the team psyched up to move from 5th place to the medal positions, the final got underway. Peter had a good start from lane 3, gaining ground and passing smoothly to Jack, Jack seemed to gain further ground, passing to PJ smoothly. It looked like it was going well for us but it was hard to tell because of the staggered start. As PJ came out of the bend to pass to Brendan and Brendan ran clear onto the final straight, an incredible scene unfolded … we had a 4m lead on the team in 2nd place – absolutely fantastic running. Perfect sprinting, perfect baton passing, perfect everything. Brendan wasn’t going to relinquish that lead and held the 4m to the end, with the team recording a fantastic time of 57.14, almost a half second clear of the team in 2nd place.
The final Craughwell relay of the day came from the U14 boys’ team – with the team of Niall Rooney, Paul McGill, Micheál Hannon and Tomás Keehan. The team had a great run in the heat, recording a time of 55.72 in the heat – an excellent time and a club record. The team were slightly slower in the final, 56.18, but finished a very creditable 6th place.
So all in all, it was a good day at the relays for the club, winning the club’s 2nd ever gold medal in the relays and our first ever in a boys’ relay, and having 4 other teams make finals, taking 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th places.