All roads led to County Antrim on Sauturday for one of the biggest days on the Irish Athletics Calendar – the Irish Secondary Schools Cross Country Finals at the beautiful facilities of Mallusk. A dream commentary team of Feidhlim Kelly and Fintan O’Reilly made for a superb atmosphere for everyone enjoying the top level sport, for free!.
The sun broke through on a pretty tough course – being mostly flat with a fair degree of muck, and a gut wrenching steep incline between the adjacent playing fields. One of the toughest parts of the course is the finish – it is a long flat, seemingly unending straight to the clock of about 300m or more. The fact that you can see it for so long made a lot of runners kick too soon and end up in all sorts of bother. I think the below image from Joe.ie captures the typical scenes at the finish line after the long home run!!
Craughwell AC athletes did incredibly for their Schools with a fantastic THREE top-10 finishers and many other brilliant performances! [It can be hard to spot all the Craughwell Athletes because of their different schools – if I missed anyone, please let me know!]
Juniors: Declan gets a cap!
Declan O’Connell, representing Clarin College stole the headlines by winning his first Irish cap by finishing in 7th place in the Junior Boy’s 3500m. Declan recovered from COVID last week so had no idea how his body would respond whe he started to run hard. The reigning club U14 Champion went with the leading pack and was in 6th as he hit that finishing straight. After the long kick in which he ended up getting passed by just one on the like, Declan was completely floored for many minutes, and in a dark place that only a long kick can send you. The magic words “you made the Irish team” brought a massive smile out of him. Some performance and some guts! Off to Wales!! The last Craughwell Athlete to win this was Mathys Bocquet in 2020.
Emma O’Donovan, representing St.Brigids College Loughrea had an excellent run in the girls race to finish in 66th place and help her team to a 6th place finish.
Minors: Stephen cracks top 6!
Stephen Ruane cracked into the top 6 over the 2500m with an unbelievable performance of grit, toughness and smart running. Stephen who’s grandad was a superb runner was in 5th to 7th place throughout. It was an absolutely sensational result to come in the top 6 and win a medal. He told his coach Ronnie he has his sights firmly set on repeating the feat next year and emulating his friend Declan with an Irish Cap.
In the Minor Girls, Amelie Bocquet had an excellent run. She found the ferocious pace at the start tough but recovered well to run hard all the way and finish in 62nd place.
Seniors: Oisín leads PCA to 6th!
Sporting what can only be described as EPIC new Singlets, the Presentation College Athenry team consisted entirely of Craughwell AC Athletes. Like many with the dropping of the masks, Oisín Davis was ill for the last week or two so had no clue how he would run. He started conservatively in about 25th position, but took advantage of the few strips of dry ground to advance his position to 10th, then 8th, then 7th as the race went on. His breathing started to give him bother on the last lap so he eased the pace and held it together to finish in a really great 8th position, considering the star quality of the field.
Oisín was followed home by Ross McGuinness who held a very solid pace to finish in 35th position in the strong field. Next home was Anthony Boyle who ran brilliantly to finish in 54th place. Luke Forde was the anchor man that secured the Pres Athenry team their excellent 6th place position.
Intermediates: Mathys and Ollie give their all
In this event two years ago, Mathys Bocquet won an Irish Cap and was painfully unlucky that the pandemic hit and the event cancelled in between. He knew it would be tougher this time but had built smartly back from a broken femur and had every reason to be optimistic of his chances following a decent block of training. Sadly, in running everything has to be right and Mathys knew immediately when he started running that not all was as it should be for some reason. In the end he ran bravely and finished in 39th, which is a great position, but well below his capabilities. We try to be in peak form every outing but the body is a complex system and sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. Onwards and upwards!
Oliver Ginty had the worst possible preparation between the Connachts and this. He caught COVID the week after the Connachts, and it seemed to be one of the nastier variants – he was very sick with it for a more than a week. Oliver is absolutely tough as nails and he dug in well to finish in a very solid 73rd position. When he gets a run of training he will be a force to be reckoned with!