Mosney provided the venue for the National Community Games cross-country finals for the last time on the last weekend of May. This didn’t dampen the spirits of the Galway camp as they tackled the races, the disco, the fun fair, the slot machines and the Mosney food with their usual gusto.
On Saturday morning, the cross country got underway with the U12 girls in action first. The Galway team were twins Michelle and Veronica Burke (Ballinasloe), Alanna Lally (Abbey) and Laura Ann Costello (Milltown), with Shauna Hynes (Milltown) and Grainne McDaid (Craughwell) as subs.
The team lined up with Michelle on the first 600m leg of the relay, Alanna next on the 400m, Veronica next on 600m and Laura Ann running the final 400m leg. Michelle gave the team a great start, building a lead that the Galway team never relinquished – handing over to Alanna, Veronica and Laura Ann to win the semi-final comfortably. The boys U12 did likewise – Jason Kenny (Ballinasloe) ran the first 600m in outstanding style, handing over to Nichlas Sheehan (Oranmore) in the lead, onto Keegan Kelly (Milltown) and onto Emilio Burke (Killimor) to again win comfortably. Conor Payne (Ballinasloe) and Keelan Ryan (Craughwell) were subs on this team.
The U14 girls continued the strong performances in the semis, with Michelle Maher running a strong first 800m leg to hand over to Ruth O’Sullivan who moved the team into the lead on her 600m, handing over to Linda Porter (Carrabane) who preserved the lead and onto Derbhla Fox (Mountbellew) who led the Galway team home comfortably in 1st place watched by subs Orla McDaid (Craughwell) and the injured Hayleigh Sommers (Mountbellew). The U14 boys didn’t have it as easy in their semi-final but still made the final comfortably with their team of Patrick Hannon (Athenry), Evan McGuire (Claregalway), Darragh Whyte (Mountbellew) and Brendan Gallagher (Craughwell), and subs Paul Joyce and Pádraic Tobin (both Craughwell).
The U13 mixed team were weakened considerably by the loss of Colm Hughes (Knocknacarra) during the week before the race due to a hip injury, but were able to call in Paul Fitzpatrick (Craughwell) at short notice. Paul had finished 6th in the Galway qualifiers. The team ran very well in the semi-final to qualify for the final in 3rd place in their race. Oisin Coyle (Loughrea) and Paul Fitzpatrick both finished in the top 10, with Laura Porter (Carrabane), Maria Touhy (Athenry) and Maedhbh Hurst (Ballinasloe) all highly placed amongst the girls and Keith Crehan (NBT), Robert Tully (Mountbellew), Niamh Hannify (Oranmore) and AnnieMai Bourne (Ballinasloe) completing the team scoring.
This was the first time in a good number of years that all five of the Galway teams had qualified for the final, so it was a strong performance from the teams. So onto the finals on Sunday. Normally the Sunday races kick off with the subs race for U12s followed by the subs race for U14s. The subs race is held so that anyone that had not the opportunity of running in the main race on either of the two days could get to run. Having specifically rested our subs the day before so that we could field a Galway team in the subs race, to our shock, the race announcer proclaimed that this year there would be no subs race. This was particularly frustrating as some of the Galway team had travelled up specially for this race. Anyway too late now to do anything about it despite our objections to the race organisers.
The racing got underway with the U13 1200m. Again, our depleted team performed heroically with Paul leading the team home on this occasion in about 18th place followed by Oisin in approx 25th, Maria and Laura immediately afterwards, then Keith, Maedhbh, Niamh, Robert. Maria was 4th girl home and Laura 5th. Maria’s performance put her in the 4th place certificate place but again Mosney coordinators surprised us when we discovered that there were no individual prizes/placings in the race this year – only team prizes. The organisers only announced the top 4 teams which didn’t include Galway but by our reckoning we placed 5th.
The U12 girls got going next. Alanna put in a real gutsy performance in the first 600m leg to put the team into a 4m lead at the first changeover. Strong running by Veronica and Michelle in the 2nd and 3rd legs kept us strongly in contention – about 10m behind the leading Limerick athlete at the last changeover. Laura Ann grabbed the baton in 2nd place and took off like a demon after the Limerick running, catching her after 30 or 40m. But these exertions took their toll as the athletes turned into the wind for the final 100m and the Limerick athlete mustered enough strength to overcome Laura Ann on the run-in. A super team performance and with Laura Ann, Shauna and Grainne all younger enough for this race next year, the team will be almost certainly celebrating this time next year again.
Onto the U12 boys race where the team were considerably bolstered by Conor Payne who had won silver in the National Indoor 600m. It was not to be on this occasion for the team however. Up against it in the first leg, Conor held 7th place when passing the batton to Keegan. Strong running from Keegan and Nicholas in 3rd and Emilio in 4th saw the team finish in 5th place overall. The boys will live to fight another day however and will have a fantastic U13 team next year along with 3 of this year’s U12 team.
Next up the U14 girls, where Orla swapped with Derbhla as the final runner. Linda got the race going with a huge run in the first 800m leg to put the team into the lead handing over to Michelle. Some fantastic running from Michelle against strong opposition saw us just hold 2nd place going into the 2nd changeover. Up against tough opposition on the 3rd leg, Ruth had a strong start and held 2nd until halfway with the team slipping into 3rd before the final changeover. Handing over to Orla for the final leg, Orla ran strongly to hold 3rd place and take the team to bronze medals.
The U14 boys were the last race out. Pádraic stepped into the team in place of Brendan who had picked up an injury in the previous days semi-final. Darragh led off in the first 800m leg but strong running from Westmeath’s Shane Fitzsimons took a huge amount out of all the runners Darragh included, as he passed to Pádraic in 7th place. With a strong 600m, Pádraic moved the team up to 5th place at the pass to Patrick. In the final legs, Patrick and Evan ran strongly but couldn’t make up the difference and the team finished in 7th place – not a bad result as it was a tough race.
Overall, it was a good result for the county – 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 5th and 7th. Looking forward to next year already!