Day 2 of the Connacht Outdoor Track & Field Championships got underway in Dangan on a fine morning on 17 June. Each year as the age profile of the club’s juvenile athletes increases, so too does our interest in day 2 when the older juveniles from u13 to u19 take part together with the seniors. It’s only a few short years since you could count on one hand the Craughwell athletes to be involved in these age groups. Today we had 33 taking part – 14 U13s, 4 U14s, 10 U15s, 3 U16s, 1 U19 and 2 seniors.
The action commenced at 10am with the hammer event and other events started at 10.30am. With some confusion, U13s were called to the high jump only to be called away to other events instead. It left the U13s in the unsatisfactory position of thinking their high jump was next up – and in fact it didn’t take place until the very end of the day! Instead of high jumping, the U13s were called onto the long jump. Debbie Kenny and Linda Porter were our representatives in the girls event – Debbie had taken a medal in Galway and good jumping today would have taken her close to the medals. It wasn’t her day in the jumps however and she didn’t go as well as Galway. Over at the boys’ event, we had Cillian Reidy, Ross Haverty and Cormac Dillon in action. With Cormac having won the Galway event and Cillian 4th, hopes were high of a good performance. Despite not jumping as well as Galway, Cormac recorded 3.68m on his best attempt to take 4th place and qualify for the All-Irelands. Continuing with the long jump, Cathriona Farrell easily retained her Connacht title in the U15 girls’ event, jumping an even 5 metres.
And in the U14 girls, Sarah Helebert jumped to perfection to win the Connacht title with a jump of 4.66m. This was super for Sarah who has frequently demonstrated fleeting glimpses of this type of jumping potential – but it never came right for her on the day. It was a good boost also for her for later in the summer when she will be contesting the long jump in Mosney. In the boys U14s, Niall Rooney jumped to 4th position with a jump of 3.79m. Back to the girls and Craughwell’s impressive jumping form continued with a triple whammy of jumps by Rachel Kenny, Leah Creaven and Yasmine Tobin to take all three top places in the U16 girls long jump. Rachel jumped 4.35m to take the Connacht title from Leah who had won it the last 2 years. Leah had to settle for 2nd place with a jump of 4.10m – a good distance off her PB due to a hamstring injury that she is carrying. For Yasmine, it was her first time taking an individual medal in long jump, improving her PB by almost 20cm to take bronze with 3.98m.
Final long jumper on the day was William Finnegan who jumped very well despite the lack of opposition – jumping 5.70m and claiming the gold medal. Its only 3 years since the club had the facility to practice long jump in Craughwell and it’s a real measure of the club’s progress when you look at the long jump medals won in this year’s Connacht finals. The club won 7 Connacht titles in long jump, 2 silver medals and 3 bronze.
The high jump proved equally fruitful for the club – with the highlight of course been the fantastic PB of 1.66m that Cathriona Farrell jumped in the U15 girls’ high jump. At these heights, improvements are hard to come by. Cathriona had jumped 1.63m in indoor competition last year and was jumping consistently in the 1.58-1.62m range since then – but getting a new PB was proving a formidable task, so it was great to Cathriona recording a new PB on this occasion. Rebecca Helebert competed also in this age group but didn’t make the medals on this occasion. It was a real day of PB’s for Rebecca’s younger sister Sarah as she hit new heights – clearing 1.40m to take the silver medal in the U14 girls’ high jump. In the same age groups, Craughwell also had rich rewards in the boys’ high jump, with Tomas Keehan clearing 1.50m to take the silver medal and Niall Rooney clearing 1.40 for bronze.
Success continued with the U13 age group with Orla Ryan taking the bronze with a clearance of 1.25m. For the U13 boys, competition was intense as it narrowed down to a Craughwell duo over the final heights. Ross Haverty jumped to perfection to clear 1.30m on his second attempt, with Pádraic Tobin clearing the same height on his third attempt. Up the bar went to 1.35m – with both athletes failing to clear this height, it was decided on the count-back with Ross taking gold and Pádraic silver. And then the turn of the ‘old master’ Diarmuid Quill who jumped to gold with a splendid 1.65m in the senior high jump despite having had a serious work-place accident that meant zero training for him recently. Final jump medals of the day came in the triple jump with a Finnegan double – Sarah taking the gold in the U19 girls with a jump of 8.90m and William taking the senior men’s gold with a jump of 12.05m.
The sprints also yielded medals for the club – sprinting has not been a forte of the club at Connacht level, but on this occasion the club made significant progress with a number of medals. A splendid sprint double saw Tomás Keehan take gold in the U14 80m and 200m in times of 11.24 and 29.12. And in U13 boys 80m, Paul McGill took gold in 11.56 with David Farrell pipped for 4th place by 0.02 of a second! In the senior men’s 100m, William Finnegan took gold in a time of 12.09. In the hurdles events, the club also enjoyed considerable success with Sarah Finnegan taking double gold in U19 110m and 400m hurdles in times of 19.89 and 1.22.07, sister Rachel taking silver in U15 girls 250m hurdles in 40.88 and David Farrell taking silver in the U13 boys 60m hurdles, just missing the gold by 0.01 seconds. Sisters Kelly and Katie O’Donoghue also ran well in the hurdles to take 4th place in the U15 250m hurdles and U13 60m hurdles.
There were good performances also in the throwing events, with the highlight been National Champion Paul McGill’s continuing progress in the shot putt to claim gold by throwing the 2kg shot 11.09m into a stiff breeze in the U13 boys event. Paul also claimed silver in the javelin with a throw of 19.56m. Niamh O’Halloran took 4th place in both the U13 girls shot and javelin. Also taking double medals, Kelly O’Donoghue took gold in the U15 javelin (21.77m) and silver in the shot (7.27m). Other medalists included David Porter in 3rd place in the U15 javelin (27.30m), Niall Rooney in 3rd place in the U14 javelin (16.85m), Sean Moran in 3rd place in the U15 discus (14.56m) and Yasmine Tobin in 3rd place in the U16 girls shot (6.20m).
The distance races and the walks also saw plenty of success for the club with 3 Connacht titles coming our way. In the U15 girls 2k walk, Maeve Curley put in a super effort to easily win in a time of 10.48.24 – with plenty of energy left in the tank if more was required. And in the U15 girls 1500m, Rachel Finnegan displayed her considerable talents in middle-distance running to take the gold medal. And in the U15 boys 1500m race, Shane O'Halloran put in an exceptional performance to take 4th position, just ahead of David Porter in 5th place. And the final distance title saw Linda Porter resume her position as Connacht champion with a fine performance to take the 600m gold in a personal best time of 1.51.59. It was great to see Linda back at the helm having relinquished her Connacht title in the Connacht Indoor Championships earlier in the year.
And finally, after a long day, the last event of the day arrived – the relays. With the relay teams having qualified already for the national finals from the county competition a few weeks ago (relays for age groups U12 and older qualify from the County event, with U9s, U10s and U11s qualifying from the Connacht event), the normal pressure and tension associated with the relays was not evident. The U13 girls relay was the first on the track. Craughwell’s team was weakened by an injury to Katie from her hurdles earlier in the day – so we were lucky to have Maireád McCann to step into the team. The team lined up with Orla Ryan, Debbie Kenny, Linda Porter and Maireád. With Debbie not feeling the best either, at one point it seemed we would not have a team at all – but thankfully she was ok to run. With GCH and Swinford having 2 of the best teams in the country in this age group, it was always going to be a battle to do well. The team ran well and narrowly finished in 4th place (61.45s), 0.3 of a second behind Westport. The U13 boys’ team was up next. The team lined up with Cormac Dillon starting, David Farrell, Cillian Reidy and Paul McGill finishing, with Pádraic Tobin as sub. Paul had already won the individual sprint in style earlier. The team ran well, taking 3rd position behind Castlebar and GCH. Castlebar had medaled in the indoor relays earlier this year, so it was a good performance without 1 of our fastest sprinters in this age group – Luke Cormican.
Next on the blocks were the U14 boys – with the order been Niall Rooney, Paul McGill, Micheál Hannon and Tomás Keehan. Tomás had already had a fine day – winning both the 80m and 200m sprints. A good start from Niall saw Paul sprinting down the straight and passing to Micheál. The team were in 2nd place when Tomás received the baton – trailing Castlebar by 6 or 7 metres. As Tomás surged down the home straight, the distance narrowed. With the finish line about 40m away, Tomás seemed to find a 2nd gear somewhere and just powered past the Castlebar athlete to win by 2 or 3 metres – a fantastic victory. Final relay team of the day for the club was the U15 girls’ team. Competition was intense for places on this team – with 6 strong runners in this age group in the club. Sophie Ralston and Maeve Curley were the two to miss out on the team places on this occasion – with the team lining up as Kelly O’Donoghue, Cathriona Farrell, Rachel Finnegan and Rebecca Helebert. A good start from Kelly and a strong run from Cathriona down the straight had us ahead by about 2 metres when Cathriona passed the baton to Rachel. Rachel maintained the distance for the hand-over to Rebecca who was really up against it for the final straight as the Roscommon team in 2nd place at this stage was anchored by sprint champion Niamh Ni Cathain. Rebecca ran strongly but could not match the pace of the Roscommon sprinter, losing out by less than 2 metres and taking the silver medals. A super run by Rebecca to only lose 4 metres to the Connacht sprint champion.
Another very successful day for the club!