Conor Gillen and Finn Stoneman were part of the victorious Galway cross country team who claimed silver medals in the inter-county 4x500m relay event in Boyle at the weekend.
Running on the U14 team with GCH duo Evan McGuire and Colm Hughes, the first leg was ran by Finn around half of the 1000m course. That section of the course included a tough uphill and Finn did exceptionally well to hand-off in 3rd place to Evan. The 2nd leg had its own challenges as it was partially flooded but Evan ignored all that as he skimmed over the water, moving up on the shoulder of the 3rd place athlete and handing over to Conor. Conor battled hard on the 3rd leg, back up the uphill section of the course to hand over to Colm Hughes. Still in 3rd place, with a gap of about 20m to the 2nd place runner, Colm slowly reeled in the runner as he pounded out the strides. Coming to the final bend, Colm pulled onto his shoulder and in the ensuing sprint easily held on to take silver medals for the county – an excellent performance. It was particularly rewarding for the team as at 10.30pm the night before, the county had no team available – but a late-cancelled soccer match, a flurry of phone-calls and last minute preparations resulted in a set of National silver medals for the boys – well done to all!
The Galway U12 girls team claimed bronze medals in their relay final, with fantastic running. Led off by Ballinasloe’s Anne Tynan-Daly, the team were in the leading bunch of 5 at the first hand-over where GCH’s Maebh Brannigan took up the running and keeping the team well positioned in the top 5. Passing to Ballinasloe’s Ciara Greene for the 3rd leg, Ciara ran a truly outstanding race to close a 20m gap and move the team very close to 3rd place before handing over to Laura Ann Costello. Running a very well-paced race, Laura Ann quickly consolidated 3rd place and worked on closing the gap to the 2nd place runner who was some 30m ahead. Stride by stride the gap was closing. As Laura Ann pulled within 5m of 2nd place, there was about 100m left in the race … the gap narrowed again but the 2nd place runner had just enough in the tank to hold onto that place and Laura Ann took a super bronze medal for the county after a fantastic team performance.
The Galway U12 boys team were an entirely GCH team, comprising their exceptional team from last year’s All-Irelands. To win a club team medal in the All-Irelands is a fantastic achievement. For the same team to battle it out at county level in this event was a huge ask. But the GCH team (John Maher, Calum McClaren, David Carter, Keegan Kelly, Fiachra O'Clochan) put in an outstanding race to take 4th place overall – a very impressive achievement at this level of competition.
As hard as it is for a club team to contest an inter-county event, it’s even harder for the members of one family to contest an inter-county event! But that’s exactly what the legendary Burke family from Ballinasloe did in the U14 girls inter-county relay – with GCH’s Alanna Lally joining Kate, Veronica and Michelle Burke on the county team. Michelle led the team out in the 1st leg, handing over to Kate in the 2nd leg and to Alanna in the 3rd leg. At the changeover to Veronica, the team were about 30m behind 3rd place. Veronica tore off like a demon to chase down the 3rd place runner, overtaking one county in the process. She closed the gap to within 5m but had to settle for 4th place on the day – a super performance by the team and doubly impressive given that 3 of the team were a year out of their age.
So two sets of medals and two 4th place finishes for Galway in the 4 races – a very good performance in this keenly contested event.