Sinéad Gaffney Selected for Ireland!

Sinéad Gaffney Selected for Ireland!

Sinéad Gaffney being presented with a training grant by Michael Tobin in recognition of
her selection for the Irish Universities Track & Field team to contest the forthcoming international with Scotland

Massive congratulations to one of our most talented and dedicated athletes Sinéad Gaffney on her selection for the 800m for the Irish Universities team to contest the annual track & field international against Scotland next weekend.

For Sinéad this is just reward for years of dedication to the sport which she has skilfully juggled alongside her love of camogie. She is currently part of the midfield engine-room for Craughwell’s intermediate camogie team and has starred on Galway county teams as well as winning a coveted Universities All-Ireland last year with the UL camogie team.

She has been with Craughwell AC since the age of 7 and to see her now selected for an international at the age of 21 is just brilliant!! Hopefully the first of many for Sinéad and hopefully something that will encourage our younger athletes to continue their dedication to the sport and the rewards will come.

Sinéad’s first foray into athletics competition was as an U9 in 2003 and I can remember her relay team making it all the way to the National finals with Sinéad running the 3rd leg and when it came to the final, the eventual winners stepping into our lane and impeding our changeover as Sinéad was about to receive the baton. We finished 5th by one-third of a second … the impeded changeover almost certainly denying us a medal.

This early disappointment didn’t turn Sinéad away however and she went on to become one of our most successful athletes. In the early days it was sprints, jumps and relays that were mainly her competitive focus with cross country every autumn/winter – as back in the day all the club had to train on in winter times was a muddy field!

Sinéad enjoyed plenty of success in the cross country, just missing out on team medals in the National U11 Cross Country in 2005 where she placed 35th individually and the team 4th just 15 points away from 3rd place; and featuring strongly on the Craughwell NS team who won the coveted Connacht Primary Schools Cross Country title in 2006.

Irish University Cross Country Champions 2016


Autumn 2007 saw a nightmare experience for Sinéad’s in the Galway U13 Girls 1200m held on the equine slopes of Dartfield. Cross country is tough as we all know but even tougher if you push yourself to the absolute limit something which Sinéad did that day and something clicked around 200m from the finish line when Sinéad more or less stopped breathing and staggered/gasped the last 200m over the line – not a pleasant experience but again not something that deterred Sinéad from continuing in athletics. This resulted in a temporary lull in cross country running for Sinéad but she was back in action at U16 level in 2010 with school’s cross country and also that autumn when she featured on the first ever Craughwell AC team to contest the Connacht U16 Girls Cross Country with the team placing 3rd and Sinéad 10th. And more recently in 2016, Sinéad had another outstanding day when running on the University of Limerick cross country team that won the Colleges title in Sligo.

Craughwell AC U16 Girls Cross Country Team 2010
Muireann Maloney, Dearbhla Maloney, Sinéad Gaffney, Gabrielle Tobin

While I am not quite sure when Sinéad first started running what was to become her forte the 800m race, one of her earliest distance races on the track was in 2006 where she won the silver in the U11 400m as well as winning gold in the U11 relay. In 2008, Sinéad ran what was possibly her first 800m track race when taking a splendid victory in the U13 Girls 800m in the Galway City Sports. Up until then, Sinéad hadn’t really tried the middle distance track races and stuck more to sprints, hurdles and long jump.

2009 saw Sinéad place close to the medals in the Connacht club championships with a 2.48.7 PB in the U15 800m. 2010 saw an indoor PB of 2.43.66 in the Connacht indoors followed by a 2.32.8 in the Connacht Schools Championships. Indeed 2010 was a remarkable year for Sinéad as she helped the Pres Athenry to the trophy for the best school in the junior grade in the Irish Schools Track & Field finals.

 Pres Athenry Junior Girls Team receiving Bes School Award at the Irish Schools Track & Field

Sinéad was also a talented multi-eventer winning the Connacht Pentathlon Minor Girls title when in second year and following it up in later years with podium finishes in the Junior, Intermediate and Senior Girls grades, performances which included a 4.85 PB in the long jump in 2012. Her multi-event endevours culminated with bronze in the National Junior Indoor Pentathlon in 2012.

Bronze Medallist in the National Junior Pentathlon 2012

Maria McNamara, Katie O’Donoghue, Sinéad Gaffney
National Pentathlon Squad 2012, Morton Stadium

She had plenty of success to her name in relays also, with many Galway and Connacht titles and numerous National medals. Having placed 4th in the National outdoors in 2005 as an U11 and again in 2010 as an U16, Sinéad’s team hit the National podium big-time as U17s in 2011 with bronze medals in the 4x100m and silver medals in the 4x300m.

U17 4x100m Relay Team 2017
Jessica, Claire, Sineád, Maireád, Maria

U17 4x300m Relay Team 2017
Jessica, Orla, Muireann, Sineád, Maria

She followed this up with a little bit of history in 2012 when she ran the 3rd leg of the triumphant Connacht team who took the 4x300m title in the inter-provencial Tailteann Games – Connacht’s first time in the 50-year history of the Games in winning the gold medal. And helped the Pres Athenry to National bronze in the 4x100m the same year.

The History-making Connacht U17 4x300m Relay – Tailteann Games Champions 2012
Stacey Kerr (Sligo), Alanna Lally (Monivea), Sinéad Gaffney (Craughwell), Aisling Forkan (Swinford)

The Pres Athenry Intermediate Girls 4x100m – National Bronze Medallists
Claire Ryder, Sinéad Gaffney, Jessica Heneghan, Alanna Lally

2012 yielded further National relay medals for Sinéad with bronze medals in the U18 4x100m and silver in the U19 Girls 4x100m on the same day. And the relay success didn’t stop there for Sinéad with a silver medal for UL as the first runner on their relay team in the infamous “from the depths of hell” 4x400m in 2016, and followed this up with silver in the 4x100m in the 2017 Championships and for good measure, ran the anchor leg of the Universities road relays for UL in 2015 to win team silver. You can view “the depths of hell” video on youtube if you like … it quickly became an Internet sensation.

2012 U18 Girls 4x100m Team
Jessica, Sineád, Claire and Maireád

2012 U19 Girls 4x100m Team
Jessica, Katie, Orla  and Sineád

But back to her forte the 800m, in 2011 Sinéad set a unique record for the club when running the fastest ever time by an athlete with an arm in plaster cast when winning gold in the South Connacht Schools Track & Field Intermediate 800m in a time of 2.32.3. She went on to run a PB of 2.29.2 in the Connacht finals.

In 2012, she lowered her indoor PB in the Galways when winning the Galway Senior Indoor title in 2.32.7 and ran a big PB in the Connacht finals when taking silver in the U18 Girls 800m in 2.28.84. The National finals saw further progress when Sinéad ran a splendid 2.23.93 to place 4th in the U18 800m final, just an agonising 0.44 seconds from the podium.

Autumn 2015 saw a big renewed effort from Sinéad on the 800m and it paid rich dividends in early 2016. In January Sinéad ran a superb race to take the National U23 silver medal in a time of 2.23.13 – only 0.04 seconds away from Linda Porter’s 800m club record.

Sinéad on the podium at the National U23s in 2016

Sinéad followed it up with a 2.26.1 to place 6th in the final of the 800m at the Irish Universities indoors, disappointed in herself that she hadn’t improved on her PB. But the moment she was waiting for came a few weeks later in the semi-finals of the National Seniors where Sinéad smashed the club record by over 3 seconds with an exceptional 2.20.04 in a race that was won by World Youth and Junior silver medallist Ciara Mageean.

2017 has seen further PBs for Sinéad, this time on the outdoor circuit we with a fine 2.23.07 in the 800m heats at the Irish University Outdoors and 2.23.73 the same day to place 5th in the final – just a fraction of a second away from the club’s outdoor record of 2.22.60.

To say the club and her coaches are proud of Sinéad’s achievements is an understatement. She is a role model for athletes young and old and hopefully there is plenty more to come from this talented athlete.

Sinéad in action in the final of the 2016 IUAA 800m

Sinéad beaming after breaking the club’s indoor record in 2016

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