Swinford can lay claim to having the toughest cross country course in Connacht after today's epic struggles in Swinford's own Himalayan Foothills. For all of the hardy souls that trod around the hilly course, we came to understand the true meaning of cross country. There wasn't a level piece of ground in sight, up one hill, down another, up another. And as for the weather, they know how to bring it on in Mayo! The wind swept around the course like Hurricane Paddy, with nowhere to hide except for the welcome animal trailers and tent in the centre of the course. And when the rain came, it came aplenty, lashing down the hill and straight into the faces of the unfortunate u14 girls who were about to start their race.
But were we complaining, not a bit because the superb organisation by the host club of this cross country was top notch – from the exceptionally well laid out course, to the carefully chosen race starts, to the fantastic hospitality while waiting for the results. Everything was perfect and a huge credit to Swinford AC who really set the standards for hosting a cross-country event. Even the race headquarters were in pristine condition … the McCanns slatted house was cleaner than most kitchens! All of Swinford AC must have been scrubbing it for the past few days!
The races themselves served up some great battles, with the host club doing particularly well. Home advantage clearly made a difference even though some of the Swinford coaches were claiming that they had run the course only twice before the race.
Craughwell AC had a day of ups and downs just like the course … with some exceptional running from every athlete putting our teams very close to or in the medals.
The club's teams put in some fantastic performances and were unluckly to finish just outside the medals in 4th place in the u12 girls and u14 girls, and in 5th place in the U12 boys. The U14 boys took a super silver medal in their race with some fine running.
The highlight of the day was Linda Porter's fantastic victory in the U16 girls 2000m. Linda was stepping up an age into this age group and ran a very strong race right from the start. The start was possibly the most difficult start I have ever witnessed to a cross-country race – been right at the foot of a 200m hill, with a fairly steep incline. Linda got into 2nd place right from the start behind Ballina athlete Aileen Gilroy. With two laps of the course to do, Linda stayed in 2nd place until about 700m where she went into the lead and slowly pulled away to eventually win by 40 or 50m – a really super result for Linda and her first time winning a Connacht title out of her age group.
The day got underway with the U12 girls 1000m. Thankfully the rain had not broken at this stage, so the girls got off a little easier than the older age groups. It was a very difficult start for these young athletes, facing up the same hill as mentioned earlier. Sinead Treacy got into a leading position going up the hill but the hill really sapped her energy and she dropped back a little later in the race. Cousin Ellen ran a super super race to take 11th place overall – possibly her best cross country to date. She was followed in by Grainne McDaid in a fantastic 13th place, then Sinead Treacy in 25th, Katie Donohue in 29th, Ellen Fitzpatrick in 30th and Andrea Tobin in 35th. All of the girls ran really well, placing well up in the race but were lucky to finish in 4th place when the results were announced later on – just 15 pts behind the bronze medallists GCH. Ellen T and Grainne claimed medals as part of the victorious Galway county team.
The U12 boys race was another tough encounter. Brian Concannon lead the Craughwell team home in 12th place followed by Gavin O'Toole in 16th, Aidan Conneely in 19th, Jamie Spellman in 23rd, Liam Forde in 24th and Niall Broderick in 43rd. Niall showed great strength of mind when he picked himself up from a bad fall on the course to continue on and ran a very good race out of his age group. The boys had a good team score of 70 points, but on this occasion it was only good enough for 5th place in a tightly grouped team event where Ballina won with 50 pts, GCH second with 58 pts, North Sligo 3rd with 61 pts and Swinford 4th with 69 pts.
The U14 girls 1200m race got underway just as the heavens opened. The girls had worked really hard for this race but the hilly nature of the course didn't suit them – most of our training was on the flat, so we will have to learn from that for next time out. Muireann Maloney led the team home, taking 16th place in extremely difficult weather conditions. Maria McNamara, this age group's talented multi-eventer, was next home in 19th place. Orla McDaid was next in 24th, followed closely with a fantastic run by Sarah Molloy in 25th place, with Laura Porter close on her heels in 26th place. Gabrielle Tobin completed the team finishing strongly in 41st place. When the team results were announced, we were unluckly to take 4th place again with 84 pts.
The U14 boys 1500m was another highlight of the day, with some huge performances by the team. Finn Stoneman ran a super race to take 7th place overall followed very closely by Conor Gillen in 8th place. Keelin Ryan ran a huge race to take 16th place – auguring very well for the U13s in 2 weeks time as he and Conor are both that age group. Paul Fitzpatrick ran possibly his best ever cross country to take 21st place followed closely by Paul Joyce in 23rd. When the results were announced later, the team took a very good silver medal with 52 pts.
The U16 girls 2000m was next, with Linda's fine victory was mentioned earlier in this article. The U16 boys 3000m got underway next where David Concannon was stepping up an age and ran a super race to take 5th place overall – a very good performance against quality opposition.
In the U18 girls 3000m, the club had 3 U17s taking part, with Rachel Finnegan running strongly to take 7th place following closely by Maeve Curley in 8th place and Sophie Ralston completing the trio taking 10th place.
In the final race of the day, Craughwell's sole representative in the senior races was Martin Corcorcan who put in a fantastic performance to take the gold medal in the masters category, beating the rest of the field across all categories in the process.
Full results of the races are are:-