It was back to the muck and dirt of cross-country at the weekend with the long trip northwards to Ballinamore. Who’d have thought that you could drive north for almost 2 and a half hours and still be in Connacht.
It quickly became clear when we stepped onto the field in Ballinamore that we were in for a rough time. Parts of the course were more like quicksand than a field as athletes sank down into the mire and struggled to pull foot and shoe out in one piece – and this was only as we walked the course to get a feel for it.
The ground was freshly splattered with evidence of well-fed cattle just to make it a little more difficult, but the wise old cows had departed the scene for the day because of the conditions – probably gone indoors for a bit of comfort. We splashed through the drier parts of the course and back onto the few metres of solid ground on the road into the field.
There were many fine performances on the day with the highlight been a super individual victory for Conor Gillen in the U14 boys 1500m.
(Thanks to Tony Fitz for all the photographs in this article)
The races got underway on the dot of 1pm with the U12 girls 1000m. These young competitors have to be congratulated for heroically ploughing their way around the course in such difficult conditions.
It brings a new meaning to the definition of endurance running.
Just to complete this course was an achievement for them and hopefully it will strengthen their character rather than turn them off the sport of cross country as Sunday was probably the toughest course I have seen.
Grainne McDaid and Leanne Freaney were right up there in the top 10 as the girls wound their way around the first lap. Disaster struck for Grainne as she stumbled and then fell on the second lap – from the description, it sounded like she had almost fainted at that point of the race. Leanne ran a stormer of a race to take 10th place overall earning herself a place on the Connacht team for the All-Irelands and leading the Craughwell team to bronze medals. Dearbhaile Walsh 15th, Tara McNally 19th, Rebecca Leahy 28th and Amy Hynes 32nd completed the Craughwell performance. For Amy, this was only her 2nd cross-country run and a real baptism of fire (or rather wind, rain and muck) for her. She stumbled over the line and was sick for several minutes after the race. But really well done to her for taking part in such conditions.
Our next competitors were the U14 girls in the 1200m. The girls put in a good performance in the difficult conditions to take 5th place overall with Sinead Treacy 20th, Allanah Ni Cheallachain 22nd, Gabrielle Tobin 23rd and Ellen Fitzpatrick 25th. I felt a little guilty during this race as I miscounted the laps (how can you miscount when there are only 2 laps I wonder!) and encouraged the girls with the "almost there" shout on the first lap. Thankfully I don't think they heard me or else they just ignored me – just that silly coach shouting again, fine for him when he's standing there all clean and dry and us poor girls running through this muck!
The happy faces above are a sign of relief that they are finished with the race as evidenced by their mucky spikes below!
| In the U14 boys 1500m, we had a strong team in action. Once the distance moves out to 1500 and longer, it eliminates the sprinters from the competition and allows the endurance runners to shine. Craughwell got off to a good start in the race, with Conor Gillen a few metres off the pace of the leading group after 100m and the rest of the team close behind him. |
Conor managed to pick the pace up to tag onto the back of the leading group and as the race unfolded, he moved to the front about the half-way point. Pounding away relentlessly, the leading group dwindled and only Conor and a Swinford athlete remained in contention for the Connacht title with 100m to go. Conor wasn’t going to be beaten at this point and kicked hard for the line to win by 7 or 8 metres and retain his Connacht title in this age group.
Running a fantastic race only 20m further back, Nicholas Sheehan and Keelan Ryan were rapidly closing in on the finish line, with Nicholas taking 7th place and Keelan 8th place – fine running by both athletes.
Next in for the club was Matthew Freaney in 17th place, overtaking 4 or 5 opponents in the last 100m with a superb finish and one that will be great experience for Matthew. Matthew Moran and Cathal Reidy completed a great team performance when finishing in 21st and 22nd place with Craughwell taking the gold medals with 33 points, just 4 ahead of Ballina.
The U16 boys team were next in action for the club in a difficult 3000m race – another real battle of the mind and lungs. David Concannon got a good start at the back of the leading bunch on the first lap. Just recovered from recent injury, the fast pace at the front took its toll on David and he had to pull back a little due to a bad stitch. Finn Stoneman was running the race of his life behind David and slowly closed the gap, passing David with about 1000m to go and closing to take 5th place overall. David soldiered on and put in a strong finish to take 7th place. Paul Fitzpatrick was another U15 having a great run, running a very well-paced race to take 12th place. Pádraic Tobin suffered a bad stitch during the race also and had to ease back a little before recovered to take 19th place. Jack Leahy completed a fine team performance to take 21st place.
Five teams were on the entry list but such were the difficult conditions that only 2 full teams completed the race with Craughwell claiming the victory ahead of Sligo AC and combining with Adrian Hardiman of GCH to help Galway win the inter-county competition. David Porter was the last competitor of the day for Craughwell, in the U18 boys 5000m. David got a good start and was well up in the race when disaster struck and a recent injury flared up and he had to withdraw from the race.
So overall, it was a good day for the club – 4 teams in action, 2 Connacht team titles, 1 third place and 1 individual Connacht title. Roll on next weekend in the Palace Grounds in Tuam for the uneven age groups Connacht Championships.
And for the weary legs that have run in the muck in Sligo and Leitrim in the last two weekends, Tuam AC have assured us that north Galway has some of the finest and best drained land in Connacht and that there won’t be a trace of cattle in sight on the Palace Grounds. So all we need now is for some of the north Connacht clubs to have a quick word with the heavenly powers on their way through Knock next Sunday and we might have an easier experience!