This is a very late commentary on the performance of our athletes in Ballyhaise, Cavan a few weeks ago. Full results of the National finals of the uneven ages and Novice championships are on http://www.athleticsireland.ie/content/?page_id=160.
Mark has already commented on the fantastic performance of our senior men’s team who finished a very creditable 7th place in the National Novice cross-country in Cavan with 17 teams participating in total. My summary here is of the juvenile performances.
Pride of place on the day goes to Conor Gillen who came in a fantastic 6th place in the U13 boys 1200m – as far as I am aware this is the highest place finish ever by a boy in Craughwell’s colours, bettered only by Linda Porter 4th place finish a few years ago. It is Conor’s first season of cross-country and his superb running in both this and the u14 race two weeks earlier (where he placed 23rd) was fantastic.
The course in Cavan suited fast starters as often happens in the shorter distances and Conor was well back after 150m in about 20th place. But he stuck gainfully to his task and slowly edged his way to the front on the frozen underfoot conditions. Meanwhile at the front of the race, a group of 5 slowly opened a gap on the chasing bunch – when Conor got to the head of that chasing bunch with about 100m to go, it was too big a task on this occasion to bridge the 10m gap to the leading group. So Conor had to settle for an individual medal in 6th place, a fantastic finish even if he was slightly disappointed himself not to be in the leading bunch.
The rest of the boys U13 team gave big performances also in the extremely tough conditions. Nicholas Sheehan had the misfortune of taking a tumble in the early part of the race which set him way back, but he bounced up and made his way through the field to eventually finish in 54th position, followed closely by Keelan Ryan in 60th and Matthew Freaney in 61st. Matthew Moran, David Byrne and Jamie Spellman also finished strongly to take 93rd, 103rd and 112th. When the team scores were counted, we were unlucky to be in 5th place. Without doubt, this is a super team and were worthy of a medal – so strong hope next year that they will feature.
In the U15 girls 1500m, Linda Porter had high hopes of a top 10 position after her incredible 13th place in the U16s two weeks ago. However, it was not to be on this occasion for Linda with the treacherous underfoot conditions proving particularly difficult for Linda as a leading group broke away from the field. Linda still finished in a super 21st place, a position which most athletes would consider absolutely fantastic in a National cross-country final and it is indicative of her talent and ambition that Linda was disappointed with her race. She will bounce back even stronger though after a long season between indoor/outdoor track and field and cross-country. Linda’s teammates in the U15s also found the going tough but did very well at this level with Orla McDaid 88th, Muireann Maloney finishing in 101th, Laura Porter 106th and Caoimhe Quill 126th.
I should say also that for me, my personal highlight of the day was that we fielded both a boys’ and a girls’ team in the National U15 cross country. It is an indication of the progress that the club are making in retaining talented athletes as they move through their teens and hopefully into senior athletics.
In the U15 boys race, David Concannon gave a fantastic performance to finish in 15th place overall. At this level, the standard of running is enormously high and it is evidence of David’s outstanding natural ability that he had only done a few weeks training for this event once the county u14 hurling squad’s season finished. Also putting in a huge race, Paul Fitzpatrick finished in 85th place followed closely by Pádraic Tobin in 109th and Ross Haverty in 113th.
Another outstanding performance was given by Grainne McDaid in the U11 girls 800m when she finished 24th overall. Having perhaps underperformed by her own standards in the Connacht finals a few weeks ago when she finished 18th, Grainne was really focussed for this race and got off to a fast start to take up a strong position from early in the race. Due to the nature of the course, such a start was essential for a good finish. The speed of the start caught out Tara McNally and Leanne Freaney a little, both of whom were competing in their 1st National final. Tara and Leanne would normally be up there with Grainne but the huge numbers on the narrow track made progress difficult for them and they eventually finished in 94th and 95th. Orlaith Maloney completed the scoring for the team when finishing 138th. The experience of performing at this level will be of immense benefit to the girls for the future.
Our sole participant in the U11 boys race was Liam Forde, who ran very well and finished 62nd – unlucky to miss out on a medal with the Galway team who took the silver medals.
So that wrapped up an interesting cross-country season for the club. While there were some tough races and mixed emotions in Cavan, it was one of the best ever individual performances by the club with 7 athletes finishing in the top 30. And we move closer and closer to fielding teams in older ages and both senior races. Hopefully next year, we will see the two U15 teams progress to U16 and perhaps the men’s team will be joined by a women’s team!