Archive for March, 2006

Clonliffe expedition strikes silver

So here we all were. In Dublin Airport at the ungodly hour of 4.30 a.m. on a dark and slightly nippy March morning, checking in for our flight to Munich, en-route to the World Masters Championships in Linz.

The trip out was an adventure in itself. After an uneventful flight to Munich, we then had to catch three separate trains to Linz, (via Salzburg and Munich Central). The entire countryside in southern Germany was covered in snow, and looked like a scene from a tourism brochure. A very tired party eventually arrived in Linz station around 7 p.m. Getting off the train, two things were immediately apparent. It was f-f-f-freezing! And the snow and ice were a bit of a challenge to get around, with a 40 kg rucksack on your back.

Being Irish, of course we did not have the slightest clue where our hotel was located. When we got on the tram for Linz we asked the passengers around us for directions to the hotel. Being reasonable, intelligent people, the Austrians replied Do you have the address. It turned out that our Accomodation Co-ordinator had made the booking on the internet and had not taken note of the address…….

We then thought that we had got lucky when we asked one very robust Austrian frau for directions and she replied in very broken English I go there. I show you.

Wahay! Problem solved!

We left the tram and followed this helpful lady through darkened, snow-covered streets. After a while I noticed that we were getting further and further from civilisation and the primeval oak forest was closing in around us. Our helpful guide was looking very unsure of her bearings….It was a very Hansel and Gretelmoment. In the distance you could hear a wolf howling. I imagine he was simply letting his friends know there was fresh meat coming their way…. Somebody then asked our guide if she was actually from Linz. She replied No. I from Budapest. I shot putter.

At that point our Accomodation Co-ordinator had the bright idea of ringing the hotel to get directions. Based on this more reliable source of advice, we then made a 180 degree about-face, abandoning our Hungarian shot-putter to her fate. We trekked through the snow back the way we had come. On eventually arriving at the hotel we were greeted by Sean Cooney, a friend & co-competitor of Pat Bonass. Pat explained to Sean in exasperated tones that he had never seen such a “feckin’flock of clueless sheep, each following the other, without the slightest clue where they were, or where they were going”. Sean replied that we were lucky our trip only took us 15 hours. His own took 20 hours and he arrived at 4 a.m. in the morning. I naively asked him who was the Good Shepherd who arranged his trip? Baa-baa Bonass was the sheepish reply……

The following day was spent in the fabulous indoor athletics stadium in Linz watching some incredible masters athletics. We saw Tom O’Connor (45+) and Frank Reilly (60+) both take the gold medal with great style in their respective 3,000 metre races. That put the Irish camp into very fine spirits heading into the cross-country events on St Patrick’s Day.

The following morning we arrived at the park where the cross-country was to be staged. It was covered in 4 inches of snow. Some of you will recall that at our last club AGM Padraig Keane persuaded Clonliffe to put a motion to the AAI requesting that cross-country running be introduced as a winter Olympic sport. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon……My mother was right. She always said Be careful what you wish for: You might actually get it.

The snow was heavily frosted so it was more ice than snow – a bit like running on deep soft sand. Just to keep us on our toes (literally) the organisers had arranged a tractor to rotovate the surface after every race. Maybe we should ask the Dublin County Board to consider this innovation for the Dublin cross-countries? One competitor arrived on skis but the marshals soon put a stop to his gallop. Or rather they made him gallop without skis, just like the rest of us.

First out of the traps were the over-60 men. The Irish team consisted of Frank Reilly, Pat Bonass and Michael Bowler. The running was strange to watch, with everyone slipping and sliding their way around the 5 mile course, at what was a considerably slower pace than normal cross-country. It was obvious from an early stage that Frank was going to win the gold medal and he did so by a whopping minute and a half. Pat Bonass was 9th and Michael Bowler was 15th, giving them the team silver medal. Believe it or not, in a combined time of 1 hour 45 minutes they missed the gold medal by a mere 0.27 of a second…… That’s a little more than the width of this full stop.

It was then my turn. I was running with Tom O’Connor, Tony O’Halloran and Michael O’Shea, with three out of the four runners to score. Tom and Tony, being pedigree greyhounds (huskies?) had no problem sticking with the leading group of a dozen runners. It was clear from the first half mile that Michael and I were fighting it out to be the third scorer. Being mere mortals we found the going very tough and could not hold on to the leading bunch. The snow/ice was very uneven and it was very difficult to get any purchase on it. If you want to try out this experience, then I suggest you go to Portrane beach on a dry day and go for a five mile run in the soft sand. If you find the experience pleasurable you can then stop off at St Ita’s on the way back and have yourself measured for a strait jacket.

At the end of the first lap I was already feeling seriously knackered. Fortunately everybody around me was in a similar state and for the remaining two laps we struggled around like a procession of ducks out on a frozen pond. I managed to finish in 16th, two places ahead of Michael. Meanwhile, up at the head of affairs, Tom and Tony had broken away from the bunch on the final lap to finish 1st and 2nd respectively. Again we got the team silver. The Spanish had finished in 3rd, 4th and 5th and won the gold by a good margin. For my money the performance of the day was by Frank Reilly in the over 60s race. He is 15 years older than me yet finished 30 seconds quicker over the same course. Some of us are mere carthorses whereas others are thoroughbreds…

The following day this carthorse was ready for the knackers yard. I didn’t know it at the time but I was coming down with flu. Fortunately I could take the day off and headed in to Salzberg for sightseeing. It is a beautiful, compact city. It is also surrounded by alpine peaks and is a great destination for either a skiing or a sightseeing holiday. We got to the Irish pub that evening and watched the rugby match, surrounded by the British team who travelled in numbers. You can imagine what it is like to beat the Brits at cross-country and at rugby in Twickenham, all on a Paddy’s weekend. Needless to say we tried not to look too smug……

On the Sunday, athletics intervened again and I went into the city centre to watch the half marathon. I was supposed to be competing but was feeling very iffy and didnt even think about running in it. The sun had come out and the streets were clear of snow, so it was a very conventional race compared with the cross-country. Ronan Mulveny, ran a very respectable time of 79mins 58, to finish in 35th. The Irish over 50s team (Pat O’Shea, Tom Murphy & Sammy Mc Ananey) won the team gold, with Pat O’Shea from Kerry also taking the individual silver medal.

The half marathon was followed by the 10k walk. So we went to the pub at that juncture. Apparently from 1912 until 1948 there was an Olympic Art Competition at every Olympics, with gold, silver and bronze medals being awarded. Each nation nominated 1 competitor who had to produce a work of art. But it was found that the art competition was interfering with the attendance levels at the walk, as most spectators preferred to watch paint dry…….. Then in 1952 the Olympics transferred to Finland and for organisational reasons the Olympic Committee decided to drop the Olympic Art competition. To this day there are many who say they dropped the wrong event.

Rugby by Jean Jacoby – the only artist to win two Olympic gold medals for art. (picture to follow)

Overall, the Masters event was amazing for the level of competition and quality of the fields. There were 3,500 competitors from 135 countries. The 27 Irish competitors came 9th in the medal table. There are obviously many other stories to tell. Have you ever watched a 75 year old man run 400 metres in 70 seconds? Well I have. For this and all other results of the World Masters Championships see

Based on this touring experience, my top tips for anybody heading for Austria are:

The people are very helpful and courteous.

It is a lot cheaper than here.

The food is quite fatty and salty – they have the highest level of cardiac arrest in the world, and you want to avoid that if you can. They have a chain of seafood restaurants called NORDSEE which are quite good, and healthy. If all else fails, you cant miss the Mc Donalds in Linz. It is in Burger St!

Don’t ask directions from the Hungarian shot-putters. They stand at every cross-roads looking confused, just like the Irish tourists.

Aisling Coppinger wins the ultra race in Connemara

The Connemara Marathon which includes a half marathon and an ultra marathon was held on Sunday the 26th of March over an exceptionally demanding hilly course – they don’t do things on the flat out west. This is a race which has continued to grow in popularity for the sadists amongst us. A sizeable Clonliffe contingent made the long journey west for the weekend.

Pride of place goes to Aisling Coppinger who won the Ladies ultra race, held over no less than 41 miles, in a time of 5hrs28:20 Aisling’s husband Tony Kiernan also ran in the ultra race.

Wimping out of the ultra race was Maurice McCrohan who decided to concentrate on short distance for the weekend – the marathon!. Maurice ran a superb race to record a magnificent time of 3:02.55, the course adding possibly up to 15 minutes onto his time, to claim a magnificent 3rd place in the race. The race winner was the only man to break 3hrs – M. Halvey with 2:57.14.

On the Saturday Eugene Coppinger ran a lonely marathon, this was a marathon over the same route for the race directors, there were only ten competitors and Eugene ran solo as a training run to record a time of 3:16.

In the sprint race (the half marathon!) Kieran Murphy ran a half marathon PB of 90 minutes, again being well pleased, the course and conditions adding considerably to his time.

Our ladies were also out in force on the half marathon recording the following times:

Aisling McDermott – 1hr:42 Maura Ni Charabhill – 1hr:44 Tara – 1hr:46

(check the Connemara marathon site for official timings/places)

Mark Kenneally wins Ras na hEireann in Massachusetts

Clonliffe’s Mark Kenneally set a new course record at the Ras na hEireann held in Somerville, Massachusetts in the United States on the 19th of March in taking victory in the 5K Road Race in a time of 14:19, breaking the previous record held by Keith Kelly by all of 5 seconds.

In 2nd place was Keith Kelly in 14:22 (bettering his previous mark set in 2005) and in 3rd place, making it an Irish 1,2,3, was National Marathon ChampionVinney Mulvey of Raheny in 14:42.

Maria McCambridge was 1st lady in a time of 16:07, shattering the previous record of 17:35.

Cragg 4th in World Indoors

Clonliffe’s Alistair Cragg, the reigning European 3000M Indoor Champion, finished just outside of the medals at the World Indoor Championships in Moscow on the 12th of March in a race dominated by the Africans.

Alistair’s passage to the final was not without its drama when he stumbled badly, nearly falling, in the heats held on Friday morning. Alistair stumbled four laps from home nearly falling and slipping to the end of the field. Alistair was to say later “I didn’t panic, I got back up through the field, did what I had to do and I still felt strong finishing which was good.” Cragg qualified fairly comfortably for the final taking the 4th automatic qualifying place.

The final was a truly star studded affair, the field of the Championship. Bekele describing it as “the race of champions”.

In the final on Sunday Alistair ran an impressive race, always being in the lead group however, when the Africans upped the pace over the last few laps Alistair found himself cut adrift eventually finishing 4th, the first non-African, in a time of 7:46.43.

The gold medal was won by Kenensia Bekele in a time of 7:39.32 from Shaheen (Quator) and Kipchoge (Kenya) 3rd.

The notable Irish success of the Championships was the superb gold medal winning performance of Derval O’Rourke of Leevale in the 60M hurdles. This was a sensational victory and was only the second medal winning performance at the World Indoor Championships by an Irish woman and was the first gold won by an Irish woman.

Derval broke her Irish record on two occasions over the Championships in her victory in the semi-final recording a time of 7.87 and in the final lowering the record further to 7.84.

Other Irish performances over the weekend included a good performance by James Nolan (UCD) in firstly getting to the 1500M final and then in the final itself where he placed 6th. Nolan had sat at the rear of the field for the first five laps however when he made his move with two laps to go found the pace at the front too fast and Nolan came home 6th in a time of 3:43.98, showing a notable return to form.

Unfortunately Ireland’s other European Indoor Champion, David Gillick was run out of his heat and failed to make the semi-final. David McCarthy, also in the 400M, ran a good heat to qualify for the semi-final where he finished 6th in a time of 47.11.

Ireland’s two ladies in the 3000M under-performed with Maria McCambridge coming home 10th and Roisin McGettigan 13th.

Medal winning performance by our Juveniles in the Dublin Indoor Championships

The Dublin Indoor Championships were held in the Morton Stadium over the weekend of the 10th, 11th and 12th of March with three gold and two bronze medal performances by our athletes.

In the Boys U/19 60M 1st was Brian McKeown and 3rd in that race was Robbie Green.

In the U/17 Boys 60M Stephen Cooper was 3rd.

In the Girls U/17 60M Shauna Foreman was 1st.

Our Boys U/19 4x200M squad were also 1st, the team being Anthony McCreary (this time running without the pole vault), Stephen Cooper, Neil Whelehan and Botswani.

Fantastic performances all round.

Tony Kiernan wins ‘Farren Cup’

Congratulations to Tony Kiernan on his victory in Round 2 of the 2006 Grand Prix Series when he took victory in the 6K “Farren Cup” at Santry on Saturday the 4th of March and also to Philip O’Doherty who finished 2nd to take the overall lead in the Series.

For whatever reason the turn out for this race was to say the least pitiful with only 16 people (five of whom are not even members) supporting this club race. Indeed generally the entry to this years Grand Prix Series has been exceptionally disappointing, with only 25 people to date signing up, this is in comparison with almost 60 taking part in last years Series. The lack of support, from all sections of the club, is extremely worrying and the organisers are concerned for the future of this Grand Prix Series. Hopefully Club members will demonstrate their support by joining the Series in time for Round 3, the McDonald Cup, a 4 Mile race on the track, to be held on the 6th of April.

In addition to the lack of athletes taking part there was also a complete lack of race officials, again a worrying trend in that traditionally people taking part in the Grand Prix who are not running would have turned out to officiate and help out their colleagues. It was only thanks to the generosity of Pat Healy in turning out to officiate for the second race in a row, that Saturday’s “Farren Cup” took place at all when he stepped into the breach assisted by young Jack Fay and Paddy Tuite.

The race itself started in the car park at Santry Demesne heading “point to point” to the bridge at The Crown Plaza Hotel, involving the athletes running on both the road and cross country, exiting the gate from the park, turning right down the roadway and turning right again back down the Swords Road, past the Stadium and back into Santry Demesne carpark, there were three full laps plus a smaller loop in the park to make up the requisite distance.

Being an open handicap the race was started on a staggered basis, first away was Raheny’s Tony Westby. The runners were sent on their way until finally scratch man David Brennan was “released”.

The handicapper got things almost perfectly right in that for the smaller loop in the park towards the end of the race there was a stream of athletes the whole field almost coming together, Tony Kiernan however having taken over the lead was not to be denied to win and take 20 points. Philip O’Doherty, after a storming run from the rear of the field came through to take 2nd place. 3rd was John Fay. Fastest man of the day was David Brennan.

The full result of the Farren Cup was:

1. Tony Kiernan (actual time 26:56) – 20 pts.

2. Philip O’Doherty (21:10) – 19 pts.

3. John Fay (26:49) – 18 pts.

4. Noel Guiden (22:36) 17 pts.

5. Maurice McCrohan (21:56) – 16 pts.

6. Ray McConville (27:35) – 15 pts.

7. Stephen Byrne (22:33) – 14 pts.

8. David Brennan (21:07) – 13 pts.

9. Pat Bonass (25:14) – 12 pts.

10. Martin Tully (23:26) – 11 pts.

11. Tony Westby (29:39) – 10 pts.

12. Eddie Harrison (24:28) – 9 pts.

13. Jim Bennett (26:24) – 8 pts.

14. Shay Byrne (25:42) – 7 pts.

15. Dave Brady (27:44) – 6 pts.

16. Pat Devitt (26:35) – 5 pts.

Heading into Round 3 the Series is now led by Philip O’Doherty who will wear the yellow jersey in the Morton Stadium on the 6th of April. Full leader board to follow.

Alistair Cragg heads to Moscow

Clonliffe’s Alistair Cragg travels to Moscow with the Irish Team for the World In-door Championships this week.

Alistair , the European 3000M Indoor Champion, has been selected in the 3000M where he will face stiff opposition including amongst others no less than old friend Bekele.

The full Irish Team is:


Alistair Cragg (Clonliffe) 3000M

James Nolan (UCD) 1500M and 3000M

David McCarthy (Le Cheile) 400M

David Gillick (DSD) 400M


Derval O’Rourke (Leevale) 60M Hurdles

Roisin McGettigan (Sli Culann) 3000M

Emily Maher (KCH) 60M

Ailis McSweeney (Leevale) 60M

Maria McCambridge (DSD) 3000M

The team Manager is our President Paddy Marley.

The very best of luck to all.


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