A superb National Inter Counties and Juvenile (Even Ages) Cross Country Championship was hosted by Clonliffe Harriers in Santry Demesne yesterday, Sunday the 17th of November.
The event was held in excellent conditions, the course laid out by the Clonliffe members on Saturday afternoon/evening and Sunday morning held up nicely, despite the heavy overnight rain leaving very good running with only a few sections of mud which was easily negotiated by the athletes. An early morning shower quickly passed leaving a mild still afternoon. It must also be said that the crowd attending these championships was one of the biggest cross country crowds seen in Santry, certainly the biggest since the European Cross Country back in 2009 and the athletes clearly enjoyed the crowd and responded with some superb racing.
The Senior Women’s race was, as expected, dominated by Fionnuala Britton who was a class apart. Clonliffe’s Sara McCormack ran possibly her best cross country race to date taking a superb second place and a place once again on the Irish team for next month’s European Cross Country in Belgrade. Sara putting several more fancied athletes well behind her.
The Senior Men’s race was an intriguing affair with a quality field assembled including DSD’s Joe Sweeney, the defending inter county champion, indeed Sweeney was looking for four in a row yesterday, Paul Pollock (Annadale) the pre race favourite, David McCarthy (Waterford) who has already been pre-selected for the Europeans, National 5000m Champion Mark Christie, The Mulhare Brothers and a strong Clonliffe contingent led by Stephen Scullion.
From the gun the elite group quickly assembled, however, after maybe two laps Pollock made an early move and drove on majestically to record a win by over 30 seconds, David McCarthy who had been on Pollock’s shoulder for the early part of the race faded to place 7th. Clonliffe’s Stephen Scullion had worked his way strongly through the field and was full of running heading into the last lap as he closed in on the bronze medal position which was held by Dan Mulhare, Scullion got onto Mulhare’s shoulder, however, Mulhare made a final effort to keep Scullion at bay and successfully so as Mulhare finished 3rd behind his brother Michael with Scullion only four seconds in arrears.
Of the other Clonliffe athletes there was an impressive second half of the race from Colm Rooney who started off fairly tentatively but got stronger as the race wore on to finish in 22nd position just in front of Brian MacMahon running in the red Cork vest with young Jayme Rossiter 26th overall and 5th U/23. James Kevan after a bright enough opening struggled over the final two circuits to finish a very tired 84th. Pat Davoren, not a lover of the country it must be said, was using the race as base work for the Spring/Summer track season and finished in 91st position. Edgars Sumskiss had a footwear problem, his spike split leaving him with no alternative but to call it a day.
Clonliffe had no athletes running in the junior men’s race although we had several running in the U/18 race which was incorporated into the Junior race. There were strong runs in this race by a young Clonliffe team, all of whom are still U/17: Cathal Doyle 13th, Josh Stubbs 21st, Brian Flanagan 54th, Niall Norman 70th, Ross Kearney 75th, Mario Bolden 80th, the team placing 5th.
In the combined Women’s Junior/U/18 young Hope Saunders continues to impress all with another excellent outing to place 10th. Another solid run also from Laura Brennan who continues to make progress on her journey back after taking time out last year for exams. Laura placed a battling 19th in the Junior race.
Earlier in the morning the juvenile championships had taken place. The Clonliffe U/16 Boys team was particularly strong and was always going to be in the hunt for medals. Sean Carrigg was the star of the team on the day finishing an excellent 6th. Adam O’Brien was next in finishing in 16th place, Adam having one of those days when things unfortunately did not go his way after a bad start for him. There were very good performances also today from Joseph Hession, who is still eligible at U/15, he was Clonliffe’s third scorer in 43rd with Shane Merrigan our fourth scorer 48th. The scoring four were very well backed up by Alex Gibbons 57th and Kevin McKenna 87th. After a long wait the team result was confirmed with Clonliffe 2nd only 4 points off gold.
The club only had one representative in the Girls U/16 race, Alannah Cooley who was running on the Dublin team. Alannah continues to make great progress and built solidly on her performance in the Dublin Championships where she was 9th to finish 7th on the Dublin team and 35th overall. A very impressive National debut indeed.
The U/14 Boys team found the step up from Dublin to National level testing to say the least but each and every one of them put in a very solid performance of which they can be very proud. Joey Hutchinson led the team in 65th place followed by Jack Horan, Daniel Craig, Stephen Cashin, Harry Pierse, David Tuite.
Finally the U/12s, there was one of our boys running in the boys race in the Dublin colours, young Killian Forester who thoroughly enjoyed his day and ran very well indeed finishing well up the field in 43rd place. The Girls U/12 team packed very well, again it was a great experience for these girls to step up from Dublin to National level. The girls packed tightly and again very impressive performances from all the team: Aoife Hession, Abbey Sheehy, Ella Bergin, Ella Browne, Yasmin Eustace and Amy Hodson.
Congratulations to all our athletes for their performances yesterday. Congratulations and a huge thank you also to the Clonliffe members, and parents of members, who were extremely giving of their time to help course building, stewarding and course deconstruction. A superb and thoroughly professional job carried out by all concerned and it is pleasing to report that Athletics Ireland were fulsome in their praise and most appreciative of the work carried out.