Jun 4, 2009  With more than a few months of preparation and planning the first ever Clonliffe Harriers Track & Field team to compete together in the European Champions Club Competition was selected. After carefully monitoring the eligible athletes over the final few weeks, Club Captain Joe Cooper selected the strongest team available for our destination of Dubnica in Slovakia. With only Paul Marry (javelin) of the selected athletes not being able to make the trip the team gathered at Dublin airport on Friday morning for our 7.15am flight to Vienna.
With a detailed itinerary laid out for the travelling party there was a distinct lack of panic at the airport. It just goes to show you’re never too old to be told what to pack for a trip!! David Donegan’s persistence at the check-in area wasn’t winning over the Aer Lingus staff and it was soon clear that we’d be travelling without a pole. Though missing a pole, we were buoyed by the surprise appearance of Padraig Keane as an additional travelling supporter.
So, we were a pole down, a Keane up, and not forgetting the mustachioed Danny Kavanagh on board – we were ready to take on Europe’s best ( well, Europe’s 9-15th best club teams )
Our flight to Vienna was non-eventful and on arrival we sought out and found the Slovak representatives sent from the Organisation committee. With a 190km journey to Dubnica still ahead we made our way through to the car park to board our Coach. After passing some gloriously comfortable looking coaches we found ours. Not great.
Of course, our English speaking greeter waved goodbye and our driver gladly departed Vienna for Dubnica. Studiously obeying the speed limits we were passed by every moving vehicle on the road. You know it’s going to be a longer than expected coach trip when 1985 Lada’s are speeding past you over the horizon! Padraig Keane provided ample entertainment up the front of the bus discussing the benefits of the multiple wind Farms we passed, as well as noting that the fields on the right hand side of the road when leaving Vienna are a dead ringer for fields on the left hand side of the old Naas road into Dublin!!
After about 2 hrs we attempted to ask the driver to pull over for a toilet and snack break. We were just short of requiring a visual aid to explain the need for the toilet when he understood and soon made his way into a petrol station/shop. The first hint of what lay ahead in Dubnica was when it was duly noted that the bottles of beer were priced at less than 70 cent each. Despite a few of our athletes accidentally finding their way into the women’s toilets we weren’t run out of the place before a few sandwiches were bought and a bit of goulash was eaten.
The weather turned and with the rain pounding off the coach windows we eventually arrived in Dubnica. Gradually making our way through the city we reached the hotel. The locale looked somewhat rundown but with a spanking new ( 2** ) Hotel recently built and painted thrown in. With the average room catering for 3 people a quick reallocation of the rooms was required. Poor Marco drew the short straw and ended up with Joe. It was now about 3.30pm and it would be another few hours before Dinner was ready. With some athletes looking for a run, others looking to eat again or rest, the supporters found the hotel bar and settled in.
With no Restaurant in house we made our way across the derelict ground to the nearby Restaurant. The menu: Roast Chicken. Sparse but not bad. With some trips to the local supermarkets the team gradually stocked up on their dietary requirements for the weekend. The mood was good and confidence was high. Our attache, Linka (or Linekar as Joe liked to call her) escorted a curious group down to a local Irish bar. It’s Irishness provided by the draught Guinness and a postcard from Ireland. Mick Fogarty displayed the fruits of a misspent youth on the Pool table while predictions for the weekend’s competition ahead commenced. Of course the sight of grown men falling over each other to buy the next round was endearing to all, but at €5 a round, you couldn’t blame them!!
Saturday morning was scheduled to be spent at the track which was located 5 mins away by bus. The decision to host the competition on the 6 lane track was a little confusing to us all as it meant splitting the sprint races into heats of 3 and 4 athletes. However, the stadium was nice, the track was new and the sun was shining. The relay team practiced their exchanges, the throwers practiced their technique, Dave Donegan scrounged a Pole Vault from a competitor and the runners ran. Gerry Carr made a late bid for team selection with a few laps on the track, but Joe wasn’t for turning.
After a few hours it was back to the hotel for some food and further ‘Rest and Relaxation’. With the FA Cup being shown in a Sports Cafe in the town some athletes made their way down there. Joe was none too pleased to come across a few team members testing their karting skills on the local kart track as we passed. A sullen shake of the head and everything needed to be said was said. Still, it didn’t stop them finishing their laps!!
The nights activities included a Poker Night for the boys and some home truths for the supporters. The later being given by the Cigar smoking head of the Fernabache Men’s team. With more than one self proclaimed Poker fan in the group the competitive juices were flowing. A little after midnight the last man standing and the undisputed Clonliffe Harriers Poker Champion was Alagie Faye. The €20 prize money paled in significance to the honour of the title. Conor Healy arrived at around 10pm after a long day. Due to his final exam that morning in DCU Conor travelled out on his own. With a personal driver sent to pick him up that didn’t speak English the 2 hour journey from Vienna was a somewhat muted affair.
The first events on Sunday started at 10am so it was an early rise for most athletes. Our competitors came from France, Turkey, Bosnia, Switzerland, Finland and the Netherlands. With the Clonliffe Flag proudly flying from the Grandstand there was no further preparation needed. Jeremy Lyons was our first athlete onto the track and with a solid time of 53.82 for 3rd place and our first points were on the board. A South African Olympian competing for the Turks won this one. ( Full results listed below ) At the same time Martin Hunt and Luke Mangan were in the field throwing the Hammer and Discus respectively. Martin last international event was as an Under 17 athlete in 1995 so he was more than eager to get started. Despite the Hammer cage being located outside the main stadium, Martin was just short of his season’s best when finishing 5th.
Mark Kenneally was up next on the track. Facing him was an Ethiopian Turk that ran in the Beijing 10,000m Final. It was clear by half way that Mark would finish 2nd and garner another 6 points for us. David Donegan was now on the runway over at the Pole Vault with his borrowed pole. David Flynn was next on track in the Steeplechase. With another Turkish Olympian lining up it was always going to be a tough ask. David’s 4th place finish was hard fought but very valuable. Conor Healy’s 800m race proved to be another high points earner. Coming from 4th to 2nd over the last 150m, he captured another valuable 6 points. With Padraig and Noreen Keane monitoring the Eurovision-esque giant scoreboard news was relayed back that we were now in joint third place.
John Conroy and Stephen Comiskey competed in the extra 100m races available for athletes not entered in the official 100m and once done it was time for the Opening Ceremony. Killian Lonergan, Conor Healy and David Flynn proudly walked behind the Irish flag for the official greeting. With the pleasantries over, it was back to the competition. Danny ‘Sprinter McTash’ Kavanagh was next up and ran a season’s best for 6th place. By this time, Stephen Comiskey was warming up for this 4 long jump attempts. Like every respectable jumper, Stephen managed to get the crowd clapping for each of this jumps.
Luke Mangan was back with the heavies over at the Shot Putt circle while John Laffey was lining up for the 400m. Luke improved each round and putted his 2nd furthest throw ever. Laffey was biding his time down the backstraight while watching the French athlete on his outside. Kicking off the bend, John ran out of track and despite running a season’s best of 48.01 he just failed to catch the event winner. At this point in proceedings we were still in 4th place behind the Turks, French and Swiss, with some daylight appearing to the Dutch team in 5th. Jeremy Lyons was back on track for the 110m hurdles. Another season’s best was achieved but 7th place was the result. Laffey was now back for the 200m. With little under an hour since his superb 400m, it was going to be a big ask for another top drawer performance. Unfortunately John’s body fought back and after only 20m he pulled up lame.
As a member of both the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams, the loss of John was a cruel blow to the team. Marco was triple jumping at this stage and pulled off a still to be confirmed Clonliffe club record jump of 14.45m. Marcin had stepped up and taken on the role of Javelin thrower and performed as he predicted with a throw of over 50m. We had slipped down the rankings to 5th at this stage. Aidan Bailey was next up on the track in the 1500m. With two Olympians in his race it was always going to be a difficult task, but he secured 4th place and more importantly gained some ground on the Dutch team ahead of us.
The quickly rearranged 4x100m team were next to race and the lack of time to practice the hand-overs counted against us when the final change over was unsuccessful. The final event was the 4x400m but with less than 1 minute to go to the start the race was postponed due to a terrific Thunder, Lighting and hail stones bonanza. With points still being totalled up during the break it became clear going in to this last event that 5th place was to be our finishing position. At the start of the weekend we would have taken 5th and been happy, but based on the performances and especially the way we started, it felt somewhat disappointing.
The final results were as follows. TUR 116, FRA 110, NED 71, SUI 69, IRL 58, BIH 54, FIN 50
With the Turks and French gaining promotion and the Danish and Slovaks being relegated from the higher division there’s every change that if we manage to defend our National League title this year a top 3 European finish in 2010 is possible.
The post-competition banquet was planned for 8pm that night and after being bused to the chosen location the feeding frenzy that took place could only be likened to feeding time at the zoo. That said the Clonliffe contingent managed to secure enough food and drink to do us proud.
After a quick prize ceremony for all the teams is was time to start the dancing and singing. The elders decided it was time to relocate back to town for a more civilised surrounding while our throwers took the decision to hit up a local steak house. Some of team remained upstairs with the celebrating French, Slovaks and Turkish athletes in their multi language rendition of ‘We are the Champions’. Downstairs the ‘banter’ with the Sale Harriers from Manchester was only kicking off. With Kavanagh providing some uncanny impersonations, things were looking good. When David Flynn added in his own impromptu Lionel Messi impersonation on an over hanging lamp, things began to look slightly more treacherous. The decision was soon taken to up sticks and head back towards town. The organisers laid on buses and many athletes took the next one out of dodge As we pulled out from the hotel out of the corner of our eyes, we could see David Flynn with another extraordinary impersonation – this time of the cyborg in Terminator 2, chasing the bus for all his life. The driver was none to happy to be caught but reluctantly stopped and let him on. After his earlier pit stop the driver was in no mood to stop again in the town and refused our requests to do so. Deciding it was best for us to all be dropped back to the hotel, there was nothing we could do but play along. Many of the athletes stayed local and international relations were further strengthened. Athletes that had managed to make it into town arrived back in drips and drabs throughout the night The hotel receptionists hadn’t seen anything like the carnage arriving through the lobby. Some walked, some crawled and some were simply dragged to their rooms. It was certainly all fun and games, and nobody ended up in tears.
The 6.30 departure the following morning was now only a few short hours away and it was with some pride that we managed to leave only 20 mins later than expected. Considering the carnage witnessed the night before it has to be considered another remarkable team performance. Clonliffe Results: 100m -0.5 6 Kavanagh Daniel IRL – Clonliffe 11,35
200m Laffey John 851127 IRL – Clonliffe NF
400m 2 Laffey John IRL – Clonliffe 48,01
800m 2 Healy Conor 870602 IRL – Clonliffe 1:53,37
1,500m 4 Bailey Aidan 831229 IRL – Clonliffe 3:57,50
3,000m 2 Kenneally Mark 810818 IRL – Clonliffe 8:23,93
110m Hurdles +0.1 7 Lyons Jeremy 740830 IRL – Clonliffe 15,85
400m hurdles 3 Lyons Jeremy 740830 IRL – Clonliffe 53,82
3,000m steeple 3 Flynn David 891117 IRL – Clonliffe 9:26,91
Long jump 6 Comiskey Stephen IRL – Clonliffe 6.22m
Triple jump 4 Mattiuzzo Marco IRL – Clonliffe 14,45m
High jump 4 Klinkosz Marcin IRL – Clonliffe 1.90m
Pole vault 6 Donegan David IRL – Clonliffe 4.60m
Shot 7 Mangan Luke 890710 IRL – Clonliffe 13,68m
Discus 7 Mangan Luke IRL – Clonliffe 37,34m
Javelin 6 Klinkosz Marcin 800223 IRL – Clonliffe 50,67m
Hammer 5 Hunt Martin 780822 IRL – Clonliffe 50,23m
4X100m IRL IRL – Clonliffe NF 0,189
4X400m 4 IRL IRL – Clonliffe 3:24,59 Lyons Jeremy, Healy Conor, Fagan John , McDonald Mark . Non competing travelers: Joe Cooper, Killian Lonergan, Gerry Carr, Mick Fogarty, Noreen Keane, Padraig Keane, Johnny O’Leary and Bart Rogers.