Clonliffe Grand National: The Irwin Cup this Saturday

One of the truely great Clonliffe club cross country races the Irwin Cup takes place this Saturday December 1st at 12.00 in Santry Demesne. A 6k cross country open handicap race over the jumps. In previous years this was a 6 mile event. It`s a race with a fascinating history.

In 1910 Clonliffe introduced the Grand National, a 6 mile cross country race which included jumps and ditches to be negotated. The race was held on an annual basis. It did not become the Irwin Cup until 1932 when club mates of one of the Clonliffe greats Herbert Carmichael “Bird” Irwin bought a cup in his memory to be presented to the winner of the Grand National, and since then the race has been known as the Irwin Cup.


So who was Herbert Carmichael Irwin? He was a world class athlete and a Clonliffe Olympian,  born in Dundrum in 1894. He became the 2nd Clonliffe athlete to win the  National Cross Country  when he won in 1914, fittingly the venue was Dundrum, leading Clonliffe to team victory. On the track he was an Irish National champion in both the mile and 4 mile.  His mile PB of 4.33.8 was most impressive in comparision with times of the day. In 1920 he became Clonliffe`s 5th Olympian representing Great Britian (pre 1922) in the 5,000m at the Antwerp Games taking an extraordinary 40 seconds off his pb to finish 2nd in his heat and qualify for the Olympic final where he placed 12th.

The R101 at it`s moorings Cardington

In the First World War Irwin who was an aviator joined the RNAS (later to become the RAF)and seen service in 1916 and 1917 . He  was promoted to Flight Lieutenant with seniority 1 April 1917.  Under the RAF he was granted a short-service commission as Flight Lieutenant on 24 October 1919. With the expertise he had gathered in flying Airships he became involved with Britian`s plans for passenger airships to link Britian and it`s colonies. Two huge airships were built the R100 and R101. Irwin was the Captain of the R101, the largest man made object to fly at the time. Tragedy struck, however,  on her maiden voyage from Cardington to India when on the 5th of October 1930 the R101 in stormey weather over Northern France crashed nose first at a forest edge at the town of Allone, Beauvais, bursting into flames killing 48 of the 54 people on board including her Captain the Clonliffe Olympian Carmichael Irwin.



Memorial at crash site, Allone, Beauvais, France

Saturday`s race is organised by the Grand Prix Committee who have a really good course planned, building on the great success of the Horan Cup a couple of weeks back when 41 athletes took part. The plan for Saturday is for an even bigger field. Saturday`s race is kindly sponsored by Dominic Brannigan. All members are asked to consider turning out for this historic race in memory of an extraordinary Clonliffe Harrier long lost but never forgotten. Guests are welcome, but please arrive early as handicaps must be assigned. Prize giving in the club bar.