Clonliffe magnificent double

Mar 2, 2009 [Noel Guiden] What a day for Clonliffe Harriers at Santry Demesne. If it were not enough that Joe’s Six Shooters took another National Senior Cross Country title, the sixth in a row, but the Young Guns delivered a first Men’s Junior National title in 26 years. Truly remarkable.

Santry Demesne was a superb venue for yesterday’s National Inter-Club Cross Country Championships with the European shorter circuit proving to be popular with both competitors and spectators with a short lap of approximately 1000M and a longer lap of roughly 1500M. The underfoot conditions for March 1st were excellent and suited perfectly the speed merchants in the field.

With military like precision the event kicked off at 1.00 p.m. sharp with the Junior Women’s cross country, here there was a surprisingly small field of athletes in a race dominated by the Ffrench-O’Carroll twins as Charlotte, followed by Rebecca, stretched the field from the outset, finishing yet again 1,2 and leading home 3rd place Laura Shaughnessy of Loughrea AC with DSD having a comfortable victory over Raheny Shamrocks. From a Clonliffe perspective we had two girls in the field, Kate Purcell ran a strong steady race to finish in 13th place. Sarah Finnegan was with Kate for the first half of the race, however unfortunately illness forced her to call it a day at about the half way mark.

The next race of the day was the Junior Men’s as here a hotly tipped Clonliffe squad went looking for the Club’s first National Junior title in over a quarter of a century. Remarkably one has to go back to the 1983 cross country at Rathkeale for a Clonliffe Junior Men’s team victory. This squad have been very close over the last two years and a battle royal was anticipated with St. Malachy’s AC. Throughout the course of the race it was touch and go as to which club would prevail as the four scorers seemed very well matched. Clonliffe’s Dave Fitzmaurice really gritted his teeth running a superb race to finish Clonliffe’s first scorer in 5th place. Eoin McDonnell, more renowned as a track runner, found the fast conditions to his liking, another superb performance, coming home in 12th place. The star of the day was undoubtedly young Jamie Rossiter, Jamie ran the race of his life, going off at a steady pace and coming through the field at a rate of knots, he finished full of running and over the last lap gained three places which would prove to be crucial as he came home in 17th place. Colm Murray, despite carrying an injury all week, battled on gamely to be Clonliffe’s fourth scorer in 22nd place. Larry Brady also takes considerable credit for this Clonliffe victory, only getting back to fitness after a long injury lay off he battled on putting St. Malachy’s fourth scorer behind him, finishing in 27th place. Both Jordan Logue and Conor McGuinness battle gamely throughout the race, Jordan finishing in 41st place with Conor 45th. Throughout the race it was unclear as to whether Clonliffe or St. Malachy’s would win, as the “tally men” predicted a Clonliffe victory by 4 points or by 2 points and some afraid to call it either way. The results were announced to a terrific Clonliffe roar – 1st Clonliffe 56 pts, 2nd St. Malachy’s 59 Pts, 3rd Finn Valley AC 70 Pts. An emotional victory and the first National Junior title in 26 years.

In the individual Men’s Junior race, Ian Ward of Finn Valley displayed his continued progress with victory over Michael Carmody of Emerald AC and Liam Tremble of MSB.

On then to the Senior Women’s race where DSD’s Linda Byrne was a heavily backed favourite however, Maria McCambridge, now running in the colours of Letterkenny AC, ran the field ragged with a remarkable display of front running as she powered away from Linda Byrne, extending her lead throughout the course of the race to take a magnificent Ladies National title by a margin of well over a minute. Linda Byrne was 2nd with Raheny’s evergreen Annette Kealey in 3rd place. Of the Clonliffe women Louise Reilly went out hard however, found the competition very tough and slipped back somewhat, but battled on to be our first scorer in 23rd position. Emma Cooper was next in 24th with Ailish McDermott running a measured race next scorer in 28th with Mags Greenan 30th, Tara Whyte 31st and Bronagh Ni Bhriain 32nd. The Clonliffe Ladies finished 7th overall. The winning team were DSD, 2nd Donore Harriers and 3rd Raheny Shamrocks.

The Men’s Senior race was a tremendous affair. A large group of about 10 runners or so hit the front, including all the fancied runners, Keith Kelly of Drogheda and District, our own Mark Kenneally, Killian Longergan and so forth. After about a lap or so Raheny’s Vinny Mulvey, the 2006 individual champion, made a burst for the front, this blew the pack apart and soon there were just four. At this stage Keith Kelly hit the front and soon had only Mark Kenneally for company. Kenneally stuck in behind Kelly as the laps were reeled off, at this stage the heavens opened and rain began to poor down and the wind picked up as Kenneally made his move, opening a slight gap on Kelly. Was this to be finally Mark Kenneally’s day. Keith Kelly had other ideas and resolutely stuck in behind and indeed then took the lead again and began opening a gap on Kenneally. This was a gap which was never to be bridged, although over the final lap Mark Kenneally began to eat into Keith Kelly’s lead and in the end only a margin of 3 seconds separated them. 1st Keith Kelly, Drogheda & District, 2nd Mark Kenneally, Clonliffe Harriers, 3rd Vinny Mulvey, Raheny Shamrocks.

In the team race, the Clonliffe men were looking for a remarkable 6th title in succession. From an early stage things looked good as Chris Cariss once again was in superb form in the chasing pack, Sergiu Cibanu was again having an excellent National and Killian Lonergan, despite injury, did as he said he would “burst a gut” for his club. With Chris Cariss 6th, Sergiu 10th and Killian 12th it gave Clonliffe a remarkable victory by 18 points over Raheny. Of the other Clonliffe men, Cian McLoughlin rolled back the years running an exceptionally strong race to finish in 15th place, Aidan Bailey had one of his best races of the last couple of years, running superbly to take 18th place. Young David Flynn, only 19 years of age and in his first National Senior and first race over a distance of this duration, went out steady and gradually began picking off runners in front of him to finish an excellent 21st. Gary O’Hanlon again had another wonderful run in the Clonliffe singlet in 24th place. Unfortunately Brian McMahon succumbed to his pre-race injury and had to pull out of the race at around the half way stage.

The result – 1st Clonliffe Harriers 30 pts, 2nd Raheny Shamrocks 48 pts. 3rd Rathfarnham 87 pts.

This was a great day in Clonliffe’s history, a double Men’s Championship and great credit must go, not only to the athletes concerned, but in particular to our Club Captain Joe Cooper, the team of coaches, Peter McDermott, Tony Murphy, Brian McDonald, Alan O’Neill (of Clonliffe Harriers and St. Aidan’s) and the rest of the crew.

To all who helped out over the two days, in particular the course builders who were out all day Saturday and all day Sunday, a big thank you for a job expertly done as always and to all who helped out by way of officiating, marshalling, catering or in any way associated with the event, congratulations on a job very well done.