The Clonliffe trip across the boarder to the IAAF Antrim International Cross Country yesterday proved to be a very worthwhile excerise, with team bonding, the juvenile athletes seeing how their senior club mates prepare and race, the club captain selecting half of the team that travels to next months European Clubs Cross Country and some fine performances to boot. The travelling party with athletes, coaches and supporters numbered the best part of 30 for the early start from Santry to the Greenfields Campus near the town of Antrim. On arrival the course was surveyed, pretty good was the general concensus…nice grass on the fields, the forest section was good, stiff uphill and then some ankle deep mud for good measure….something for all!
First Clonliffe team in action was the National Cross Country winning U/15s who showed that they are all in fine shape for the up coming schools cc season. Very impressive runs here from Adam O`Brien 7th, Sean Carrigg, who looks to be coming back into form again in 11th, Kevin McKenna 15th, David O`Hanlon, having lost a spike on the first lap in 19th, the young man of the group Joseph Hession 23 rd and with the finish of the race Thomas Ward 41st. The team, with 3 to score placed 2nd behind DSD.
The U/17 girls raced over 3,600m (2 x 1800m laps) with the U20s meaning a much faster early pace than the girls had experienced before. In addition the field included some top UK International Juniors, however, the girls handled this very well and were all competitive. First home was junior Roisin Leahy with a good run 26th (14.50), next was Laura Tuite 36th (15.53) and then a Clonliffe train: 38th Sally Aherne (16.00), 39th Hope Saunders, in her debut for Clonliffe (16.01) and Stephanie McCaul 41st (16.31). The U/17s finished an excellent 3rd place in the team event.
The Juniors and U/17s also ran together, however, over 5,600m. Aaron Hanlon was prominent from the off and hit the front towards the mid point of the first lap. Heading into the final lap he had two top GB Internationals for company James McMurray and William Paulson, who placed 40th in the European Junior Cross Country, nearing the finish McMurray took up the running with Paulson over hauling Aaron with only 300 to go, Aaron placed 3rd in 17.30 only seconds in arrears. A very good run in this race from U/17 Cathal Doyle who continues to make excellent progress, to be 2nd Clonliffe man in 23rd (19.28) overall and 11th U/17. Liam Ashton was 26th (19.35), Eoin McCullough was 40th (20.32) and then the race long U/17 Clonliffe battle won by Brian Flanagan 50th (21.16) with Ross Kearney 54th (21.31) and Niall Norman 62nd (22.22) . On the team front the Juniors won the U/20 team and the U/17s were 3rd.
Clonliffe`s Declan Power was a very comfortable winner of the Masters race, pulling away on the first of three laps to take his 2nd Antrim Masters win. Although Clonliffe had no athletes in the women`s International the young athletes from the club were delighted to have the opportunity of seeing Fionnula Britton in majestic action. A superb win by Britton skipping effortlessly over the mud to take yet another Country win.
The senior men`s race was being used as a trial by the club captain to assist with selection of the team that goes to Spain in three weeks time. Good to report that the race produced some good runs by Clonliffe athletes. Sergiu Ciobanu although no doubt finding 10,800m about 30k too short was first Clonliffe in 15th place (36.25). Dave Fitzmaurice looked impressive and strong lasting the distance well to finish 20th (37.11), putting some clear air between himself and Brian Mac Mahon over the last two laps, Brian was 24th (37.44) and John Heneghan was 27th (38.00) as he came strongly over the final circuit. Race winner was Thomas Ayeko (Uganda), 2nd David Bett (KEN), 3rd Andy Vernon (GBR). 1st in the Northern Ireland Championship and 5th overall was Stephen Scullion.
So the first three places on the Euro team are filled: Ciobanu, Fitzmaurice and MacMahon. There are three to be filled….plenty of food for thought for Joe Cooper.