Saturday the 19th of February 2005 will go down in the annals of the club as a truly historic day. The club were the hosts of this years Whirlpool Athletics Ireland interclub National Cross Country Championships. For the first time since 1967 these Championships were taking place on a Saturday. Over the last number of months a huge effort has been put in by the club in the organisation of the Championships. The newly painted clubhouse was decked out for the occasion in black and amber bunting. The Clonliffe Harriers flag flew proudly over the stand beside the National flag. On walking through the rear gate of the stadium out onto the cross country circuit, the result of the toils of the club was on view for all to see: a truly magnificent cross country circuit was laid out in the parklands of Santry Demesne.
The weather conditions on the big day were best described as ‘fresh’. A cool to raw breeze was blowing. The late winter sunshine struggled hard to raise temperatures, however, thankfully the men and women of Clonliffe Harriers did.
First race of the day was the Junior Women’s Cross Country Championship over 6,000 metres. Three, slightly smaller laps of the circuit. The lead runners on the first lap included our own Frances Nic Reamoin along with Linda Byrne of DSD and Roseanne Galligan of Newbridge A.C. As the race progressed, Roseanne Galligan began to pull out a slight lead and these three began pulling away from fourth place Breffni Twohig, also of DSD. Slightly further back was Clonliffes Christina Kinnelly running a superb race ably backed up by Sarah and Rebecca Woods and Ashley Lynch. As the young ladies reached the finishing post, Roseanne Galligan hit the front for the first time springing clear to claim gold in a time of 21:55 from Linda Byrne four seconds in arrears and to the home crowds delight, Frances won the bronze medal for the second successive year.
In addition Frances led home her team to magnificent silver: Christina Kennelly in sixth place, Rebecca Woods twenty-fourth, Sarah Woods twenty-seventh and Ashley Lynch thirty-third.
Next up were the Junior Men, despite the wonderful efforts of Danny Collins ably backed up by his team-mates Paul Boylan, Conor Healy, Keith Jenkinson, Andrew Kelly and Daniel Kitt; the Clonliffe Junior team ended up out of the medals in fifth position.
This race was won by Danny D’Arcy of St. Laurence O’Tooles from Paul Pollock of Abbey A.C. with Michael Clohessy of Raheny Shamrocks filling the bronze medal position.
The Clonliffe finishing positions were Danny Collins, nineteenth, Paul Boylan, twenty-eight, Andy Kelly thirty-sixth, Conor Hearly thirty-seventh, Keith Jenkinson fortieth and Daniel Kitt, forty-sixth.
Winners of the team gold was DSD followed Raheny Shamrocks and St. Laurence O’Toole.
The Ladies race was a truly superb battle upfront, with Jolene Byrne and Maria McCambridge running shoulder to shoulder from the starters gun. These two wonderful athletes pulled out a substantial lead and going into the last lap of the 8,000 metre race, the two lady’s could not be separated. Jolene Byrne began to apply the pressure and pulled out a lead which she held to record her first national Senior Cross Country Title in a time of 28:25 from Maria McCambridge in 28:34. Bronze medallist was Fionnuala Britton of Fli Cualann A.C.
Our ladies team packed well and all ran gutsy races. First Clonliffe lady home was Ashling Coppinger in forty-fifth with Rachel Beck forty-sixth, Chrissy Gormley forty-eight and Erne McVeigh forty-ninth and Bronagh Ni Bhrian, fifty-sixth.
Team Gold was wsas won by DSD with Sportsworld second and Dunnore Harriers third, our ladies place ninth.
An Taosiach Bertie Ahern arrived in time for the eagerly awaited Senior Mens Inter-club championship over 12,000 metres and what a race he witnessed.
A field of in excess of 120 toed the line. Immediately there was a group to the front which included Mark Christie, Seamus Power, Gary Murray and Clonliffes own Mark Kenneally and Killian Lonergan.
Further back there was some splendid packing by the Clonliffe boys and it was clear that young Aidan Bailey was running the race of his life. It was equally clear that injury was hampering Gary O’Hanlon’s progress, a lesser man may have called it a day, however, Gary is made of steelier stuff and battled on.
The lead group was then down to three, Gary Murray of St. Malachy’s A.C. Mark Kinneally and Seamus Power. Mark hit the front and shortly after four time champion Seamus Power began to feel the pressure and was dropped.
Going into the final lap, Gary Murray hit the front and opened up a small lead which he gradually extended over Mark Kinneally, Gary Murray coming home to claim his first national senior cross-country title in a time of 37:08 with Mark taking silver in 37:20 with Paul McNamara, of Athenry A.C. coming through to take bronze in 37:51.
In the team event, matters were extremely tight. Second Clonliffe man home was Killian Lonegan in ninth place. At this stage, however, two St. Malachy’s A.C. runners were already home, as were two Mullingar Harriers. It was quite clear that every place was going to count. Word quickly spread and the Clonliffe boys made a tremendous effort over the remaining half mile, none more so than young Aidan Bailey to finish in twenty-sixth position, two places later in twenty-eight place, was Clonliffes fourth scorer Paolo Doglio and when the results were totted up, it was revealed that Clonliffe had retained the National Senior Inter-Club Cross Country Championship by five points, scoring sixty-five points over St. Malachy’s A.C. on seventy, with DSD third on seventy-one points.
The other Clonliffe positions were Cian McLoughlin in thirtieth, Robert Malseed thirty-fifth, Gary O’Hanlon, thirty-seventh, Nigel Brunton forty-third, Eddie Coughlan fifty-fifth, Clonliffe Master running his first National Cross Country race, David Brennan in eightieth, William Stafford, member of the 2004 National Intermediate Championship winning team in eight-ninth and the Evergreen Tom Monks in one-hundredth place.
Not a bad days work all round. Individual bronze (Frances in the Junior Women), individual silver, (Mark in the Men’s Senior), Team Silver (Junior Women) and Team Gold (Senior Men). Full credit to all our wonderful men and women and also of course to club captains Joe Cooper and Mags Greenan.
As a club we can be very proud of the whole show. The army of volunteers out on the day was awesome with marshalling of car-park, on-course, catering, race officials, time-keepers, you name it we did it and we did it well.
This was a true team effort and if proof was ever needed, well there it is: true club spirit is alive and well in Clonliffe Harriers.