Feb 5, 2008 [Noel Guiden] Going into last Saturday’s European Club Cross Country Championship Race in Albuferia, Portugal, Gary O’Hanlon was concerned about a spot of sciatica, he had taken the previous week off training completely and had lightly jogged over the previous couple of days. At the conclusion of the 10,000m race Gary had a look of satisfaction on his face with a job well done, not only had he come through the race but after a difficult opening lap he produced a most impressive display finishing 39th overall, 36th in the Championship Race and only some 18 seconds behind team-mate Colm Rooney.
Make no mistake this was a very good performance by the Clonliffe Team. The race itself had class throughout, from the off the pace was frantic as the defending champions CA Adidas of Spain and the home club of Maratona Club de Portugal had most of their scorers in the front bunch. Also in this bunch was Kenyan Kiprono Menjo. Strangely Menjo was not running for a club but was running in the event as an individual/guest. This was the cause of much discussion post race as it seemed bizarre that the organisers allow individuals/guests to run in what is a European Club Championship event. After a lap Menjo hit the front and quickly opened up a substantial gap, the chasing pack were not unduly concerned and a tactical battle ensued and it was only over the final lap that the chasing bunch was blown apart as the top two CA Adidas men tore the pack apart gradually reeling in Menjo who, however, managed to hold on to his lead and win, looking very comfortable, in a time of 29.08. Ayad Lamdassem of CA Adidas was second with team-mate Carlos Castillejo, third.
The Clonliffe lads ran very well, the pace over the opening lap was to say the least, hot. The underfoot conditions were flat grass and sand and the 2K lap featured numerous switchbacks and tight almost hairpin like turns which caused all sorts of problems with two of our athletes suffering with badly blistered feet.
Colm Rooney got himself into a good position early in the race, a position which he held, further back the rest of the Clonliffe lads bunched well with Brian McMahon leading the chasing pack for some time before Gary O’Hanlon got to work pulling away from the rest of the Clonliffe lads and setting off in pursuit of Colm Rooney.
Clonliffe’s Italian based athlete, Paulo Dogilo, now 40 years old, started the race conservatively and over the closing laps really began to motor overhauling firstly Aidan Bailey and after a storming last lap closed right up behind Brian McMahon and in the end was only four seconds off Brian.
The final race positions for Clonliffe were Colm Rooney 32nd (subsequently upgraded to 29th when the guests were taken out), Gary O’Hanlon 39th (then upgraded to 36th) Cian McLoughlin 51st (upgraded to 47th), Brian McMahon 54th (upgraded to 50th), Paula Doglio 56th (upgraded to 52nd) and Aidan Bailey 66th (upgraded to 62nd). Such, however, is the standards which these lads set themselves that their immediate reaction post race was one of disappointment. All feeling that they could have finished higher up the field. Their reaction to a man, however, was that a fast race such as this was badly needed and would bring them along nicely for next month’s Nationals. Paulo in particular is adamant that with another three hard weeks training under his belt that he will improve dramatically.
The team itself placed 7th of the 18 clubs taking part on 162 points behind Leeds City A.C.: 155, AK Kroneriz (Cze): 136, KBBKK (Tur): 74 points, JA Fimme Gialle (ITA); 53 points, Maratona Club de Portugal: 28 points and winners CA Adidas: 16 points. Left in the black and amber wake were the Champions of France, Sweden, Holland, Denmark and Belgium amongst others.
The Nationals are now only a matter of three and a half weeks away and between now and then no doubt Messrs Cragg, Kenneally, Turea, Lonergan, MacDiarmada and Malseed, to name just a few, will be trying to attract Joe Coopers attention to convince him to re-shuffle his pack for the 2nd of March.
A word also about the travelling supporters club who were in equally impressive form in their support of the lads on race day. Even more impressive was their singing voices in the bars and restaurants around the Alubferia area with a special mention for Padraig ‘Marty Robbins’ Keane and Jimmy ‘Old Blue Eyes’ Bennett. We are truly privileged to have such talent in our club!