It was without a doubt a year like no other. 2020 brought us highs and many lows. It was a year which started with optimism, a trip by the Harriers to Seville for the IAAF cross country and a world-class field in which Efrem Gidey looked far from out of place, a great experience for many of the young athletes who travelled and got to race on the most extraordinary cross country circuit imaginable through Roman ruins.Then Covid 19 hit the country and Clonliffe a hammer blow and regrettably continues to do so and at the year’s end we lose our captain and leader Joe Cooper. As is traditional on New Year’s Eve we look back on the year that was 2020:
January: Colm Rooney got the year off to a winning start as he took the Dublin Masters cross country in St Anne’s on the 5th at a canter. The following day Eoin Pierce ran a 1500 indoor PB of 3.49.39 in Sheffield. On the 12th the club marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Billy Morton with a reception in the clubhouse and the unveiling of a portrait of Billy, commissioned by Dominic Branigan. Sean O’Neill, who had served Clonliffe as an athlete in the 1950s and then as a club Trustee for many years passed away. On the 15th Ariel Liehhio set a new club pole vault record of 3.80 (subsequently Ariel raised the bar to 4.00) on the 18th Rolus Olusa became the first Clonliffe national champion of the new decade as he won the national indoor combined events title. The following day Stephen Scullion ran 2.11.53 in Houston and his place in the 2020 Olympic Games. That same weekend a large travelling party of the clubs middle and distance athletes travelled to Seville for the IAAF cross country, a great experience for all as Efrem Gidey placed 14th in the international race with Jayme Rossiter 32nd, Cathal Doyle 35th and Eoin Taggart 49th. The senior women and junior men and women all raced exceptionally well in their respective races and came back to Santry buzzing for the season ahead. Shannon Sheehy set a club indoor high jump record of 1.75. The final weekend of the month saw the senior men retain the National Indoor League title (making it all 5 to date) with a dominant display winning by a margin of 18.5 points. That same day Efrem Gidey ran 22.43 in a blistering fast Raheny 5 to take 4th place.
February: Keith Marks won the Northern Ireland indoor long jump, the juvenile’s got some indoor action in with the Dublin juvenile’s in Abbottstown, on the 8th Gary O’Hanlon won the national 50 K title, that same day the intermediate men took national bronze, Shannon Sheehy set a new club indoor long jump record of 5.65, on the 11th Sarah Bateson set a new club women’s junior mile record of 5.15.15. On the 12th the club hosted the Leinster schools cross country, highlight of the day was Sean Cronin winning the minor boys Leinster title, that night Jeremy Phillips set a club 60m indoor record at the AIT Grand Prix of 6.79. On the 13th at the Armagh international 5 K road race Cathal Doyle ran 13.57 and Colm Rooney 14.03. The juveniles continued to bag medals and titles at the Dublin indoors held over 5 or so days in Abbotstown, with golds for Emma McDonnell U/18 high jump, Keith Burke U/17 long jump, Sally Somula U/17 long jump, Val Stroganous U/18 60 & 200, Nicole Lippy U/17 pole vault, Laimis Norvaisas U/13 shot, Katie Halpin U/18 1500 and U/14 girls 4 x 200. Keith Marks won the varsities indoor long jump title. On the 15th Sean Doran won the BHAA cross country in ALSAA. On the 20th Eoin Pierce ran an indoor 1500 PB of 3.44.67. On the 22nd the Leinster indoors took place where Shannon Sheehy took the senior high jump, silver in the 60 H and there were silvers also for Laura Tuite 3000, Leah Bergin 200 and Leo Morgan 60. On the 22nd Emma Mitchell won the Northern Ireland cross country championships and Jayme Rossiter was 13th in the English national. On the 23rd Eoin Sheridan commenced his Clonliffe career with a new Clonliffe discus record of 55.05. On the last weekend of February the national indoors took place in Abbottstown Keith Marks took the national title with a new long jump club record of 7.33, Ariel Lieghio took the national pole vault title and there were bronze medals for Eoin Pierce in the 1500, comeback man Brian Gregan in the 400 , Rolus Olusa in the 60 H and Shannon Sheehy in the high jump.
March: On the 7th for the first time in our history Clonliffe Harriers hosted the all Ireland schools cross country. A brilliant team effort from all concerned resulted in a magnificent day’s sport on what truly is the best cross country course in the country at Santry Demesne Sean Cronin after a magnificent battle to the line was pipped by half an inch and ended up taking silver in the minor boys race. Also that day at the varsities cross country in Cork Cathal Doyle took gold. The following day at the National Masters indoor Matt Slattery took M 65 gold in both 800 and 200. Also this month Terry Purcell, club captain in 1970 passed away.
April,May, June: Covid 19 stalks the land bringing to a shuddering halt the activities of Clonliffe Harriers and the island of Ireland. Resilience is a great thing. Athletes taking instruction and direction from the coaches continued with their training, we learned all sorts of new things: zoom is not a camera lens! Then the clubs members got on board with the ’60 seconds with a Harrier’ series and throughout these months on a daily basis the club website introduced a Harrier to their fellow Harriers, a great series, widely copied since. We also had some of our more experienced members share their memories with the Monday Memories series proving a great success. It was also at this stage when the club confirmed the cancellation of various events, including the Morton Games, Brother Schools XC, the Clonliffe 2, the Juvenile Sports and indeed the ERP Christmas Cracker. As we exited various phases green shoots began to appear and activity returned to Morton Stadium, we put in place protocols for health and for contact tracing and as much normality as possible during these dark days returned.
July: On the 9th Karl Nolan became the first Clonliffe Harrier to race in months when he records a time of 32.53.4 10k in the Mondello Park Road race. July 14th saw the first of the club track championships of the year, a fantastic nights athletics saw Daniel Lacey ground 800 champion, Jenny Johnston, women’s 800 champion, a tie in the women’s 100 between Rebecca Fitzsimons and Shannon Sheehy and Keith Marks winning the men’s 100. There was a whole series of races on the night which were thoroughly enjoyed by race hungry Clonliffe Harriers. On the 16th day two of the championships took place, the 400 women’s title was taken by Emma McDonnell, the men’s by Mark McDonald and in the 5000 the women’s winner was Hope Saunders with Efrem Gidey taking the men’s title. Again a huge turnout of athletes split into graded races and another huge success. July 28 was the third and final day of the club Championships, making it a double was Hope Saunders who took the 1500 title and Efrem did likewise in the men’s race. Rebecca Fitzsimons was the women’s club 200 champion with Pascal Touche taking the men’s title. On the 31st Jonny Whan ran a 3000 PB in Belfast of 8.17.95.
August: To mark the 62nd anniversary of the Herb Elliott world mile record set in Santry the club held a club night of miles on 6th. Again another outstanding club night with a total of eight races which included a race for the clubs U/15 athletes where Sorcha O’Connor won the girls race and Sean Cronin the boys, the men’s A race was won by Eoin Taggart and the women’s A race by Sarah Bateson. That same night Jonny Whan ran a 1500 PB in Belfast of 3.46.22. On the 13th Jonny ran his next PB this time over 800 (1.52.46). At that same meet in Belfast John Fagan in his first race over the hurdles for some eight years was second in the 400H in 53.3. The club provided further racing opportunities for members on the 13th with another club meet, star of the show was Efrem Gidey who ran a 5000 PB, solo, of 14.06.05. An 800 PB on the night of 1.56.8 by Daniel Lacey, Jenny Johnston won the women’s 800 in 2.24.6, Rebecca Fitzsimons won the women’s 200 and Pascal Touche was again the victors in the men’s 200. A week later on the 27th another club meet was held, Jonny Whan was the star turn with yet another PB, this time over 1000 in a time of 2.25.0. Winner of the women’s 1000 was Alannah Cooley, in the 3000 Efrem Gidey was fastest man 8.33.4 and Laura Tuite fastest woman 10.37.0, Claudia Daveys won the women’s 100 with Pascal Touche once again the men’s winner. The national senior track and field was also held over two weekends in August: Stephen Rice successfully defended his javelin title winning with a best of 72.73 all of 10m clear of second-place, taking bronze in the javelin was Rory Gunning, bronze was also taken by Simon Galligan in the hammer, bronze also for Efrem in the 5000. The following weekend Eoin Sheridan took discus silver. At U/23 level Shannon Sheehy had a championship to remember taking silver in both the long jump and javelin and bronze in the high jump.
September: on the 11th Jonny Whan won the Northern Ireland 1500 championship in 3.49.64. On the 12th Stephen Scullion ran a world-class 61.08 in the Antrim coast half marathon, a PB also in this race for Gary O’Hanlon (66.26). After a grueling two days on September 12 and 13th Rolus Olusa won the national Decathlon in Morton Stadium. In the club 10,000 for the Bonass Trophy Sean Doran prevailed in a time of 32.19. Regrettably then the country moved to a new level in the fight against Covid 19 and club action slowed down once again.
October: it was a bleak month indeed, the only saving grace was Stephen Scullion’s magnificent new club record, and fastest ever Irishman on a “legal course”, in the London Marathon of 2.09.47.
November: another awful month with nothing to report, the country remained in level 2 throughout this month with training restricted to 18-year-olds downwards in pods of 15 and elite athletes. All other club athletes trained either solo or in pairs. Again it was a question of just getting on with it and as always that is what the Harriers did. The positive news this month was at the end of the month as that the country will be going to level 3 with training again permitted for all, subject to the restrictions we’ve all gotten used to. The other good news this month was confirmation that the European cross-country would take place in Dublin in December 2021
December: Some degree of normality returned to Morton Stadium as group training recommenced. On the 6th Gary O’Hanlon ran 2.19.06 in the Valencia marathon. The following day news emerged of the death of former Clonliffe Harrier and national long jump champion Hugo Duggan in Donegal. A reimagined Clonliffe 2 mile took place in Morton Stadium as a series of time trials confined to club members and behind closed doors on Sunday the 13th. The fastest three men where Colm Rooney (9.15), Efrem Gidey (9.19) and Ben Guiden (9.37), fastest women Sarah Bateson (11.26), Laura Tuite (11.41) and Jenny Johnston (11.51), fastest junior man was Sean Boyne (10.29) with fastest junior woman Katie Halpin (12.36). Declan Power put together an e-book of this extraordinary 2020, that book was published in downloadable form on the club website on December 16 (it is also attached below). The year ended with the devastating news of the passing on the 21st,after a long illness which was battled with great dignity and a warrior spirit, of our club captain Joe Cooper. There was an outpouring of emotion as Joe passed the stadium gates for the final time on December 23 as the Harriers paid tribute lining both sides of the road as we said goodbye to our leader. Finally then December 30th and we are back in Level 5! The only way is up!
As ever, in the words of our captain: ‘Rust never sleeps’, the Harriers look forward to the challenges that lie ahead, we will meet these challenges head on and we will draw upon our memories of Joe as our inspiration. Nil Desperandum.