Great day`s cross country at Leinster Schools

Clonliffe Harriers yesterday played host to the Irish Schools Athletic Association for the 2012 Aviva Leinster Schools Cross Country Championships. All members of Clonliffe Harriers concerned did sterling work in putting on an event which was worthy of a national, let alone Leinster, championship. The Clonliffe crew had been out from 8 a.m. on the morning marking out the course to have it in pristine condition for the high noon start. Overall the going in Santry Demesne was good but there were of course the obligatory patches of mud, however, considering the amount of rain in Dublin over the last week or so the ground held up surprisingly well. There were of course a substantial number of Clonliffe athletes in action for their schools, standout performer on the day was new Clonliffe signing Aaron Hanlon who scored a dominant victory in the inter boys over 4500 metres.

As always in schools competition there were huge fields, particularly in the younger age groups, the first of our athletes in action was in the minor girls race which was run over one big 1500m loop, great performances by our two athletes in this race, both of whom finished very strongly over the final 200 with Alannah Cooley coming home in 39th place with Amy McGrath not far behind her in 53rd.

We had four athletes in the minor boys race which was run over 2000 metres making up the bulk of the St. Aidan’s CBS team. This St. Aidan’s minor team has been dominant throughout the course of the winter and did not disappoint in Santry. There was a great battle between Joseph Hession and Sean Carrig, who exchanged places throughout the race, Sean pushing Joseph very hard all the way and it was only with 400 to go that Joseph turned on the burners to power away, however, Sean finished very strongly and was not that far off Joseph at the finish, Joseph being the first St. Aidan’s scorer in seventh place with Sean 9th, an excellent run from the ever improving Shane Merrigan in 22nd place and from Gregory Hennessy in 67th. With very good runs from the rest of the St. Aidan’s team it meant that when the results were totted the St. Aidan’s minor boys continued their winning streak to take their Leinster title and now look forward with considerable confidence to the All Ireland’s in Galway on March 10th.

Clonliffe had two athletes in the junior girls race which was also run over 2000 metres, both girls running as individuals having successfully negotiated the qualifiers, realistically their aim was top 30 finishes and neither disappointed with Sally Aherne having one of her best runs to date over the country to finish in 24th position – six places ahead of Laura Tuite in 30th.

The Junior boys race featured a great number of Clonliffe athletes all of whom are part of the same training group, in this race, held over 3000 metres, there was a very impressive performance by Cathal Doyle who got himself into a superb position from the off and ran a very mature race, however, unfortunately was caught 50 metres from the line for 3rd place and finished in that unlucky fourth position. There was a great battle between St. Aidan’s pairing of Adam O’Brien and David O’Hanlon throughout the race, in the end Adam was the stronger finishing in 8th position two places ahead of David. Brian Flanagan was the next St. Aidan’s scorer in 14th position, Brian has really improved dramatically as an athlete over the winter months clearly showing the benefits of regular training and his reward was another excellent run, probably his best to date. Paddy O’Hanlon who unfortunately has missed a lot of training over the winter months battled on gamely finishing in 27th position for Rathoath with Alex Gibbons another improving athlete finishing 35th and Philip Keenan, both St. Aidan’s, finishing 63rd. The St. Aidan’s junior boys team finished 2nd and again will head to Galway in three weeks time.

Clonliffe only had one athlete competing in the inter girls race, Rachel Murray who was 25th.

The inter boys race featured pre-race favourite Aaron Hanlon running for St. Mary’s Dundalk, Aaron has only recently joined Clonliffe Harriers. After a relatively easy opening lap Aaron turned up the heat on the second lap and by 2000 metres was well clear of the field, thereafter he ran well within himself to record a comfortable win by some margin over the field. Certainly an athlete to watch in the future. Liam Ashton of St. Aidan’s had another good run and finished very strongly over the second half of the race in 7th place, Ryan Cleary running for Belvedere was 54th. A good run by Ryan when one bears in mind that these days Ryan is more noted as a race walker. Both Aaron and Liam now progress to the All Irelands as individuals.

The Senior girls race featured only one Clonliffe athlete, Roisin Leahy who ran very well to finish 11th and comfortably qualify for the All Ireland finals.

Finally on to the Senior boys race where Kevin Dooney of CBC Monkstown and Raheny Shamrocks was expected to be the dominant force. As usual Kevin Dooney hit the front from the off and drove off at a relentless pace, the only athlete to rise to the challenge was Ian Guiden who stuck doggedly on Dooney’s heels for the best part of two laps but clearly the pace took its toll and unfortunately over the second half of the race he slipped back into the clutches of the chasing pack before finishing a disappointed and tired 4th. Fintan Doherty also expressed himself disappointed with his afternoon’s work, Fintan running as an individual for Castleknock finished 10th but again is consoled with qualification, along with Ian for the All Ireland finals. Eoin McCullough (Belvedere) was 21st with St. Aidan’s pairing of Connor King 31st and Johnny Bradley-Ward 42nd. In possibly the shock of the day unfortunately the St. Aidan’s senior boys did not finish in the top three and for the first time in a long number of years there will no St. Aidan’s senior team at the All Ireland Cross Country finals.

In all another great days athletics and a big thank you to all of the Clonliffe people who turned out en masse for the whole day, most of whom took a day off work at their own expense in order to help with the running of these championships. The dedication and effort of the Clonliffe contingent did not go unnoticed and there was high praise from both the Leinster schools athletic union and also from the president of the Irish Schools Association Mr. Michael Hunt.

We now look forward to the next outing in Santry Demesne which is the National Interclubs Cross Country on Sunday the 26th of February. Rust never sleeps!