Mar 2, 2008 [Noel Guiden] A truely magnificent achievement by our senior men yesterday : five National cross country team titles in a row. The Queens Playing Fields in Belfast provided the ultimate “testing” course, open fields, with a strong wind, a bit of rain, ample sticky mud, sandy dune like hills, a sharp steep hill and sharp bends. Alistair Cragg showed what an athlete he is making the transition from the US indoor circuit to club cross country runner with ease and class to boot. Alistair also answered a few critics who questioned his committment to Clonliffe Harriers and the whispers that “Cragg doesn`t do Nationals”
The mens team were dominant where it matters : The Nationals. From the off Alistair, the race favourite, was at the head of the field with the rest of the lads well up packing nicely at this early stage. The day`s first surprise was the identity of the yellow vested athleted, Cathal Lombard, the second was Gary Murray`s disappearance at half way and the third was Lombards opening of a 30 metre gap on Cragg, a gap which was closed but not enough for Lombard to win in 40:32 with Cragg 8 seconds behind. Despite Alistair Cragg`s undoubted surprise at Lombard opening such a gap he was well aware of the importance of the day to his club shouting to Clonliffe supporters on the last lap : “Are we winning?”
Indeed we were. The charge from behind was lead by pre-Christmas signing Chris Carris. After easing himself into the top 10 Chris really began to motor, looking on the last lap as if he might even take individual bronze, however, he was overhauled by the fast finishing Raheny duo of Vinnie Mulvey and Mick Clohisey. Chris finishing a most valuable 5th.
Chris Carris is a great addition to Clonliffe, his arrival in Santry was as a result of his association with former club President Colm Brennan, in 2004 he ran a 2:15 Marathon, injury followed and only last weekend he ran his first race for four years the English National (18th), this was his second comeback race. His reward in Belfast was team gold and a call up to the Irish World Cross Country team, however, with Chris looking for the Beijing qualifying time in London two weeks after the World Cross he has some thinking to do.
3rd scorer was Sergiu Turea a wonderful 9th place. This was just reward for the work Sergiu has being putting in with club coaches Peter McDermott and Tony Murphy. His best race to date.
Another storming run from Brian McMahon and another team scoring performance from Brian – Dublin, European and now National. 13th place, superb.
The team gold goes to the men in the black and amber – 29 points, Raheny 39 and Rathfarnham 97.
Stirring runs also from Cian McLaughlin 16th, and the ageless Paolo Dogilo 19th , places which would usually put an athlete in the scoring four, but not this day.Colm Rooney having a bit of an off day from his high standards was 21st. Aidan Bailey had a really good run 22nd. Another new boy on his first Clonliffe outing was Niall Sherlock 46th.
A special mention and bravery award for Gary O`Hanlon. Injured now for weeks, limping, far from full fitness, and not a step ran all week Gary goes out and just does it. A battling, brave 30th place.
Turning to the Junior men. 2007 silver medalist Dave Flynn had another great run, just beaten on the run in for bronze. Dave was, however, called up for a well deserved place on the World Cross Junior team. Race winner was the impressive Michael Mulhare (North Laois), 2nd Craig Murphy (togher), 3rd Ian Ward (Finn Valley).
Of the rest of the Clonliffe juniors Colm Murray ran the race of his life with a mature performance for 15th. Mark McDonald recovered from an early fall to take 23rd with an off colour Dave Fitzmaurice 24th. Eoin McDonnell was 27th,Larry Brady 30th and Tony Kavanagh 32nd. Another bravery award this time to Eoin Pearce, again he has been injured, unable to train and way off full fitness, a lesser man may have dropped out but Eoin is made of sterner stuff and struggled on to a credable 45th. He will have better days than this in the not to distant future.
For the second year in succession the Junior men were 3rd (66). 1st St. Malachys (again)(50) with Ferrybank 2nd(54).
Our senior womens team was weakened by injury with Frances NicRaemonn and Bronagh NiBhrian amongst others missing. A great run though by young Becky Woods stepping up to the mark to finish 16th in her first National senior. Ever green Mags Greenan yet again delivered the good – 24th. Ailish McDermott was 30th, Aisling Coppinger 38th, Fionnula Doherty 43rd, Anne Marie Smith 48th and Eleanor Alexander 50th. The team was 4th overall and first in grade B. 1st DSD, 2nd Raheny, 3rd Donore. Individually the race featured an awesome performane by Fionnula Britton, magistic. Britton winning by an amazing 66 seconds from Maria McCambridge with Linda Byrne 3rd.
The Junior women , Sarah Finnegan 18th, Kate Purcell 23rd, Ciara Heneghan 24th and Alison Lynch 33rd finished 5th but encouragingly only 3 points off bronze. The O`Carroll-Ffrench girls where as expected one two- Charlotte and Rebecca. Teams 1st DSD, 2nd Ferrybank, 3rd Raheny.
After a well earner meal the tired athletes and exhausted supporters relaxed back at HQ in Santry. The victorious 5 in a row team to a man enjoying a few pints while Joe Cooper reflected on a satisfying day`s work and gets ready for the challenges ahead.
As the man says : NIL DESPERANDUM.