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Mark Kenneally is the star of the European cross country in Santry

Dec 14, 2009 [Noel Guiden] The Spar European Cross Country Championships came to Santry yesterday providing a wonderful spectacle for the estimated 6000 plus crowd in attendance. The star of the show was undoubtedly from an Irish perspective Clonliffe’s Mark Kenneally with a magnificent eighth place equalling the previous best Irish performance at these championships by Alistair Cragg in 2002.

Santry Demesne looked simply stunning. The running was better then expected after the record November rainfall and although there was ankle-deep mud in places there were some areas of good ground for these world class athletes. The in-field area, however, was a different story – it was like a 2009 version of Woodstock!

First race of the day was the Junior Women’s race where Lisburn’s Ciara Mageehan ran an excellent race to finish in 9th place. Overall the Irish girls finished in 9th place. The Irish Junior Men’s team placed 11th with the highest Irish finisher being Ryan Creech of Leavale in 41st place.

On the U/23 Women there was a good performance from Newbridge’s Roseanne Galligan best of the Irish in 15th place with the team placing fifth. In the U/23 Men’s race the Clonliffe interest was provided by David Flynn who in all fairness looked like the exertions of the U.S. Collegiate Cross Country season had taken its toll, David ultimately placing 54th. First Irish home in that race was Michael Mulhare of North Laois in 18th place. On a team perspective the Irish placed 6th.

On then to the Senior Women where there was great expectation of potential Irish success with Mary Cullen in particular shouldering the burden of a nation’s expectation. This race was blown open from the start with Great Britain’s Hayley Yelling grabbing the race by the scruff of the neck from the gun with an unbelievable display of front running as she opened a ten metre gap right from the start and then extended this throughout the course of the race to win in emphatic style. Of the Irish Fionnuala Britain ran a superb race coming good on the day to place 11th overall just in front of Mary Cullen 12th, Linda Byrne 25th and Ava Hutchinson 34th. There was heartbreak for the Irish who ultimately placed 4th having been second in the early stages and slipping down to 3rd and then as poor Deirdre Byrne imploded over the final lap after superb opening finished looking exceptionally tired in 48th place, the team medal slipped away.

The Senior Men’s race provided a superb race up front between Spain’s Ethiopian born Alemayehu Bezabeh and Mo Farah battled out taking a 100 yard lead from the defending champion Sergey Lebid. The Spaniard prevailed in an absorbing final 400 metres as Farah collapsed yards over the line. Mark Kenneally undoubtedly ran the race of his life. From the off he showed his intentions as with great determination he got himself into the top ten a position from which he never fell back. He was in simply inspired form as the large crowd got behind him cheering him on to a superb eighth place; a performance with which Kenneally was clearly thrilled post race. Alistair Cragg battled on gamely the mud clearly not suiting his smooth style, Cragg ultimately finished third scorer in 40th place, Mullingar’s Martin Fagan was 26th and Andrew Ledwith in 41st made up the scoring four with the Irish placing sixth.

Although from an Irish perspective that chunk of metal still alludes us the performance of Mark Kenneally certainly lifted spirits. The event itself was superbly organised and went off smoothly. Great credit is due to all who assisted in the organisation of the event and who turned out to volunteer their services over the course of the weekend and indeed the week, the army involved is just to numerous to name but each and everyone played their part in
delivering a wonderful athletics occasion.

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