Stephen burns off opposition to take maiden victory in Walker Cup

Round 12 of the Grand Prix series incorporated in the Walker Cup took place on the 7th of October 2004 under lights at the Morton Stadium. There was a very good turnout for the four-mile track race which in addition to Grand Prix athletes included a number of other club members running in the Walker Cup boosting the field to over thirty starters.

The Walker Cup itself is a long-standing club race and is generously sponsored by Fraizer Walker. The Walker family donated the cup to the club when the race was first ran back in 1966 and once again it was a pleasure to see Fraizer together with some of the Clonliffe ‘old boys’ in attendance on the night.

To the race, non-Grand Prix competitor Colm Rooney was clearly the class of the field, establishing an insurmountable lead in the first 250 metres. Colm ran the race essentially as a time trial reeling off very consistent laps to lap the whole field and finish in a superb 20 minutes 11 seconds for the four mile race. Second across the line was another non-Grand Prix athlete Connor Healy.

Of the Grand Prix athletes there was a tremendous battle between David Brennan, Tom Monks and Barry Ryan as these three shared the lead reeling off the laps until all sharing arrangements were broken off as they hit the sixteenth and final lap. In the tremendous sprint for the line Barry Ryan proved victorious coming home just in front of Tom Monks and David Brennan (David was later to complain of the wrong choice of footwear giving him traction problems – he is obviously no Michael Schumacher!).

Further down the field it was clear that there were a number of the Grand Prix athletes having tremendous runs. In particular Jim Cleary surprised many with a fast gutsy run eventually finishing in 25:59.

Going into the race the yellow jersey wearer Stephen Byrne had a slim 1.5 point lead over Pat Healy. His defence of the yellow jersey now over the last month has to say the least been spirited, however, he clearly saved his best performance of the year, or possibly even his short athletic life for Thursday night. He ran a virtually solo run to finish in 25:08.

Not only did he, in fairness, out-perform his own expectations, but despite the fact that he was carrying a penalty his wonderful performance was rewarded with a victory over the handicapper and the whole field to win the Walker Cup, thereby taking his maiden victory.

Other good runs recorded on the night were Colm Doran, Shay Byrne and Tom Monks.

The top three were presented with their prizes in the club bar afterwards, a beaming Byrne taking the winners prize as well as the Walker Cup. Jim Cleary was rewarded for his outstanding run with second place with Colm Doran in third. Colm Rooney was presented with his prize for the fastest time.

Unfortunately on the night we were very much stretched, officials wise and this led to a situation where there were no lap counters available causing some confusion to the athletes. Whilst this is regrettable and unfortunate, in the absence of support from people who are not running on the night there is nothing which can be done. It is simply not possible to cater for a field of this size, with varying standards, over sixteen laps with four officials. The organisers are already discussing ways of alleviating this problem in next years series.