The European adventure

The Clonliffe crew arrived back from the European clubs cross country championships late last night having endured a pretty arduous flight from Valencia. Initially the flight out of Valencia was delayed for over an hour, then as the flight made its descent into Dublin we were put into a holding pattern as the idiot with the drone was at it again meaning that Dublin airport was closed for a period for any incoming or outgoing flights. The next thing that occurred after 20+ minutes of circulating was an announcement that the flight would have to divert to Belfast to refuel! We landed in Belfast along with other flights that have been diverted, by the time the plane was refuelled and we took off another hour and a half had lapsed. Eventually a tired team arrived in Dublin airport some 3 hours later than scheduled. That was really the only blip on what was otherwise a superb weekend for Clonliffe Harriers.

The team of Efrem Gidey, Sean O’Leary, Ian Guiden, Stephen Cashin and Jayme Rossiter along with the management trio of club captain Noel Guiden, vice captain Gerry Cullen and club secretary Stephen Bateson set off on their travels bright and early (actually it certainly wasn’t bright in Dublin at 4 AM!) On Friday meeting for a 6 AM flight to Valencia. On arrival in Valencia we were met by the organisers who transported the team to the tourist town Oropesa, Castellon the best part of 90 minutes away. Having left our bags we then congregated for lunch. The catering at European clubs can sometimes be a bit hit and miss, this weekend it was without a doubt a hit. In fact it really was the best quality meals presented. A buffet of food to suit every palate. It was excellent throughout the course of the weekend.

After resting up the team then went on their shakeout to the course which is only a little over a kilometre away from the hotel. The first viewing of the course was a bit of a shocker, in fairness the course builders were still building but, not what we are used to when building a Clonliffe course, there were short stakes maybe only a foot high in the ground everywhere. The course was constructed basically on the seafront – the best comparison that can be given is the grass area along the Clontarf seafront, now imagine trying to cram in the best part of a 2000 M lap into that area, switchbacks galore and without the benefit of the tape being done at that stage a lot of guesswork was required.

Saturday and after breakfast although there was team training on the course organised for 4 PM both Efrem and Sean wanted to stick to their routine of morning running so off they set. Stephen, Ian and Jayme held off until 4 PM. At that stage we got a very good look at the course with the taping all in situ and the lads got the opportunity to try things out a little. Some notable features: (1) an off grass trip to the beach 3 times each lap, one area in particular featured a dip and Hill true the beach. (2) three jumps to be negotiated – with roughly 10 m between each – that was a shocker to Ian and Sean in particular –Jayme was licking his lips! (3) the course runs through the playground!

The positives where that this was a very fast flat course however it was tight, there were hairpin bends, the ground was rockhard in places, indeed the section to the playground was basically on concrete and of course there was the sand which all agreed will be energy sapping as the race wore on.

Sunday, race day. The squad and management walked to the course, all were relaxed and looking forward to the event. The starting 4 had been confirmed as Efrem, Ian, Sean and Jayme. Stephen would act as reserve and warmed up with the team, and as all was well with the rest of the team Stephen was going to run in the open 5k. With the warmup completed, the call room procedure complied with the lads lined up for the 2023 European clubs cross country. The pace over the first 200 into the bend and the first trip to the beach was unbelievable. Sean O’Leary got the best start of the team, Efrem not so. As the race settled Efrem began moving through the field but with the pace throughout the field it took an awful lot of time to break into the top 20 and then lap by lap he was taking place by place. Heading into the final lap Efrem was in 8th place and had a last lap battle royale with Spain’s Roberto Alaiz, (who in fact competed in the 5000 in the 2022 Morton Games). On the home straight Efrem took the place to finish 7th. Sean O’Leary really pulled an excellent race out of the bag finishing in 41st position, Jayme Rossiter after a conservative start worked his way nicely through the field to place 45th. Ian Guiden had a bright start but really suffered over the 2nd half to finish in 60th. The team finished in an excellent 8th position. Bearing in mind that the Euro clubs competition has expanded now 8 out of 26 teams is a pretty impressive outcome. 8th position is the highest the club has finished since 2008. Efrem in 7th was the joint second best performance ever by a Clonliffe athlete in these championships. Mark Kenneally was 6th in Bilbao in 2010 and Jerry Kiernan 7th in Lyon back in 1983.

The race winner today was Rodrigue Kwizera of host club Playas de Castellon, and coupled with 5th and 6th positions Castellon took the team title.

With the championships over it was Stephen Cashin’s turn to step into the spotlight for the open 5K. That race featured athletes who fulfilled the reserve role for the clubs along with other club athletes and it was a mixed race. The race started on the cross country course and at the far end turned onto the road for 3K before coming back onto the cross country course and using the 2nd half of the course and the finish. All the team were there to support Stephen, from the gun Stephen was up in the top 3 and whilst we waited the return of the race as we gazed into the sunlight out of the haze came that familiar running style – Stephen Cashin leading and to great cheers he came home to take a clear win in a time of 15.02. There was then the podium and the medal presentation.

That night after dinner the team and management and support crew has a most enjoyable night and in the process solved the problems of the world!

Thanks indeed on behalf of the team to the Clonliffe committee for their support of this European venture, thanks also to the supporters who came out to cheer on the lads: Caroline, Paddy, Johnny, Noreen, Mary and Bernie.