Kevin Loftus Reports from Clongowes Wood College: A terrific day was had by all who embarked on a journey to both take part in and witness some of the finest All Ireland Schools’ XC running that has been seen in recent years. An extraordinary amount of talent and skill, as well as the culmination of many hard months’ training made for quite the display. Over 1000 competitors and well as supporters and spectators came out for the brilliant occasion, marking this day a celebration of XC amongst youths from all over the island. This event was also run in conjunction with the Varsities’ All Ireland XC Championships for Third Level Students, again from the four corners of the country.
This year saw the event being hosted by the Leinster province, in the prestigious grounds of Clongowes Wood College, not too far from home. Organisation and management of the event appeared to be second nature, every race being effortlessly ran, one right after the other. Thankfully weather wasn’t a feature of the gruelling challenge that lay ahead of athletes competing; soft underfoot conditions and a cloud covered sky proved the wind to be the only main threat posed. However that being said the strength of gusts in the latter stages of the competition meant that extra drive and determination was required of all those racing.
Similarly to most XC courses there was both small and large laps featuring on today’s course map, 1000m and 1500m respectively. Despite the absence of any real threat of nature, athletes found that it wasn’t all going to be plain sailing. Dry surfaces, tight tape marking and narrow bends in the straights allowed for smooth, fast running.
On then to the proceedings from a Clonliffe viewing point: the club having athletes in all races on the programme. Amy Warren (Dominican College) was first in action running a fine race and finishing well inside the top half of the field with a solid 45th. In the minor boys Ian McAweeney (Ard Scoil Ris) had an outstanding run to finish in a superb 20th position. Lauren Carr, representing Coolmine Community School in the Junior Girls race ran her first All Ireland Schools race in style finishing in a comfortable 55th position, having had a heavy cold and no training this past week.
In the Junior Boys race a mixed set of results came in on the finish line, with added unfortunate burden of injury and sickness. Craig Giles finished a very commendable 18th with a particularly strong finish, despite recovering from a concussion that he sustained just last week. Stephen Cashin put in a superb effort on the country today finishing a wonderful 34th in his first All Ireland Schools race. Likewise Ben Guiden, suffering from the aftermath of illness battled all the way to the line in 40th, adding to a stealthy team effort put in by Belvedere College who haven’t reached these Finals in over seven years, the team placing 4th and just 6 points shy of 3rd. Daniel Lacey, another athlete struggling with ill effects from a cold placed 48th, well within the first half of the field.
In the Intermediate Girls, the sole representative was Alannah Cooley running very well to secure a hard fought 45th position in a speed driven race.
Following this the Intermediate Boys was scheduled, where the boys of St. Aidan’s found themselves in the unlucky 4th team position, just shy of medalling. Sean Carrigg was first home in a great 19, followed promptly by Joseph Hession in a strong 34th. Sean O’Leary and Alex Hogan, as 1st year Intermediates, both had really encouraging runs to place a great 46th and 50th respectively. Kevin McKenna, an athlete who has made great strides in training finished in a strong 62nd place. Fionntan McManus, having only recently returned to training put in a solid performance placing 81st with Shane Merrigan just behind in 90th.
One of the most anticipated races of the programme was the Senior Girls race, where Hope Saunders, having only claimed victory in the Junior Women’s All Ireland Club XC title last Sunday, ran a terrific race to place in the silver position of 2nd. Hope remained at the front of the leading pack and decided decisively to chase the leader with roughly 250m to go. The race itself was one of the fastest and was of a low distance by XC standards, athletes only having to run 2500m. Another Harrier who had an absolutely terrific race was Laura Tuite who consistently improved her speed throughout the course of the race to finish a brilliant 15th.
In the last and undisputed favourite race of the day, the Senior Boys from St. Aidan’s CBS in Whitehall delivered a whopping performance to claim their emphatic victory over St. Flannan’s College by a mere 1 point in one of the tightest and most nerve-racking races of the day. Cathal Doyle led his team home in a wonderful 11th place; Adam O’Brien following suit in style to finish a great 15th. Brian Flanagan arrived in soon after in a terrific 21st and to complete the scoring four Alex Gibbons tore down the home straight in 44th position. These four were strongly supported by magnificent efforts from Ross Kearney 56th, Niall Norman 62nd, Thomas Ward 69th and Gregg Hossenny 72nd.
So, a marvellous day of simply outstanding XC was seen by all of our athletes representing their schools. It is such a tremendous achievement to reach these National Finals and to everyone who competed today – you have done your school, and your club proud. Nil Desperandum!
These results are PROVISIONAL and are INTERNAL, official results will be posted on Athletics Ireland’s Website.
Report, results written and compiled by K Loftus.