The Nationals: normal service has been resumed!

The Clonliffe Harriers senior men were in dominant form with a comprehensive victory in yesterday`s national cross country taking back the title lost to DSD last year. In an excellent day for the club The Junior men only lost out on the double on count back to Raheny Shamrocks as both clubs tied on 41 points, while there were thrilling performances from the ladies as both senior and junior teams took team bronze.

At 11 o’clock on Sunday morning the army of course builders surveyed their work of the previous two days: a magnificent course laid out in the parklands of Santry Demesne, with the finish straight fully meshed, meshing along the main straight and the Woodies DIY tape fluttering in the gentle breeze the course looked stunning. After the last few spring days in Santry the surface was nothing but perfect, not a puddle of water nor patch of mud to be seen.

1 p.m. – the first race of the day and indeed the shock of the day. In the junior women’s 6000 metre race DSD’s Siofra Cleirigh-Buttner was seriously challenged by newcomer to Irish athletics Mary Sarah Collins (Finn Valley A.C.), a little over halfway into the race Collins hit the front and drove on relentlessly to record a stunning victory by a margin of the best part of 30 seconds. The DSD girl, however, was consoled by leading her club to yet another national title with an almost perfect score, second, third, fourth and fifth. Raheny Shamrocks were second on 45 points with the Clonliffe girls taking the club’s first medal of the day finishing third led home by Roisin Leahy in eleventh place. Roisin has come on in leaps and bounds since last summer and had competed consistently well throughout the cross country season. The highest praise must also go to Elaine Begley who was the club’s second scorer in fifteenth place. Elaine of course started her athletics career with the club as a cross country runner, however, over the past two years has become an extremely proficient hurdler. When Elaine heard that the girls were short one for the team she had no hesitation at all in putting herself on the line. 6,000 metres on the country is a long way indeed for a 400 metre hurdler. Simply outstanding commitment and club spirit. Elaine was chased all the way to the line by Rachel Murray who finished only 5 seconds behind Elaine with Laura Brennan really toughening it out and doing all that was asked of her as she finished in 19th place and as a result delivered national bronze for herself and her teammates.

On then to the junior men’s race over 8000 metres where there was much expected of the Clonliffe squad. Once again the lads did not fail to deliver, concentrating on running for the team rather than in pursuit of personal glory. Raheny’s hot favourite Kevin Dooney took things relatively easy, by his high standards, over the early exchanges as there was a pack of six including both Ian Guiden and Aaron Hanlon in the black and amber. As Dooney hit the gas the lead pack got strung out with Ian and Aaron both in 4th and 5th places, they were subsequently challenged and were relegated to 5th and 6th heading into the last lap. Fintan Doherty was also having an outstanding run maintaining his eighth place position almost throughout the course of the race. With a lap to go the smart money was on the Clonliffe lads as they led by maybe 2 points, however, as we all know in our sport it is not over until all are safely home. Both Aaron and Ian were caught by the fast finishing Killian Mooney (DSD) and finished in 6th and 7th places respectively with Fintan 8th. At this stage Raheny had Dooney safely home in 1st with a winning margin of almost 30 seconds, Raheny’s next two scorers came in in 11th and 12th, it was going to be all down to the final finisher and as Colum O’Leary of Raheny picked up a place on the run in with Clonliffe’s fourth man Eoin McCullough in 20th place it meant that the Raheny and Clonliffe lads tied on 41 points. On count-back the title went to Raheny winning back the Junior title they held in 2010. Of the rest of the Clonliffe lads Liam Ashton suffered considerably over the latter half of the race and finished in 27th place, Johnny Bradley-Ward had a good final cross country race for Clonliffe as a junior in 31st place, Mark Ring was 34th and John Buckley 36th.

In the senior women’s race the talk around Santry all week was that on paper it looked like our senior women were potential medallists. As the gun went and the women’s race hit the straight at the rear of the stadium for the first time it was very pleasing to see a black and amber vest up with the leaders as Sarah McCormack, in her first race for the club, was showing that she meant business. Sarah ran strongly and well throughout the race ultimately finishing just out of the medals in fourth position. Pre race favourite Linda Byrne of DSD well justified her favourites tag winning the race from Una English (DCH) and Eva Hutchinson (DSD). Clonliffe’s second scorer was Becky Woods in 13th place, Becky battled on gamely and was clearly carrying an injury towards the end of the race, Becky was chased all the way to the line by Ailish Malone who ran very well to finish fourteenth with Eleanor Alexander getting the better of Louise Reilly finishing 22nd and 23rd respectively. Marie Byrne was 26th and Kerry Paige impressed with her 32nd place finish. As the results came in it was a delight to hear that the Clonliffe Harriers senior women had finished in 3rd position on 53 points behind DSD 1st and North Belfast Harriers 2nd.

The final race of the afternoon was the much anticipated senior men’s race – the big one where the Clonliffe team were determined to put last years defeat to rights. Despite the absence of London bound Mark Kenneally there was a degree of confidence within the squad. As the starters gun went the reasons for this confidence became clear with a black and amber clad trio of Sergiu Ciobanu, Brian MacMahon and Gary O’Hanlon (Gary in a figure hugging Clonliffe vest – as a result of not being able to find his own as they were called to the start!) The surprise of the race was Annadale Striders Eddie McGinley who remained at the front of the race throughout. As matters wore on McGinley led and the chasers were down to Sergiu and Gary with Brian McMahon losing ground slightly. Raheny’s Mick Clohisey was 5th with Cillian O’Leary 6th, however, Raheny’s next two scorers were further down the pack at this stage. Clonliffe 4th scorer looked like being John Hennegan, John running strongly over the first half of the race, however, found it very tough over the second last two laps. Up front the race was down to two McGinley –v- Ciobanu, however, the Annadale man was not to be outdone as he took his first National Cross Country title in a time of 35.09. Sergiu was a strong second 35.24 with Gary O’Hanlon an extremely popular medallist in 3rd position 35.35. With Brian MacMahon maintaining his fourth place the Clonliffe lads filled positions 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Over the last lap James Kevan in his first home race for Clonliffe began really motoring and came home fourth scorer in 16th place a mere 7 seconds in front of John Hennegan and Jayme Rossiter having a fine race in his first senior National in 19th place. Fine runs also from Cian Delaney 49th, Ernie Ramsey 58th, Conor Delaney 79th and Eoin Murray 106th and Ger Kirwin 112th.

A comprehensive victory for the Clonliffe lads with an excellent score of 25 points some 20 points in front of Raheny in 2nd on 45 points with the 2011 champions DSD 3rd on 78 points. This was actually Clonliffe’s lowest ever score in the Nationals.

It was a superb performance from the senior men’s team well and truly making up for last years disappointment. The senior men have now won nine Nationals of the 13 held since the turn of the century. Impressive stuff indeed.

Congratulations to all of our athletes who performed magnificently in Santry. Team medals in all four races. Congratulations also to our club captains Joe and Pamela, thanks also to the athletes coaches and a particular word of thanks to all members and supporters of Clonliffe Harriers who helped in any way over the course of the weekend in putting together an excellent 2012 National Interclub cross country.