Jimmy's the master
Sprint double at finals in Tullamore
A strong contingent from Wexford headed to Tullamore on Sunday to bear more Irish summer weather at the National Masters track and field championships.
Since the advent of the new track at Enniscorthy Sports Hub, an increased number of the more mature Wexford athletes have had the opportunity to get a taste for track and field, and this has translated into success at the Masters championships.
Doing the double in the sprints was Menapians' Jimmy O'Neill, who kept up his current run of form to take two All-Ireland titles in the Over-50 100m and the 200m with times that many younger sprint athletes could only envy.
Niall Sheil (St. Killian's) ran a tremendous 1,500m from gun to finish line to be crowned the national champion Over-35, one of the most difficult races with 68 athletes entered throughout the age categories.
Menapians' Ann Gilshenan repeated the success of her daughter, Danika, who won the Under-13 600m the previous weekend, when she ran an excellent 1,500 in the Over-50 category to take the national title. In the Over-40 1,500m, United Striders' John McGrath made the podium in third position.
In the longer track distances, Kilmore's Jackie Carthy once again took to the national podium when she won the Over-40 1,500m in style, having earlier secured a bronze in the Over-40 3,000m. In the same distance, Catherine O'Connor (Menapians) also secured bronze in the Over-50 age category.
Another double of national titles went to Aine Cullen (United Striders) who won both the Over-35 high jump and the Over-35 100m hurdles and took a third medal in the shot putt, where she earned herself a bronze. Team-mate Karina Somers also bagged a national title when she won the Over-35 3k walk.
Another Striders on the podium was Sinéad McCarthy, silver in the Over-35 javelin, silver in the shot putt, silver in the high jump and bronze in the 400m. Mick O'Gorman won bronze in the Over-55 long jump.
Amongst the near misses for podium places were Ted Flannelly in fourth in the 5,000m; Hezy Shoyjeu of Enniscorthy, fourth in the javelin, and John McGrath of United Striders, also placing fourth in the 800m.
Wexford county women's team are through to the national track and field league final in Tullamore on Sunday for the seventh successive year, and will compete with Ireland's best. The team was in third place in the Premier Division after rounds one and two were totalled.
Two years ago, the Model County team members were victorious champions in Division 1 and this is their highest-placed position heading into the final since advancing to the top flight of the league.
The strong opposition which lies ahead includes Leevale, Dundrum South Dublin, Kildare County and the mighty Clonliffe Harriers as well as Galway City Harriers, North Down and Tir Conaill.
The Wexford team has built up a core group of athletes over the past number of years with new additions to the squad each year. The team for Sunday is Fiona Kehoe (Kilmore), Ciara Wilson (D.M.P.), Emma Owens (St. Paul's), Eimear Doherty (D.M.P.), Elizabeth Egan (Bree), Sinéad Moloney (St. Killian's), Catherine Walsh (Slaney Olympic), Shannon Wall (Adamstown), Christina Furlong (D.M.P.) and Catherina Corcoran (Bree).
Due to international duties at the Celtic Games, Sophie McCabe of Bree will be missing as will Antoinette Stafford of D.M.P. due to injury. Also called up to the team for the final are Katie Daly (Kilmore), Aoife Rochford (Bree) and Mairéad Fortune (Enniscorthy).
The girls and their managers, Eamonn Owens and Jim Corcoran, are eagerly looking forward to competing for the highest honours in the land.
Adamstown's champion high jump ace, Ryan Carthy-Walsh, flew out of Dublin Airport with the 35-strong Team Ireland on Wednesday for Tbilisi in Georgia to compete in the European Youth Olympic Festival.
This biennial event features the best of Europe's up and coming sports stars and Athletics Ireland nominated a team of 16 athletes to represent the sport, alongside athletes from Swim Ireland, gymnastics, cycling and judo.
The standards set for qualification were extremely high, due in no small part to the amount of international competitions that are being held this year, including the world championships in Beijing. All selected Irish athletes achieved standards that were comparable to medal-winning times, heights or distances, two years ago.
Two years ago, Menapians' Annie Stafford represented Wexford at the event in Utrecht, Holland, and went through the qualification rounds in the long jump to make the finals, a remarkable achievement.
This year, however, Ryan and his team-mates have to contend with very high temperatures, even during the night, in the Olympic village. The former U.S.S.R. state of Georgia, remembered possibly by many Irish soccer fans, is close to the Iranian border on the very eastern side of Europe, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.
The city itself is inland, and daytime temperatures will be a likely issue for the young Irish athletes, most of whom have never experienced warm weather competition before.
The opening ceremony took place, with all the fireworks associated with any Olympic event, on Sunday evening ahead of the qualification rounds of competition on Monday and finals from Wednesday through to Friday.
The Irish team will return next weekend and a full account of Ryan's experience will be in next week's report.
Ryan's clubmate, Marguerite Furlong, will also be in international action next weekend in the Celtic Games in Scotland, competing in the discus.
This is Marguerite's first Irish vest and she will be joined by Bree's Sophie McCabe, on her second stint for her country this summer, and also by Menapians' David McDonald, another seasoned international at this stage.