Keenly-fought races in store
The Mr Oil Wexford Senior cross-country championships take place on Sunday, December 13, hosted by D.M.P. A.C. The course will be on Wexford racetrack, Newtown Road, and it promises to be one of the most competitive in recent years.
For a number of years now the top two contenders have been Tom Hogan (S.B.R.) and Niall Shiels (St. Killian's), with the likes of United Striders' John McGrath plus Noel Kennedy and Paul Lynch of S.B.R. lapping at their heels over the past two years.
Other reliable contenders include Slaney Olympic's Martin Monaghan, the ever-reliable Tommy McElwaine (S.B.R.) and Striders' Ted Flannelly who are always in the top positions.
Slaney and S.B.R. have regularly been up for team honours but recently clubs such as D.M.P., Striders and Croghan have been growing in numbers and in strength and the gap appears to be closing.
Striders took the silver team prize in 2014 and will surely have their eye on holding their position. Slaney, however, have Ger Forde this year, following his spring transfer from Dublin to his native county. He will surely rock the boat and upset the dominance at the top of the pack.
Coming from a strong road race season, where he took Intermediate honours and followed up with a win at Senior level, he went on to win silver on the sod at the Leinster Intermediate cross-country back in October.
With 'Farmer' Monaghan, Jim Stafford, possibly Kevin Murphy, Billy Reck and Dave Barron all in the Slaney pack, every place will count for the Senior club gold.
In the women's event, it is hard to see Kilmore being knocked off the top spot on the podium, even though in cross-country anything can happen. Last year's one-two-three were Jackie Carthy, Fiona Kehoe and Annaleigh Hore - all in flying form at present, with Jackie leading team Ireland to gold in the British and Irish Masters and Fiona taking fourth in the national Novice in Dungarvan.
Kilmore will be hard to beat and they have plenty in reserve with Sue Cardiff, Sharon Kehoe, Helen Doyle and Sinéad O'Brien. Slaney will also contend, with Emily Waldron-O'Connor possibly being their strongest over the country this year, along with Catherine Murphy and Catherine Walsh.
S.B.R. will also contend and depending on the team that turns out may retain their silver position. United Striders too could make an impression, as could Croghan, and there could be upsets caused by strong individual performances from athletes such as Ciara Wilson of the host club D.M.P.
Traditionally the Senior cross-country is one of the most hard-fought after and prestigious battles in the Athletics Wexford fixtures calendar, especially in terms of the team prizes. This year promises to be a great treat for spectators, and many Juveniles will be out to support their clubs and cheer on the adults, many of whom are involved in coaching. It could quite possibly be the race of the year on Wexford soil.
In the wake of Storm Desmond, the bravest of Wexford's cross-country athletes headed to St. Augustine's College in Dungarvan on Sunday for the national Novice and uneven ages cross-country championships.
Illness and injury saw the three county teams slightly depleted, but full scoring contingencies were on the start line in the purple and gold. First up was the girls' Under-11 team, through from Leinster in third place and eager to step up to the national stage, many for their first time.
As always the standards in the Juvenile top flight are exceptional and totally unpredictable. Throw a course that is muddy and slippery into the mix and literally anything can happen.
With a fast start the Wexford girls ran strongly led home by the S.B.R. duo of Orlaith Deegan and Orla Byrne, with United Striders' Leona Berry third in for the county, closely followed by Menapians' Sinéad O'Reilly, Adamstown's Niamh English, S.B.R's Rachel Bowe, Kennedy Cullen from Kilmore, Ellie O'Mahoney of D.M.P., Gráinne English of Adamstown and Ailbhe White of Menapians. They came through as a full team for Wexford in a field of 167 athletes and finished tenth county.
In the boys' Under-11 1,500m, the pace over the fairly flat course was bristling. The top Wexford performer both at county level and Leinster level was Myles Hewlitt from United Striders and he did not disappoint.
From his sixth place finish in Kennedy Park, Myles showed his skill on a hard course when he powered home to win an individual medal in eleventh position, and almost topped this with a gold medal as a scoring member of the Leinster team which won the provincial title.
His county team-mates were David Kirwan of S.B.R., Eoin Shannon, Cosmo Hewlitt and Finn Kelly, all of United Striders, St. Paul's duo Conn Mernagh and Rob Stirling, Seán Lennon and Caolan Costello of U.S., and Cormac Byrne of S.B.R. With 161 athletes finishing, the Wexford boys were tenth also.
At Under-13 level, the team was short one of its strongest, with the absence of S.B.R's Joe Byrne due to illness. A couple of falls in the muddy conditions at the start for United Striders' Aidan Shannon meant he had to put in a huge amount of work to make his way up through the field, however he led the Wexford team in, followed by clubmate Adam O'Connor, Adamstown's Robert Wall, Billy Trafford of Craanford Harriers, James Redmond-Boggan of Kilmore, and Owen Lennon and Darragh Flannelly, both of United Striders.
With the provincial team results tallied, Aidan Shannon's hard work and absolute persistence was rewarded with a bronze medal as the fifth scoring member of the six-strong Leinster team.
In the Novice ladies, Kilmore's Fiona Kehoe put in a bristling run to finish just one place off the medals in fourth on the fast, flat course of West Waterford A.C.
She led home the Wexford team which finished sixth, with Ciara Wilson of D.M.P. finishing in 18th followed by Slaney Olympic's Emily Waldron and Sharon Kehoe of Kilmore.
This is the highest-placed finish of any Wexford team during the national cross-country this season and leaves plenty to look forward to at the Mr Oil Wexford Senior cross-country championships this coming weekend.