Leinster cross-country continues in Ferbane
U15 boys capture Gold
Day three of the Leinster cross-country championships took place in Ferbane, Co. Offaly, recently.
Around 1,500 athletes made the journey, all looking forward to a great day of cross-country that would hopefully match the excitement of Gowran, held a fortnight before.
Several Wexford athletes made the long trip up with high hopes of qualifying for the national championships that will take place in Dunboyne in mid-December.
There were fears beforehand that conditions would be dreadful, following yet another two weeks of persistent rain, however, underfoot it was surprisingly good, which made for fast running.
The course itself was very fair, with 1,000m, 1,500m and 2,500m loops. The 2,500m loops provided the toughest challenge, with one very testing uphill climb.
Athletes even had to contend with running through a farmyard, something we wouldn't exactly have been used to doing on home soil.
There was an Under-9 girls' and boys' race to kick off the action, with the championship races getting under way just after 12 noon.
There was a big field of 148 in the girls' Under-11 1,500m. The stand-out performance from a Wexford perspective was unquestionably that of Ruby Gallagher-O'Reilly of Croghan who ran a fantastic race from gun to tape, making light work of the course and crossing the line in fourth place.
This bodes very well for Ruby at the national championships in December. The Wexford county team finished a respectable seventh, with Ruby joined by Kayleigh Butler (Taghmon, 31st), Saoirse Flanagan (D.M.P., 41st), Izzy Aspel (Taghmon, 50th), Lea Bolger (Bree, 64th), and Siún Byrne (Croghan, 65th).
In the boys' Under-11 1,500m, Jayden Kenny of Bree continued his run of excellent form in finishing sixth overall and first Wexford athlete of the 134 who completed the race.
Jayden may have a reputation as a sprinter, but he clearly has plenty of talent over the longer distances also.
The Wexford team placed fifth, with Jayden joined by Enda Byrne (S.B.R., 29th), Aidan Bowe (S.B.R., 32nd), Paddy O'Neill (S.B.R., 35th), P.J. Breen (Bree,44th), and Oisín Ennis (D.M.P., 50th).
Next on the programme was the girls' Under-13 2,500m. Aoife Walsh of D.M.P. has had somewhat of a breakthrough season, with a classy run at the recent even-age championships in Gowran.
It was clear from the gun that she is in good shape as she was never very far from the front, looking relaxed. She upped the tempo in the latter stages and crossed the line in an excellent seventh place, securing a spot at the nationals in the process.
The Wexford team finished eighth, with Sarah Phylan of Enniscorthy 34th, closely followed by Rayna Thompson of Kilmore in 35th.
Eabha Keane of D.M.P. ran a strong race to finish 41st, followed by Heather Costello of United Striders in 60th, and Katie Foley of Kilmore (74th).
Ronan Shannon of United Striders in 22nd place was first Wexford athlete home in a tough boys' Under-13 race.
The Wexford county team finished eighth, with Joseph O'Flaherty, another one of the emerging talents from Croghan, in 41st, Olan Delaney of United Striders 70th, Jarlath Kelly of Bree 74th, Eoin Hannon of United Striders 77th, and Matthew Carroll of S.B.R. 78th. The Wexford athletes packed very well in this race.
The girls' Under-15 3,500m started with the smaller 1,000m lap before moving out on to a larger 2,500m circuit. This was a very fast race from the start, and Wexford champion Sofia Tkacheva of Croghan did well to stay on for 29th.
The team finished ninth overall. Freya Thompson of Kilmore was 48th, Cara Kelly of D.M.P. was 64th, Arwyn Thompson of Kilmore finished 68th, clubmate Kate O'Flaherty was 85th, and Ella Darcy of Croghan was 90th.
The Wexford boys' Under-15 team have been a force to be reckoned with for the last few years, dominating at Leinster and national levels. Spearheaded by a strong United Striders contingent, they are always hard to beat.
The club's Myles Hewlett was up with the action from the start which, like the girls' race, was 3,500m in length. He had an epic battle throughout with Diarmuid Fagan of Mullingar Harriers, each trying to wear the other down.
As in the Leinster Under-16 race a couple of weeks previously, the Mullingar boy just managed to keep his nose in front and take the win, with Myles a close second. The pair will lock horns again this weekend at the All-Irelands in Abbotstown, and again in Dunboyne in December.
Striders' strength in depth was amply illustrated by the fact that Eoin Shannon got up for an impressive sixth place finish. Like Myles, he will no doubt be looking forward to making an impact in Abbotstown and Dunboyne.
No one was surprised to see the Wexford team taking the Leinster title. Myles and Eoin were joined by clubmate Will Park in 13th, Alex Lafferty of D.M.P. (21st), and the Striders duo of Finbarr Kelly (22nd) and Seán Lennon (26th). United Striders also won the club team title.
The girls' Under-17 4,000m race featured one of the stars of Wexford Juvenile athletics in D.M.P's Claragh Keane. Claragh, runner-up in the Under-16 race in Gowran, and Neasa Reilly of Dunleer were, from the start, the dominant duo, with the pair wasting little time in opening up a gap on the field.
While Neasa moved ahead of Claragh on the second lap, the Wexford girl maintained a solid tempo throughout and kept in touch, with the rest of the field running their own race.
In the run for home, Claragh started to eat into Neasa's lead but just ran out of track, ending with nother silver. Both athletes are in great shape as they look forward to the first of the national championships this weekend.
Erin Shannon of United Striders finished 21st, and Ciara Dolan of Menapians was 26th.
The Wexford Under-17 boys' team had a superb performance. Like the Under-15 boys' team, this crop of Juvenile athletes have also had remarkable success in recent times, winning club team and county team titles at Leinster level.
They have such strength in depth, that they are extraordinarily tough to beat on any day. Joe Byrne of S.B.R. has had something of a renaissance this season. The Ferns lad had an unbelievable race in Ferbane.
While he was always in the mix, it looked like Tadgh Connolly of St. Senan's was going to claim another Leinster victory. However, Joe had other ideas.
Up the last hill, he began to pull away with ease and at the end he had an eleven-second lead over Tadgh, covering the 5k course in 16.53 minutes.
Aidan Shannon of United Striders ran an intelligent and well-paced race to finish in tenth place.
The county team cruised to victory. Joining Joe and Aidan were Ben Wall (U.S., 14th), Darragh Flannelly (U.S., 16th), Robert Wall (U.S., 17th), and Ronan Griffin of D.M.P. (30th). Striders won silver club team medals.
The girls' Under-19 4,000m started just as the weather turned and the rain came bucketing down. Róisín O'Reilly of Menapians lined out for just her second race of the season following her second place finish Under-18 (third Junior) in Gowran a couple of weeks previously.
Her decision last summer to take an extended end-of-season break has not held her back as she showed again in Ferbane. Róisín was part of a small breakaway group which, ultimately, was whittled down to three on the final lap.
Aoife O Cuill was first to throw down the gauntlet as she pulled ahead on a slight downhill section. Holly Brennan then moved ahead of Róisín to give chase.
They stayed like that all the way to the finish. Expect to see the trio doing battle again next weekend in Abbotstown. Rebecca Bawden of United Striders finished 25th.
Rory Cassidy of Kilmore was the sole Wexford athlete in the Under-19 boys' 6,000m. He finished in 32nd place.
Ciara Wilson of D.M.P. shouldered the Wexford hopes going into the Senior women's 5,000m race. The international duathlete did not disappoint.
Having run poorly at the autumn open international earlier in the season, describing it herself as her worst race ever, Ciara was determined to right the wrongs. She was in a prominent position from the beginning of the race, running in a group with Claire Fagan of Mullingar Harriers AC, who ran in the European Under-23 championships in the 10,000m during the summer, and Lauren Dermody of Castlecomer.
On the second of the 2,500m laps, Wilson started to make headway. As they entered the second field and headed into the last 1k, Wilson made her break.
From there she was never going to be caught. She swept the field away with her decisive kick, leaving Fagan adrift by a margin of 15 seconds.
It will certainly be interesting to see how Ciara gets on at the national championships in Abbotstown at the weekend.
Ger Forde of Slaney Olympic and George Delaney of United Striders both contested the Senior men's 10,000m race, which concluded the day's action.
While Liam Brady of Tullamore Harriers was the runaway winner, Ger battled well and was in the chasing pack throughout. With the light fading, he dug deep to stay with the pace and hold on for a good sixth place finish. George Delaney finished in 41st.
Attention now turns to the national cross-country course in Abbotstown where the national Juvenile even ages, Junior, Under-23 and Senior championships take place this Sunday.
In the Juvenile races, several Wexford athletes are expected to be in contention.
Places on the Irish team for the European Junior, Under-23 and Senior cross-country championships in Lisbon will be on the line also, meaning it will be a fascinating day's racing on the course that will host the European championships next year.
The national Novice and Juvenile even ages cross-country will take place on Sunday, December 15, at Cow Park, Dunboyne.
Kilmore A.C. will host the Mr Oil Intermediate cross-country championships on December 8, with the venue to be confirmed. Women will be running 4,000m, while the men's race is 8.000m.