Gowran AC runner Billy Coogan delivered a superb performance when representing Kilkenny CBS at the All-Ireland Schools cross-country championships in Santry
Four championship events were held last weekend, each engaging a different audience of our burgeoning athletic talents in the county.
Saturday marked the culmination of the cross country season for most of our secondary school athletes, when they competed in the All-Ireland Schools cross-country championships in Santry.
Meanwhile in Cork, the Irish University Championships saw third level students compete in their cross-country championships.
Yet another National Championships was held on Saturday, the National Road Walks Championships in Raheny, where Irish and International athletes competed to earn Olympic qualification times. Finally on Sunday the All-Ireland Masters Indoors was held in Athlone.
Schools Cross Country
In a week with lots of athletic action, Kilkenny juveniles were focused on the last cross country event on Irish soil for the season – the All-Ireland schools cross-country championships.
Athletes cast aside their club singlets and joined forces with runners from different clubs to compete as one under the school banner. The Kilkenny focus saw locals battle for honours with St Kieran’s, the CBS and Loreto, as well as the Abbey CC in Ferrybank and Ursuline Waterford.
Aside from the usual school titles up for grabs, there was also places on the Irish team for the schools international. The event, which this year will be held in Falkirk, Scotland, will feature two Kilkenny runners - Caoimhe Phelan (St Senan’s) who ran for the Abbey CC and Billy Coogan (Gowran) running for the CBS, Kilkenny. Both qualified from the junior races.
The minor girls kick started the day with four Kilkenny athletes in action. This was a very exciting race up front with three girls virtually inseparable right to the line. A final sprint saw Saoirse Fitzgerald of Lucan Community School secure the gold from Ferne Duffy (Ballybay CC) and Grace Byrne (Loreto Mullingar).
Back in 14th place Sara Kehoe (Loreto) was the first Kilkenny athlete to cross. The very young Abbey trio of Eve Dunphy (24), Niamh Cleary (56) and Keelin Duggan (64) helped their school finish eighth.
In the minor boys competition St Kieran’s College were very unlucky to miss out on bronze medals in this race, finishing just three points shy of third-placed Midleton CBS.
The team was led home by Ruairi McEvoy in 14th place. This was a very good run from McEvoy, who competed in a field of 109 athletes.
The junior girls race saw five athletes from Kilkenny competing - a team from the Loreto and two individuals from the Abbey CC. With 10 places up for grabs on the Irish team, it was always going to be a fiercely contested race, with many girls aiming to win their first Irish vest.
Caoimhe Phelan (Abbey CC) had her sights set on a place on the Irish team. Having finished 16th in the Stirling run, a practice event held in Scotland in January, she knew she was in tip-top shape.
Keeping well up to the leading girls, Phelan found herself in 15th position midway through this 2,500m race. With 1,000m to go she moved into 13th place, gaining on the two athletes ahead of her, Ciara Crowley of Kinsale and Ciara Nugent of Armagh. Both had beaten Phelan in the national cross-country in Dunboyne and were a year older.
With 400m to go, they were within Phelan’s reach. A roar from her club supporters spurred her on and she managed to pass her rivals, sprinting for her life as she ran the final 100m that led to the finish and a place on the Irish team for the schools international.
Behind her the Loreto girls bunched well with Orla Kirwan 49th, Rachel O’Neill 50th, Ruth Fogarty 55th with their team finishing eighth. Molly Long (Abbey) was 64th.
Similar to Phelan in the junior girls competition, Billy Coogan (Kilkenny CBS) had his sights set on being part of the Irish team. After a slip in last year’s minor race left him disappointed with his result, this time around he approached his race differently.
Older and wiser, he approached this race differently. With 3,500m to cover the two short laps and one longer one, he had plenty of time to work through his plan. A group of 15 athletes, including Coogan, formed a tight group for the first 1,000m.
By 2,000m things had started to change, some felt the pace had dropped back, leaving 10 athletes locked together. With 1,200m to go Dubliner Oliver Hopkins (St Declan’s CBS) made a move. The rest of the group chased, dropping more athletes and leaving Coogan locked in battle with last year’s winner Luighaidh Mallon of Rathmore Grammar School.
The two athletes were now clear of Gerard Dunne of Kilrush. A race to the line saw both athletes record the same time, with Billy finishing third. He was on the Irish team - Scotland was beckoning.
The intermediate girls’ race featured a special Kilkenny team competing. As juniors, two years ago, the team won the Schools All-Ireland in spectacular fashion. The team had one of the lowest scores ever recorded while Hannah Kehoe and Eleanor Godden made the Irish team for the International in Manchester - Fiona Dillon was one place outside of qualification.
Despite the enthusiastic words of the MC at the start of the race, the girls knew that it was just great to be in the race this year. All three had struggled through injuries, one undergoing surgery, in the last year. There would be no medals for Loreto this year, but for these three girls and their team-mates, there was joy that they were running and back on their athletic journey once more.
It was a different story in the intermediate boys’ race, where St Senan’s clubmates David Williams and Tadgh Connolly found themselves on opposing school teams - Williams in the black and white of St Kieran’s and Connolly in the navy of the Abbey. Williams ran the race of his life to finish just two places off qualifying for the Irish team and led his St Kieran’s team home to bronze medal positions.
A winter chill had set in by the time the senior girls lined up, with the threat of rain looming overhead. There was local interest in this race as the Ursuline, last year’s senior champions, stood beside last year’s intermediate winners the Loreto. Tara Ramasawmy (Ursuline) was pitted against the Thomastown and Kilkenny City Harriers (KCH) contingent of Hannah O’Keeffe, Aine Kirwan, Annie McEvoy, Lucy Cody, Abby Gilsenan and Sinead O’Keeffe.
The senior girls’ race produced the most tactical winner of the day. Lucy Holmes of Dungarvan sat behind the leaders the entire way and in the last 200m produced a massive sprint to surprise Holly Brennan of Drogheda and pre-race favourite Celine Gavin of Dublin to take the gold.
The Loreto girls celebrated a gold of their own when Hannah O’Keeffe finished in 17th place, leading her side to team victory. Right behind her, in 18th place, Ramasawmy led the Ursuline girls to the silver medal position.
In his final year of secondary school Shay McEvoy had a dream to chase – a podium finish. The KCH and St Kieran’s athlete, a European Junior 3,000m track finalist who raced in the European Junior cross-country championships a few months ago, ran with ease in the main group.
With 6,000m to cover, no-one would be in a hurry to take things out. For the first 3,000m the group were still together, but changes were starting to occur. Some of the top boys knew they had to up the pace and start shaking each other off. Too slow a pace and the middle distance athletes could stake a claim.
McEvoy was among the small group of four that made a move. Conall McClean of Belfast took up the pace, followed by Michael Morgan of Sligo, McEvoy and Daniel Stone of Belvedere. On the last lap McEvoy had moved clear of Stone and was within reach of the top two. He passed them with 1,400m to go and with 400m to go he was 20m clear, leading the race and striking for home.
With 200m to go things started to go wrong for McEvoy. Morgan passed him, sprinting hard. The Kilkennyman became disoriented, McClearn passing him with 10m to go. Left in a heap, the prospect of a podium finish seemed to be fading from view, especially Stone was gaining ground. Somehow, McEvoy found a reserve of energy to get up and will himself to the finish.
McEvoy’s efforts had paid off. He had his medal. There was further joy for St Kieran’s as the team also finished third.
The national 20km race walking championships took on Olympic importance in Raheny. With the qualification system now changed, athletes gain points from several key races that will determine their Olympic participation.
For the race-walking event at Tokyo there are 60 places available worldwide. The Irish championships were part of a series of races where Olympic points were available. Athletes from South Africa, Great Britain, Guatemala and other countries flocked to Irish shores in search of these points.
Kate Veale of West Waterford was the pre-race favourite and true to form she won the race. In 2nd place was St Joseph’s Maggie O’Connor. This was her first ever national senior medal and her first 20km event in a few years. While Maggie has not set her sights on Tokyo, she has hopes of competing once again in a European Masters event.
Three Kilkenny athletes competed in the Irish Universities cross-country championships at the weekend. Lauren Dermody (Castlecomer) was 11th when racing for UL while Grace Richardson (KCH) was 22nd in the colours of UCC. Meave O’Connor (Thomastown) was on the UCD team that was third.
Meanwhile in the USA Aoibhe Richardson has qualified for the NCAA Indoor Nationals in the 5,000m. In the USA University system athletes with the top 16 fastest times from the conference races gain qualification. Having raced the 5,000m conference race almost two weeks ago Aoibhe had to wait until last Friday to learn her fate. The nationals are next weekend.
Athletes from Brow Rangers, Gowran, Kings River and St Joseph’s competed in the Masters Indoor All-Irelands in Athlone last weekend. In total the county took home 18 individual medals and one set of relay team medals. Personal bests and championship bests were set by these athletes.
Brid Lawlor of St Joseph’s set a new championship best performance record in the over 60 walk with a time of 19.59. St Joseph’s AC made a clean sweep of the walking events, winning the ladies over-40, 45 and over-60 women’s and over-50 men with wins from Tracey Malone, Maggie O’Connor, Brid Lawlor and JohnJoe Lawlor.
There was another record set in the walks when 86-year-old Con Harty, competing for Civil Service AC, won the over-85 men’s walk. Con was an all too familiar figure in Kilkenny back in the 1960s and 1970s when he raced greats like John Mackey of St Joseph’s AC who accompanied him on many international races.
Catriona Corr of Gowran took home a set of medals when she won gold, silver and bronze in the 400m, 200m and 65m respectively in the over-40 category. Her 63 second 400m was very impressive indeed.
There were further gold medals from the St Joseph’s throwers when Verena Fenlon won the over-45 weight for distance to add to her silver shot-put medal. Mary Breen won the over-55 weight for distance to add to her bronze shot-put medal.
Gowran won silver in the over-35 relay with contributions from individual long and high jump medallists Padraig Crawford, Tom Corrigan, John Leamy and Simon O’Dwyer.
Brow Rangers were represented by coach and serial medallist Murty Kelly. Murty was third in the over-70 shot putt. He has been medalling at Masters events for the last 30 years.
Finally, 66-year-old Joe Gough of West Waterford set a new world record of 60 seconds in the Masters over-65 400m. Joe was named the World Masters Athlete of the Year last October at the IAAF awards in Monaco after setting two world records in the 800m.
Kilkenny results, All-Ireland schools cross-country
Minor Girls: 14 Sara Kehoe (Loreto), 24 Eve Dunphy (Abbey CC), 54 Niamh Cleary (Abbey CC), 64 Keelin Duggan (Abbey CC). Team: 8 Abbey CC.
Minor Boys: 14 Ruairi McEvoy, 35 Oisin Marry, 74 Darragh Covendale, 78 Thomas Langton, 84 Louis Fitzgerald, 92 Bill Hayes, 107 Matthew McAvinney, 109 Ruairi Sweeney (All St Kieran’s) Team: 4 St Kieran’s.
Junior Girls: 10 Caoimhe Phelan (Abbey CC), 49 Orla Kirwan (Loreto), 50 Rachel O’Neill (Loreto), 55 Ruth Fogarty (Loreto), 64 Molly Long (Abbey CC). Team: 8 Loreto.
Junior Boys: 2 Billy Coogan (CBS).
Inter Girls: 38 Eleanor Goddin (Loreto), 45 Hannah Kehoe (Loreto), 50 Fiona Dillon (Loreto), 80 Alexia Albertin Molinerria (Loreto), 81 Teddy Cousins (Loreto), 82 Pia O’Grady (Loreto). Team: 7 Loreto.
Inter Boys: 17 David Williams (St Kieran’s), 31 Tadgh Connolly (Abbey CC), 33 Tom Lodge (St Kieran’s), 56 Brogan McAvinney (St Kieran’s), 64 Eoin Dealy (St Kieran’s), 70 Conor Brett (St Kieran’s), 74 Eoghan Whelan (St Kieran’s), 85 Jack Archibald (St Kieran’s), 88 Paul Mahon (St Kieran’s). Teams: 3 St Kieran’s.
Senior Girls: 17 Hannah O’Keeffe (Loreto), 18 Tara Ramasawmy (Ursuline), 22 Aine Kirwan (Loreto), 26 Annie McEvoy (Loreto), 42 Lucy Cody (Loreto), 58 Abby Gilsenan (Loreto), 62 Sinead O’Keeffe (Loreto). Team: 1 Loreto, 2 Ursuline.
Senior Boys: 3 Shay McEvoy (St Kieran’s), 29 Kevin Burns (St Kieran’s), 33 Cathal O’Reilly (St Kieran’s), 37 John Muldowney (St Kieran’s), 58 Senan Forristal (St Kieran’s), 62 Eoin Morgan (St Kieran’s), 67 Cathal Kearney (St Kieran’s). Team: 3 St Kieran’s.
Irish University cross-country
Women: 11 Lauren Dermody (UL), 22 Grace Richardson (UCC), 39 Meave O’Connor (UCD).
All-Ireland Road Walks Championships
Ladies 20km: 2 Maggie O’Connor (SJ).
Men Over-35: Hurdles: 2 Padraig Crawford (G). Long Jump: 3 Tom Corrigan (G). High Jump: 3 Padraig Crawford (G). Relay: 2 Gowran.
Over-45 Hurdles: 2 John Leamy (G). Long Jump: 2 John Barron (KR).
Over-50 Walk: 1 John Joe Lawlor (SJ).
Over-70 Shot: 3 Murty Kelly (BR).
Women’s Over-40: Walk: 1 Tracey Malone (SJ). 60m: 3 Catriona Corr (G). 200m: 2 Catriona Corr (G). 400m: 1 Catriona Corr (G).
Over-45 WFD: 1 Verena Fenlon (SJ). Shot 2 Verena Fenlon (SJ). Walk: 1 Maggie O’Connor (SJ).
Over-55 WFD: 1 Mary Breen (SJ). Shot: 3 Mary Breen (SJ).
Over-60 Walk: 1 Brid Lawlor (SJ) CBP.