Evan O’Toole (St Joseph’s) competing in the junior men’s triple jump during the Irish Life Health Junior Championships and under-23 Specific Events at Morton Stadium Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
It was another busy weekend in the world of track and field, with two more competitions grabbing the attention.
The national under-23 and junior championships were held in Morton Stadium, Santry, while the second round of the the county track and field championships got underway at Scanlon Park.
For the second weekend in a row, Santry was home to an exciting track and field fixture. With athletes across the country chasing European junior, under-23 and Olympic qualification standards, the competition in events was international class.
Over the two days there were some very mention worthy performances, nonemoreso than the men’s under-23 4x400m Irish relay team who achieved European under-23 qualification. The team of Eoin Kenny, Jack Rafferty, Jack Mitchell and David Ryan were one second inside the qualification standard.
Elsewhere, in the relays, Kilkenny had representation. In the junior men’s relay, Jordan Knight (St Joseph’s) was part of the junior men’s 4x400m while Kilkenny City Harriers (KCH) athlete Ciara Deely was part of the under-23 women’s team.
While neither team were successful on last weekend, both will be in action again next weekend, in what may be the last opportunity for both teams to gain qualification times.
Aoife Allen (St Senan’s) demonstrated a superb display of front running when she took home the gold in the women’s under-23 3,000m steeplechase with a 41 second personal best (PB) to boost.
It was an exciting race, with Allen marginally in front for the first few laps. Avoiding trouble at the water jump, she kept a steady even pace throughout.
At the halfway point the Aoife found herself pulling away from Clonliffe’s Sadhbh Byrne, clearly stamping her claim on the gold medal.
Long associated with cross-country running, Allen took up the steeplechase when she was under-17. She has the incredible accolade of accumulating five medals from five years.
The origin of the steeplechase, like many track and field events, can be traced back to the UK. Similar to horse racing, runners would often race from one town church’s steeple to the next – as the steeples are easy to see from a long distance away.
Between each steeple runners were required to jump over barriers. These included rivers, stone walls, fences and gates.
Today’s event has replaced the stone walls with steeplechase hurdles and the rivers with the water jump.
The modern steeplechase race, with barriers and a water pit, was first held in Oxford University in the mid 19th Century and was included in the English championships in 1879.
In the Olympics, men have raced the steeplechase since 1920. Women, incredibly, only first raced it at the Olympics in 2008 in Beijing.
Kilkenny’s other gold medal came from Patrick Darcy of the Brow Rangers club. Patrick threw 8m 15cm to take first place in the weight for distance event.
Darcy has been to the fore of throwing events since competing as a juvenile and he continues to bring home the medals each year in shot, discus, hammer and weight for distance.
History tells us that men have long had a passion for throwing objects, going as far back as Ireland’s ancient Tailteann Games.
Internationally, Ireland have had much success with the weight for distance.
Back in Olympic Games in 1920 it was a one-two for Irish men in the 56-pound weight for distance when Clare born Pat McDonald, competing for the USA, took gold with a throw of 11 metres. Pat Ryan, competing for Ireland, was second.
For much of the first half of the 20th Century Ireland’s dominance of this event continued. However, the event itself was then discontinued in international competition.
Despite this Ireland still prides itself on retaining this ancient event - as a county Kilkenny can be very proud of the athletes in the Brow Rangers club who continue to have unprecedented success with it.
Ciara Deely (KCH) may be best known for her former accolades over 4,00m flat and 400m hurdles.
The former Irish junior 400m champion has now moved up to the 800m, the event at which she competed in the national under-23s on Saturday.
From the gun she took the lead with a group of four girls making a break after 300m. Ciara led the ground until 250m to go she was passed by the eventual winner Sara Clarke (Na Fianna).
Although Deely made a slight gain on the home straight she had, in the end, to be content with a silver in 2.14.
Another young woman to bring the silver home was Emma Kelly. Not just one silver medal though - Emma took home silver from the weight for distance and women’s under-23 discus events.
Emma is another product of the Kelly school of throwing up in Coon. Competing for Brow Rangers Emma, like Patrick Darcy, has been used to gathering throwing medals from her juvenile days.
There was yet another silver medal coming back home to the county when the Thomastown junior girls finished second in the 4x400m relay. Starting for Thomastown was Fiona Dillon, who handed the baton to Hannah Kehoe.
From there Aine Kirwan took the baton and ran a fantastic third leg to put the girls into second position. This was maintained by Emma Manogue, who crossed the line to secure the Thomastown girls their silver medals.
There were four other athletes from the county competing, all at junior level. Peter McDonald (St Senan’s) throwing into a headwind was fourth in the javelin.
Still only under-18, Peter has two more years at this age group.
In the women’s 1,500m Sophie Jackman (St Senan’s), who is normally used to running over the shorter distance of 800m, opted for the 1,500m on this occasion.
Jackman ran a great race to finish fifth, crossing the line in a new PB. Keeping up with the leaders all the way, an unfortunate push with 150m to go surely cost her two or three seconds.
New to 1,500m running, Sophie has produced a new PB in every race she has ran in for the last four weeks. She will run the 800m at next weekend’s national seniors.
St Senan’s had two more athletes compete in the 1,500m, David Williams and Gearoid Long.
Both are under-17 and have three more years in this age group. Both athletes ran very well, gaining some valuable experience along the way.
Scanlon Park saw plenty of action with masters, seniors and juveniles taking to the city venue for the second day of the county championships.
Similar to the previous Sunday, Government regulations mandated strict crowd control, forcing the county board to reduce the number of events on offer and age groups taking part.
While some of the events saw less competitors than normal taking part, this did not take from the excitement that both adults and juveniles felt for being able to compete again.
Brow Rangers once again showed their strength in the throwing events with fine wins in the hammer for Caoimhe O’Brien, Dillon Walsh and Joe Kelly in the Masters.
St Senan’s had two wins from Rian McDonald (under-14) and Sallyann O’Brien (under-17) with two wins also from Gowran in the form of the Brennan sisters; Orla (under-14) and Anna (under-16). The Gowran masters made it a one-two-three, while Mary Breen of St Joseph’s won the Masters women’s title.
KCH had a clean sweep of the girls’ under-14 200m with Molly Daly once again showing how versatile she can be at any distance. The city club had another clean sweep of the under-15 medals with Pia Langton taking the gold. In fact, KCH were very prominent throughout in the 200m events, winning all the juvenile 200m races bar two. Their complete dominance was stopped by Daire Casey-Power (St Senan’s) in the under-14 boys’ race and Libby Murphy (St Senan’s) in the under-17 girls’ event.
In the senior 200m Gowran won both the women’s and men’s races, Catriona Corr and Tom Corrigan taking gold. The masters events saw Kate Millea (KCH) take the women’s title with John Leamy (Gowran) the men’s.
The turn-out in the high jump events was somewhat disappointing but expected, as athletes had no access to high jump equipment during the various lockdowns. In saying that some of the juveniles put in really good performances.
The St Senan’s duo of Rose Sheridan and Saoire Allen never disappoint, while clubmate Anil Ramsawmy continued his winning ways since getting a Leinster indoor high jump medal right before lockdown last year.
Caoimhe Barry (St Joseph’s) looked right at home when winning the girls’ under-15 high jump while young Evelyn McEvoy is bucking the trend of cross-country runners in the McEvoy family and is soaring heights of her own.
Rory MacGabhann took the senior title in a manner that only Rory can do. The tall KCH athlete looked very every bit the champion as he dazzled the juveniles with the heights he could leap.
The 5,000m senior men’s race saw KCH’s under-19 athlete Cathal O’Rielly take victory after the 12 and a half lap race, pipping fellow Castlecomer native James Kelly.
The St Kieran’s College Leaving Cert student has been running well for the past two years and was in flying form. Niall Sheehan (Gowran) took the bronze medal.
The women’s 5,000m race made its championship debut, with the inaugural winner being Claire Dermody (KCH).
Gowran AC look like they are in the lead, for the senior shield with KCH taking the helm for the juvenile shield. This weekend sees the culmination of the senior and masters competition while the juvenile track and field will play out over several more days.
There are more exciting times ahead for Kilkenny athletes of all ages!
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