There are times when victories seem so far away - when a club thinks they can reach so far with their athletes and no further - when that successful transition from juvenile to senior seems ever elusive.
Twenty-nine years ago St Senan’s AC claimed their last victory in the senior ladies county cross-country championships. The gap seems hard to credit, considering the club are held in high esteem nationally in the juvenile cross-country realm.
Back then the club boasted a team that had Perri Williams, Tina Moloney, Mary Farrell, Mary Kinsella (and latterly Olive Ruane, substituting for Tina Moloney). For five successive years they were an invincible cross-country team.
Then, from 1989 onwards, came the golden drought. There was the odd bronze, maybe even a silver, but never gold – until this year.
That famine was ended when the team of Adele Walsh, Michelle McDonald, Bronagh Kearns, Aine Kinsella and Rachael Butler won the gold convincingly. There were beams of satisfaction from the older St Senan’s members; sometimes these moments are worth waiting for. Kilkenny City Harriers (KCH) were second, with St Joseph’s AC third.
In a race that attracted a large field (the biggest since John Dunphy kept a donkey and two cows on a 65 acre field in Kilmacow back in the 1980s!) 35 athletes started the race, with team representatives from all over the county.
It was a thrilling race with Lauren Dermody of Castlecomer, just out of the junior ranks, leading Sally Forristal (St Joseph’s) for most of the race. Lauren started out hard but it was Sally who forged ahead with 1000m to go, all the time pulling away.
Up that final steep hill, Sally knew she had victory within her sights. She held her hands high in jubilation as she neared the finishing tunnel. Lauren faded somewhat in the last kilometre of the race, allowing Adele Walsh of St Senan’s to close the gap somewhat, but not surpass her.
Six In A Row
The local club may have been excited to see their girls do well, but the men’s race was heating up to be a cracking spectators event.
KCH have dominated this event for the last five years, claiming victory after victory to leave the rest of the county in their wake.
Amongst the team members are Brian Maher a former Irish World Cross Country participant. A tough and determined individual, who does not relinquish medal placings easily, Brian is famous for having ditched the modern technical approach to running and going back to basics – running around his farm in Conahy.
Then there was Thos Hayes to consider. Thos, who spent time in the earlier part of this year training at altitude in Kenya, has been running very well on the Irish circuit this year.
From the onset there was a bunch of 10 athletes in the top group, but the Kilmacow hills are famous for sorting out cross-country runners. By the second lap, there were four main contenders pushing the pace - Thos Hayes (KCH), Brian Maher (KCH), Niall Sheehan (Gowran) and Eoin Everard (KCH).
These four athletes drew away from the rest of the field and at any stage it could have been any of the four who could clinch victory.
With Thos Hayes as the pre-race favourite, he looked fresh all the way, leaving no-one in any doubt that he would make his move on the last lap. But what a thrilling finish the crowd was in for.
Brian Maher, who had slipped back to a tailing fourth place, used his experience and strength to power up the final hill.
Moving past Thos, he ran on to take victory once more. With Brian and Thos taking the first two spots, Niall Sheehan denied the Harriers a clean sweep of the individual medals when he held off Eoin Everard to finish third.
The Harriers were clear winners In the team event, with Gowran second and Thomastown third. The KCH quartet were Brian Maher, Thos Hayes, Eoin Everard and Mossie Roantree.
Results, senior cross-country championships
Ladies - 1 Sally Forristal (St Joseph’s), 2 Lauren Dermody (Castlecomer), 3 Adele Walsh (St Senan’s), 4 Michelle McDonald (St Senan’s), 5 Caoimhe Malone (KCH), 6 Donna Dowling (KCH), 7 Bronagh Kearns (St Senan’s), 8 Aine Kinsella (St Senan’s), 9 Imelda Kennedy (Castlecomer), 10 Claire O’Donovan (St Joseph’s), 11 Niamh Richardson (KCH), 12 Caoimhe Foley (KCH), 13 Ruth Kennedy (Gowran), 14 Teresa Mooney (Castlecomer), 15 Ann Watkins (St Joseph’s), 16 Elenore Kennedy (Gowran), 17 Kathryn Kennedy (Gowran), 18 Rachael Butler (St Senan’s), 19 Kathleen Nolan (Castlecomer), 20 Kathy Millet (KCH), 21 Mary Doolin (St Joseph’s), 22 Esther Kennedy (Castlecomer), 23 Michelle Ryan (Gowran), 24 Caroline Mullally (St Joseph’s), 25 Maggie Helen O’Connor (St Joseph’s), 26 Mary Ann Molloy (KCH), 27 Michelle Dermody (KCH), 28 Caoimhe Carroll (Gowran), 29 Ann Esther Joyce (Gowran), 30 Sinead Keating (Gowran), 31 Leona Connolly (Gowran).
Teams - 1 St Senan’s, 2 KCH, 3 St Joseph’s, 4 Castlecomer, 5 Gowran.
Men’s - 1 Brian Maher (KCH), 2 Thos Hayes (KCH), 3 Niall Sheehan (Gowran), 4 Eoin Everard (KCH), 5 Mossie Roantree (KCH), 6 James Kelly (Castlecomer), 7 Robbie Magee (Gowran), 8 Conor Bolger (KCH), 9 Paul Moran (KCH), 10 Danny Shandon (Thomastown), 11 Cormac Buggy (Castlecomer), 12 Denis O’Sullivan (Thomastown), 13 Marcus Fitzsimons (KCH B), 14 Tom Corrigan (Gowran), 15 Conor Rochford (St Senan’s), 16 Derek Kehoe (Gowran B), 17 Pat Bookle (St Joseph’s), 18 John Davis (Thomastown), 19 J.D. Flynn (KCH B), 20 John Maye (KCH B), 21 Lyndon Barcoe (Gowran B), 22 Robert Cunningham (KCH B), 23 Eoin Mullally (KCH B), 24 Marty Moseley (Gowran B), 25 Stephen O’Connor (St Joseph’s), 26 Oliver Mullally (St Senan’s), 27 Ger Walsh (Thomastown), 28 Bill Carroll (Thomastown), 29 David Hamilton (KCH B), 30 George Carpendale (St Senan’s), 31 Michael Power (St Joseph’s), 32 Joe Irish (St Senan’s), 33 Pat Lennon (Gowran B).
Teams - 1 KCH, 2 Gowran, 3 Thomastown, 4 St Senan’s.
Friday: Kilkenny County Board will host a county jumps coaching course at the Watershed this Friday from 7pm. All clubs are welcome to send both coaches and athletes (under-14 and upwards).
Sunday: County juvenile unevens cross-country at Castlecomer. The event starts at 11am with the boys and girls’ under-7 races.
It promises to be an exciting day’s competition with St Senan’s AC having just one point of a lead over Gowran AC.
The juvenile programme will be followed by the Masters over-45 race. All athletes eligible for this event are encouraged to participate.
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