Ellen Ryan (Thomastown) in action during the girls under-16 race
The national cross-country championships are, for many athletes, the light at the end of a long tunnel.
For the last number of months all eyes will have feasted upon this event, which followed along a path which started at county level before travelling on to the Leinsters. Considering the heavy rains of late it was no surprise to learn the course at the National Sports Campus was mucky in places, but it while challenging it was very fair.
The county’s girls’ under-12 athletes were first to line up. Led by Sara Kehoe in 12th place the county finished fourth overall, just outside the medals. At this age group lots of jostling occurs, with children eking out their own race, often getting carried away with the fast early pace.
There was better news for St Senan’s AC in the club section. They finished third overall with the four girls - Caoimhe Phelan, Eve Dunphy, Charlotte Carpendale and Molly Long - grouping together. They were supported by Aine O’Callaghan and Juliet Evans.
Next up were the boys’ under-12s. Kilkenny had no county team but St Senan’s had a club team that finished 15th overall.
What more praise can be bestowed upon Hannah Kehoe of Gowran? The girl just goes from strength to strength.
The early pace in the girls’ under-14 race was set by last year’s champion, Fiona Dillon of Thomastown, but by the 400m mark Hannah Kehoe had taken the lead.
Gliding over the muddy conditions, Kehoe extended her lead to about 10m. Sweeping down the hill with the last of the autumn leaves showering her she looked comfortable, relaxed and very strong.
As the athletes turned to face their second lap, Hannah looked like she had extended to her to perhaps 20m and the race could be hers. However somewhere along the back of the course, in the mire of mud, Sadhbh Mohan (Metro St Bridget’s) had surged to come upon her shoulder.
As they strode downhill the Dublin athlete went marginally ahead. Not one to be beaten easily, Hannah gave all she could and the two athletes ran shoulder to shoulder for the next 600m.
Running up the finishing straight Sadhbh surged again and made it to the finishing line a meagre two seconds ahead of Hannah. Nevertheless it was a fantastic race for this young and likeable Gowran athlete.
Eleanor Goddin (Kilkenny City Harriers - KCH) ran a stormer of a race to finish 11. Kilkenny finished fifth in the county section.
There was county success for the boys’ under-14 team as they finished third. The team was led by Tadgh Connolly, who powered through the field to take seventh place.
Tadgh, as many may know, is a champion shot-putter who has finished in the top three at the All-Ireland championships.
Using cross-country as part of his Winter strength and conditioning programme he has shown that throwers can run cross country and run it very well indeed!
Next home for the county was fellow St Senan’s clubmate David Williams, who finished in 29th place. David was followed by Tom Lodge (KCH) in 31st with Billy Coogan (Gowran) 33rd. St Senan’s had two more athletes in the remaining scorers - Naoise Gilmartin was 62nd while Ethan Butler finished in 82nd place. St Senan’s were third in the club section.
Hannah O’Keeffe (Thomastown AC) made people sit up and take notice when she finished in seventh place, ahead of the usual county stalwarts, in the girls’ under-16 race. In doing so she earned international selection for the Celtic cross-country championships in Antrim in January. On top of that Hannah was running a year out of age - she still has the under-15 race to come.
Aine Kirwan (Thomastown) ran a great race to finish in 20th place followed by Tara Ramsawmy (St Senan’s) in 22nd. With both Aine and Tara running having injury setbacks, this team who usually feature in the medals had to settle for fifth on this occasion.
There was a bonus when the Thomastown club team finished third. Led by Hannah and Aine, they were backed up by Ciara O’Keeffe, Orla O’Keeffe and Ellen Ryan.
The boys’ under-16 team, which appeared to be reasonably strong as they emerged from the Leinsters, failed to show a complete team. This was disappointing for the county.
The girls’ under-18 was run in conjunction with the junior race. Annie O’Connor (KCH) led the county brigade home in 33rd place , followed by club-mate Ella Richardson in 39th. It was nice to see a 140-strong field at this age group.
The boys’ under-18 saw Adam Fitzpatrick finish in 20th place and Shay McEvoy come home in 23rd.
The senior races were more to Kilkenny’s liking with the senior ladies finishing first in Division B. Not only is this a remarkable achievement, but as this is the first ladies team the county has fielded in many years highlights the emerging talent in the county.
The team was led by Lauren Dermody (Castlecomer) in 25th place. Lauren was followed by Adele Walsh (St Senan’s) in 32nd , Sile Carroll (now running for Liffey Valley) in 46th and Michelle McDonald (St Senan’s) in 59th place. Lauren finished second in the under-23 race, which was run in conjunction with this event.
If the girls did well, the boys were not to be outdone. Kilkenny not only won the C race but also finished second overall.
The team was led by Eoin Everard (KCH) in eighth place, closely followed by Tom O’Keeffe (KCH) in 12th, Brian Maher (KCH) in 14th, Thos Hayes (KCH) 35th, Niall Sheehan (Gowran) 40th and James Leddington (KCH) 59th.
KCH won the B club race and were also second overall. Tom O’Keeffe capped a memorable day when he won the under-23 race earning selection for the Irish European cross-country team who will compete in Slovakia.
Kilkenny results, Irish Life Health National Senior and Even Age Cross Country Championships (club code: CC = Castlecomer, G = Gowran, KCH = Kilkenny City Harriers, SJ = St Joseph’s, SS = St Senan’s, TT = Thomastown):
Girls’ Under-12: 12 Hannah Kehoe (G), 39 Orlaith Kirwan (TT), 43 Grace Glennon (SJ), 44 Caoimhe Phelan (SS), 52 Maeve Bookle (SJ), 53 Eve Dunphy (SS). Club: 3 St Senan’s. County: 4 Kilkenny.
Girls’ Under-14: 2 Hannah Kehoe (G), 11 Eleanor Goggin (KCH), 29 Fiona Dillon (TT), 61 Maria O’Keeffe (TT), 62 Danielle Griffin (SJ), 113 Saoirse Allen (SS). County: 5 Kilkenny.
Boys’ Under-14: 7 Tadgh Connolly (SS), 29 David Williams (SS), 31 Tom Lodge (KCH), 33 Billy Coogan (G), 63 Naoise Gilmartin (SS), 82 Ethan Butler (SS). Club: 3 St Senan’s. County: 3 Kilkenny.
Girls’ Under-16: 7 Hannah O’Keeffe (TT), 20 Aine Kirwan (TT), 22 Tara Ramsawmy (SS), 35 Ciara O’Keeffe (TT), 88 Orla O’Keeffe (TT), 92 Sophie Jackman (SS). Club: 3 Thomastown. County: 5 Kilkenny.
Women’s Under-23: 2 Lauren Dermody (CC).
Men’s Under-23: 1 Tom O’Keeffe (KCH).
Senior Women: 25 Lauren Dermody (CC), 32 Adele Walsh (SS), 35 Sile Carroll (Liffey Valley), 46 Michelle McDonald (SS). County B: 1 Kilkenny.
Senior Men: 8 Eoin Everard (KCH), 12 Tom O’Keeffe (KCH), 14 Brian Maher (KCH), 35 Thos Hayes (KCH), 40 Niall Sheehan (G), 59 James Leddington (KCH). Club: 2 KCH. County B: 1 KCH. County: 2 Kilkenny. County C: 1 Kilkenny.