Tadgh Connolly (St Senan's) and Tomas Mullally (St Joseph's) in action during the boys under-15 walk in Athlone
From the luxury and warmth of a beautiful indoor track to the knee-deep muck and bitter cold of a cross-country course, Kilkenny athletes were subjected to a weekend of extreme conditions.
The weekend got off to a great start as locals were among the winners at the opening day of the Leinster Juvenile Indoor Championships. Held in Athlone, a total of 29 medals were won by Kilkenny athletes, seven of them gold.
Five clubs shared the medal haul, with many exciting races and competitions to boost.
It was a very long day for most of the parents and athletes, with the southern clubs of St Joseph’s and St Senan’s having the longest journey, leaving their homes at 6am and not reaching them again until 8.30pm that night.
For most this is the routine at this time of year - the support of parents on the day is an extremely important aspect of a young athlete’s development.
The walking races saw a return to form for the county. Kilkenny has traditionally produced excellent race walkers, but the past year or two the steady stream had slowed down considerably.
With eight athletes now through to the Nationals in March, the county is on the way up once more. Nicky Connolly (Castlecomer) has long established himself as a race-walker of note and took an easy victory in the boys’ under-18 race.
Perhaps one of the most exciting races of the day was the boys’ under-15 event, where Tadgh Connolly (St Senan’s) and Tomas Mullally (St Joseph’s) battled it out from start to finish. Tadgh took an early lead with Tomas hot on his heels all the way.
With 300m to go Tomas made a surge and edged ahead. The versatile St Senan’s athlete, better known for his shot-put and cross-country exploits, figured if he was going to do race-walking he was going to make it gold! With 150m to go Tadgh took the lead once more and kept it right to the end.
Sophie Monahan (St Senan’s) took her first ever Leinster medal in the girls’ under-14 event, with Robyn Denieffe (Gowran AC) receiving a similar distinction in the girls’ under-16.
It was a good day also for David Williams (St Senan’s) who walked the perfect race to take silver in the boys’ under-14 event. David Holland (Gowran) secured another bronze medal in the boys’ under-17. St Joseph’s bagged four medals in the masters race-walking events, which were also held on the same day, with John Joe Lawlor an impressive winner in a quality men’s field.
The boys’ under-12 high jump produced a revelation for two Kilkenny athletes in Louis Raggett of Kilkenny City Harriers (KCH) and Isaac Carew of St Senan’s. Both are new to the high jump and both produced massive personal bests on the day. Louis won with 1.35 while Isaac was second with a leap of 1.32.
David Murphy (Gowran) won the boys’ under-19 60m, creating space between himself and the second-placed athlete in an impressive win. David, who recently won the National Juniors, has been having a great season thus far.
With lots of Kilkenny athletes making it to the semi-final and final stages of the 60m and 400m races, the county brought home five medals. It was good to see Danny Glennon (St Joseph’s) bring home his first 60m medal when scoring bronze in the boys’ under-15 race.
Gowran seem to be the emerging club for shot-put and cemented this idea by bringing home four medals in total. The girls’ under-12 event produced two medals for Kilkenny with Rachel Gardiner (Gowran) finishing second and Cara Duggan (KCH) earning bronze. With Brow Rangers athletes out over the next two dates, Kilkenny could prove to be extremely strong in this event overall.
Martyna Balcer (KCH) had a great victory in the girls’ under-19 long jump. Evan O’Toole (St Joseph’s) secured yet another medal in his event.
One aspect of the day that was particularly noteworthy was the camaraderie between athletes from the various clubs. It was a lovely aspect of athletics to see - something to develop and harness as clubs endeavour to retain their older athletes.
If the Indoor arena in Athlone was warm and cosy, with athletes in their shorts and tops all day, then Galway provided a polar opposite!
In what could be described as sheer carnage - conditions were so bad that athletes chose to warm up on the road rather than on the course itself - athletes did battle with the elements at Irish Life Health intermediate, masters, juvenile B and juvenile relay cross-country championships.
The course was a continuous path of thick slimy mulch, so deep at times that ankles disappeared and spikes got sucked into the gloom, leaving Kilkenny’s young juveniles facing conditions they had never imagined existed.
The county had limited athletes in the juveniles due to their success in the All-Irelands before Christmas. Isaac Carew (St Senan’s) was seventh in the boys’ under-11 race. He ran an incredible race, with another medal to add to his high jump silver he won the previous day. Joss O’Connor (St Joseph’s) finished 21st with Gowran finishing seventh in the team category. Gowran also had an girls’ under-11 team, who finished 11th.
Well done to all the athletes for completing the course - and for holding on to their spikes in the process!
There were very big fields in the intermediate and masters races which, given the conditions, was a very good omen for cross-country running in Ireland.
The intermediate race was always going to be a race where Kilkenny expected to get a medal, with the colour open to consideration. Lauren Dermody, who has had a fantastic first year in the senior ranks, was second all the way up to the last 300m, when she was passed by Ashley Ryan.
Lauren worked hard through the cauldron of mud to keep Ashley in her sight but Nikita Burke of Sportsworld had now joined the bunch. With long-time leader Mary Mulhair of Portlaoise (remember Ireland’s Fittest Family?) well ahead and always extending her lead the real battle was for second and third places.
Lauren worked so hard for the last 200m, but had to settle for fourth place. She was extremely happy with her excellent race and strong work ethic. Sally Forristal (St Joseph’s) had a great race and came home in sixth place with Bronagh Kearns (St Senan’s) producing a great result when finishing 11th.
Strong runs from the top trio ensured Kilkenny were second in the county section, with St Senan’s Aine Kinsella (20th place) making up the silver medal winning quartet. St Senan’s grouped well as a team with Bronagh and Aine joined by Michelle McDonald in 21st place and Rachel Butler in 25th making up their scoring four. They finished fourth in the club section, a mere six points off third spot.
James Kelly (Castlecomer) produced another great race when he finished in ninth place. As Kilkenny’s sole competitor it was somewhat disappointing that a county team could not be fielded, especially considering the depth of talent in this category at present. The race rounded off a great season for Kelly, who can now look forward to a Summer on the roads and track.
Having just three masters athletes in action was disappointing, but there was quality in the trio’s performances. Sean Caulfield (St Senan’s) did not care if it was mud or carpet he was running on - the results would be the same.
Ploughing through the field, passing out long-time rivals he pulled out all odds to finish in fifth place in the over-50s category. Adele Walsh (St Senan’s) and Michelle Ryan (Gowran) competed in the Ladies over-40 race with Adele taking 19th place overall and fifth place in the over-40s, similar to the place she obtained last year. Michelle finished 32nd over-40.
With the cross-country season just about over attention will now turn to the more gentler surroundings of the indoor arenas. The national senior indoors will be held in Abbotstown next weekend, where many Kilkenny athletes will be in action.
The County Kilkenny Athletics Sports Star awards will be held in Gowran Park on Friday, February 23. Athletics followers are asked to support this event, where all local athletes will be honoured for their athletic endeavours.
Kilkenny results, Leinster Indoors (club code: CC = Castlecomer, G = Gowran, KCH = Kilkenny City Harriers, SJ = St Joseph’s, SS = St Senan’s):
Walks: Girls’ Under-14 Walk: 3 Sophie Monahan (SS).
Boys’ Under-14 Walk: 2 David Williams (SS).
Girls’ U-15 Walk: 4 Anna Donnelly (G).
Boys’ Under-15 Walk: 1 Tadgh Connolly (SS), 2 Tomas Mullally (SJ).
Girls’ Under-16 Walk: 2 Robyn Denieffe (G).
Boys’ Under-17 Walk: 3 David Holland (G).
Boys’ Under-18 Walk: 1 Nicky Connolly (CC).
Masters Over-45 Walk: 1 Maggie Helen O’Connor (SJ), 2 Tracey Malone (SJ).
Masters Over-55 Walk: 1 Brid Lawlor (SJ).
Master Men’s Over-50 Walk: 1 John Joe Lawlor (SJ).
Girls’ Under-17 400m: 3 Sophie Jackman (SS).
Girls’ Under-14 60m: 3 Amelia Foley (KCH).
Boys’ Under-14 60m: 4 Brian Moore (KCH).
Girls’ Under-15 60m: 4 Katie Taylor (SJ).
Boys’ Under-15 60m: 3 Danny Glennon (SJ).
Girls’ Under-19 60m: 2 Leah Raggett (KCH).
Boys’ Under-19 60m: 1 David Murphy (G).
Boys’ Under-12 High Jump: 1 Louis Raggett (KCH), 2 Isaac Carew (SS).
Boys’ Under-14 High Jump: 3 Darragh Nolan (G).
Boys’ Under-13 Long Jump: 3 Alex Cullen (KCH).
Girls’ Under-15 Long Jump: 2 Katie Taylor (SJ).
Boys’ Under-15 Long Jump: 2 Evan O’Toole (SJ).
Girls’ Under-19 Long Jump: 1 Martyna Balcer (KCH).
Girls’ Under-12 Shot-put: 2 Rachel Gardiner (G), 3 Cara Duggan (KCH).
Girls’ Under-16 Shot-put: 3 Eve O’Dwyer (G).
Boys’ Under-16 Shot-put: 2 Eoin Murphy (G), 3 David Byrne (G).
Kilkenny results, intermediate, masters, juvenile B and juvenile relay cross-country championships (club code: CC = Castlecomer, G = Gowran, SJ = St Joseph’s, SS = St Senan’s):
Boys’ Under-11: 7 Isaac Carew (SS).
Intermediate Ladies: County - 2 Kilkenny Lauren Dermody (CC), Sally Forristal (SJ), Bronagh Kearns (SS), Aine Kinsella (SS), Michelle McDonald (SS), Rachel Butler (SS).
Intermediate Men: 9 James Kelly (CC).
Masters Ladies Over-40: 5 Adele Walsh (SS), 32 Michelle Ryan (G).
Masters Men’s Over-50s: 5 Sean Caulfield (SS).