With the athletics season reaching its full height, the national championships has now started in earnest.
Saturday saw the national under-23 and junior competitions held, with Sunday delivering the national pairs and under-12 and 13 field events.
On Sunday the selections for the World Juniors in Finland were also confirmed, with Kilkenny’s Ciara Deely (Kilkenny City Harriers - KCH) making the squad for the 400m.
Ciara is coached by Nichola Barron of KCH, who has coached many great KCH 400m runners.
Also included in the squad is another athlete with Kilkenny connections - Orla O’Connor of Waterford AC (10km walk) who is coached by St Senan’s Perri Williams and former St Senan’s juvenile athlete Cait Caulfield (Quinlan) now with Waterford AC.
KCH and Gowran were the only clubs represented in the pairs, but there was a promising start to the day when the Gowran duo of Niamh Brennan and Anna Kelsey won gold in the javelin.
This was followed closely by a fantastic performance by the young KCH boys’ under-10 gang. The relay team of Paul Millea, Matais Quaglia, Tiernan O’Brien, Robert Lacey and Charlie Lyons were second. Matias and Robert also won silver in the 500m, while Paul and Robert teamed up to take silver in the long jump. KCH had a few more fourth places, with plenty showing early promise.
Kilkenny results, national pairs competitions
Girls’ under-9 turbo javelin: 1 Gowran (Niamh Brennan, Anna Kelsey).
Boys’ under-10 long jump: 2 KCH (Matais Quaglia, Robert Lacey).
Boys’ under-10 500m: 2 KCH (Robert Lacey, Paul Millea).
Boys’ under-10 relay: 2 KCH (Paul Millea, Matais Quaglia, Tiernan O’Brien, Robert Lacey, Charlie Lyons).
This year it was decided to hold the under-12 and 13 field events with the national pairs, with the track being held later in July as part of the under-12 to under-19 events.
This will work out well for young athletes who often have difficulty with field events clashing with their track event. It gives the young athletes a chance to perform with distinction and full ability in both track and field.
Kilkenny had three medals, all coming from jumping events.
In the boys’ under-12 event Isaac Carew, who burst onto the high jump scene last year, finished third. He cleared all his heights on the first attempt and has improved by 15cm this year alone.
Adam Slawinka (KCH) was third in the boys’ under-13 high jump, setting a new personal best (PB) in the process. Like Isaac Adam has drastically improved this last year and is keen to improve by just as much next year.
In the long jump the versatile Alex Cullen (KCH) took bronze, marginally off his PB set earlier this month. Alex is one to watch out for in the multi-events next year.
Gowran’s sole competitor Rachel Gardiner was desperately unlucky to finish fourth with a 8.03m finish. She was just 10cm off a medal.
Boys’ under-12 high jump: 3 Isaac Carew (St Senan’s). Boys’ under-13 high jump: 3 Adam Slawinka (KCH). Boys’ under-13 long jump: 3 Alex Cullen (KCH).
Ciara Deely (KCH) went into the junior women’s 400m as the pre-race favourite and she did not disappoint. Her storming victory means she has won both the indoor and outdoor junior titles this year.
After winning her heat in 56.63 it looked like Deely’s nearest opponent would be Miriam Daly from Carrick-on-Suir AC.
In the final Ciara drew lane five. It was evident from the gun that she had the edge, her long stride and powerful arm action, nudging further ahead with each 100m marker.
Coming down the home straight, there was no one who was going to catch her. Her time of 55.41 was almost two seconds clear of Ellie O’Toole (Newbridge) who recorded 57.30 to finish second.
As well as a national title the weekend finished in double joy for Deely, who was named in the Irish team for the world Juniors in Tampere, Finland. Her coach Nicola Barron, who is based in Kilkenny, will fly in to support her on the day.
Castlecomer AC took home two bronze medals. Both were won across the 5,000m distance, one for running and the other for racewalking.
Fresh from an excellent cross-country season Lauren Dermody has managed to transition nicely from juvenile to junior and now to the under-23 ranks.
Dermody’s third place finish in the women’s under-23 5,000m, achieved in a time of 19.03, was only five seconds behind the second-placed Niamh Kelly (Letterkenny AC), who recorded 18.58.
The race was won by Niamh O’Neill of Donor Harriers in 18.43. All three ladies ran in a tight bunch with Niamh O’Neill the strong of the three breaking free at 4,200m. Both Lauren and Niamh Kelly battled it out all the way and it was only in the last 250m that Niamh edged her way ahead of Lauren.
Dermody’s first 5,000m track event, the medal was a nice reward. Staying with 5,000m, race-walker Nicky Connolly (Castlecomer) built on his experience of competing in race walking nationals since under-14 level by finishing third in the junior event.
Doing 5km on a track in 31 degrees of heat is no joke. His 25.11 can only be turned into a low 24 minute performance on any other day.
Every so often a club manages to coach and retain a group of athletes around the same age. For Brow Rangers, their current crop of junior and under-23 athletes are that talented bunch.
From the early years of juvenile, all the way to juniors and under-23 these athletes have been consistently winning medals at national level.
It was no different at the weekend when they brought home eight national medals, with John Joe Kelly winning four alone. In the shot-put, a favourite of his through the years, he recorded a throw of 12.23, some 80cm ahead of Benny Healy of Fannahan McSweenys AC, another great club for the throws.
There were quite a few personal best performances amongst the Brow athletes. In the junior weight throw Patrick Darcy and Andrew Buggy, who were second and fourth respectively, threw 7.62 and 7.64 to get personal bests. Aoife Coady had a massive PB in the under-23 hammer with 33.90.
Close but not close enough to stand on the podium was the under-18 Leinster 1,500m champion Shay McEvoy who finished a tantalising fourth place in the juniors.
In the under-23s Tom O’Keeffe (KCH) may be best known for his cross-country abilities but this year he has added a track medal to his repertoire of medals when he finished third in the under-23 men’s 5,000m. Tom crossed the line in 15.21, some 17 seconds off Jack McGabhann of Dundrum South Dublin. The race was won by Paul O’Donnell (DSD) in a time of 14.43.
One of the most popular events from a spectators’ point of view is the pole vault. It’s rising in popularity among athletes too. It has gained a huge following of late, with increased numbers participating in all age groups over the last three years.
Leading the way in Kilkenny is Shane Power (St Joseph’s). He managed a silver medal with a height of 4m and 10cm.
Women’s Junior 400m: 1 Ciara Deely (KCH). Women’s Junior Weight Throw: 3 Emma Kelly (BR). Women’s Junior 5,000m: 3 Lauren Dermody (CC).
Men’s Junior Weight Throw: 2 Patrick Darcy (BR). Men’s Junior 5,000m walk: 3 Nicky Connolly (CC).
Women’s under-23 discus: 3 Aoife Coady (BR).
Men’s under-23 5,000m: 3 Tom O’Keeffe (KCH). Men’s under-23 shot: 1 John Joe Kelly (BR). Men’s under-23 discus: 2 John Joe Kelly (BR). Men’s under-23 weight throw: 2 John Joe Kelly. Men’s under-23 hammer: 2 Ciaran Coady (BR), 3 John Joe Kelly (BR). Men’s under-23 pole vault: 2 Shane Power (SJ).
Kilkenny has long maintained a tradition of race-walking and is perhaps one of the few counties that can boast a county road race-walking championships.
Numbers were high for last year’s events, making for a very competitive night of athletics. However this year, the numbers were down on 2017, partly due to the hot weather.
St Joseph’s AC put a lot of effort into the organisation of this event, which was held in the scenic Pink Rock area. Keelin Duggan of St Senan’s won the girls under-14 event, showing class and style - she is one to watch for the future.
The St Joseph’s trio of Maggie O’Connor (first vet), Brid Lawlor (second vet) and John Joe Lawlor (first male vet) have been featuring in many of the walking races all over Ireland this past two years. All three had super races.
Read more Kilkenny People sport here.