Maria Griffin (St Joseph's) and Niamh Richardson (KCH) get ready for the Masters ladies race
Gowran glistened on a chilly January Sunday as conditions proved ideal for the Leinster juvenile cross-country relays and intermediate/masters championships.
For the first time in four years the championships were held in south Leinster, providing Kilkenny athletes with a welcome respite in the travelling stakes. First-time hosts Gowran AC did the county proud, leaving no stone unturned with a professional display.
With relays for athletes at under-12, 14 and 16 levels clubs were given a chance to transition from cross-country action into the track and field season.
Four Kilkenny clubs took part in the Leinster juvenile relays - Gowran, St Joseph’s, Thomastown and St Senan’s. While these clubs have enjoyed success at the relays over the years this time it was the turn of Rathoath AC to dominate events.
The Meath club were victorious in four of the six relay events, a testament to not only their strength in relay events but also to the huge numbers in the club itself.
The girls’ under-12 race was very exciting as two Kilkenny teams battled it out for third position. After the final baton change St Joseph’s and Gowran were neck and neck. It wasn’t until they turned into the run for the finish that Abbie Steger marginally got ahead of Sarah Foley to clinch third place for Gowran. These youngsters will be ones to watch for the future.
The next Kilkenny medal arrived in the girls’ under-14 race. St Senan’s, St Joseph’s, Gowran and Thomastown all lined up for action, three of the clubs fielding two teams each.
At county level this age group is very strong, earning medals at national level in both cross-country and track and field, but this time of year can often produce strange results. It follows a time when cross-country runners are just back from a few weeks’ rest and track runners have been building up to the indoor season.
Again it was Rathoath who took the gold. St Senan’s were missing two of their best athletes, but still ran their hearts out as they tussled with Gowran for the spoils.
In what was a straight battle between Caoimhe Phelan (Senan’s) and Rachel O’Neill (Gowran) for the bronze Gowran had the edge coming into the final changeover.
Try as she might, Phelan could not overtake O’Neill. Thomastown did well to take fifth place with St Joseph’s coming home in sixth. St Senan’s were the highest-placed club in the boys’ under-14 race when they finished fourth.
It was Thomastown’s turn to shine in the girls’ under-16 race. This team, who did very well at cross-country this year, were anchored by Maria O’Keeffe. At the handover to Orlaith Kirwan the girls had a marginal lead over Dunboyne. Another change over saw them still ahead.
The final change over made a big difference as the Dunboyne team surged ahead, leaving Thomastown to settle for the bronze. The boys’ under-16 race was dominated by United Striders, who had three teams and won both gold and bronze medals.
The Masters cross-country and road events continue to rise in popularity in Ireland, a fact reflected in the increased numbers participating in the Leinster Masters cross-country.
The women were first underway with the 4,000m event. Right from the start, a small group of athletes - Michelle Cox, Jackie Carty, Kate Purcell, Noreen Brouder and Karen Costello - set off and broke away from the rest of the field.
Between them the group battled it out for the lead, but by the final lap Michelle Cox (Newbridge AC) proved too strong for the leading bunch and surged ahead.
With the chasing group unable to catch her, the real fight was for the silver and bronze positions. In the end it was Noreen Brouder (Sportsworld) who claimed the silver while Kate Purcell (Raheny Shamrocks) won the bronze medal.
The first Kilkennywoman home was Adele Walsh (St Senan’s) who finished 10th overall. Donna Dunne (Kilkenny City Harriers - KCH) was 17th.
KCH were sixth in the club rankings while St Joseph’s were 10th. In the county category Kilkenny were fifth overall.
There was better news in the over-50s masters when Kilkenny won the county section with Niamh Richardson and Cathy Millet (KCH) and Francis Mullally (St Joseph’s) scoring.
In the men’s masters Kilkenny had a team made up of athletes from St Joseph’s, Thomastown, Gowran and KCH.
The race was won by long-time leader Rossa Hurley (Donore Harriers) with a great battle for second between Tom Lupton (Portlaoise) and Karl Cronin (Sportsworld). Dipping low into the finish it was Lupton who had his chest across the line first.
Back in 30th place Paul Moran of KCH was the first Kilkennyman home. The county team was fifth with Peter Barry of St Joseph’s joining the KCH trio of Moran, Trust Mtinsi and Ken Maher. Kilkenny were fourth in the over-50s county category.
There was better news in the intermediate competition where St Senan’s were third in the men’s intermediate race and Kilkenny were third county.
This 8,000m race was never in danger of being taken from Mitchell Byrne (Rathfarnham WSAF) as he started to move away from the main bunch after 2,000m.
Back to the chasing bunch, there was a group of nine athletes who could have laid claim to the silver and bronze medals. The final lap sorted the group a little as Sean Doran (Clonliffe Harriers) moved ahead with Mick Fogarty (Ferbane) chasing hard behind.
With 200m to go James Kelly (Castlecomer) made inroads in the race for bronze, but he just ran out of track and had to settle for fourth place.
As a county team things were looking good as Kilkenny had four athletes in the top 10. James Kelly was fourth, Dean Rowe (Gowran) sixth and the St Senan’s pair of Conor Rochford and Luke Morgan eighth and 10th respectively. The final two spots on the team were taken by Denis Shanahan (Thomastown) and Jonathan Crowley (St Senan’s).
With St Senan’s having three athletes so far up in the field, their club team looked good for a medal. George Carpendale (St Senan’s) had to wait 31 years for his second Leinster medal - he was placed sixth in an under-12 Leinster cross-country - but he bridged the gap as the final member of the St Senan’s side that took club bronze
The Intermediate women were short a team due to both sickness and injury. The first Kilkennywoman home was Aine Kinsella (St Senan’s) in 17th place with Michelle McDonald in 21st spot. Katie O’Brien (Gowran) was 36th.
Three Kilkenny athletes will travel to Belfast for the Celtic International on Saturday.
Selection is based on being in the top eight at the National Championships – excluding the athletes from Northern Ireland, who will compete as a separate team - and will go on to compete in the under-17 and under-20 races for boys and girls.
Tadgh Connolly (St Senan’s) bagged a place in the boys’ under-17 A team having finished fourth in the national under-16 cross-country.
Hannah O’Keeffe (Thomastown) made her international debut last year at this event and is on the girls’ under-17 team having finished ninth in the under-16 Nationals. Lauren Dermody (Castlecomer), who was in hard luck not to make the European under-23 championships, made the under-23 Celtic team.
In a busy weekend the county open juvenile cross-country and county junior and intermediate cross-country championships will be held in Kilmacow on Sunday at 11am.
(Club code: CC = Castlecomer, G = Gowran, KCH = Kilkenny City Harriers, KR = Kings River, SJ = St Joseph’s, SS = St Senan’s, TT = Thomastown)
Girls’ U-12: 3 Gowran. Girls’ U-14: 3 Gowran. Girls’ U-16: 2 Thomastown.
Masters Ladies: 1 Michelle Cox (Newbridge), 2 Noreen Brouder (Newbridge), 3 Kate Purcell (Sportsworld). Kilkenny results: 10 Adele Walsh (SS), 17 Donna Dunne (KCH), 19 Catriona Muldowney (KCH), 21 Niamh Richardson (KCH), 22 Mary Steed (KR), 24 Catriona Corr (G), 26 Cathy Millet (KCH), 30 Barbara Rossiter (KCH), 31 Maria Griffin (SJ), 32 Kathryn Kennedy (G), 40 Breda Hennessey (SJ), 41 Francis Mullally (SJ), 51 Mags Kirwan (KR), 59 Maggie O’Connor (SJ), 72 Tracey Malone (SJ), 73 Kate Carroll (G). County: 5 Kilkenny. Over-50 County: 1 Kilkenny.
Masters Men: 1 Rossa Hurley (Donore), 2 Tom Lupton (Portlaoise), 3 Karl Cronin (Sportsworld). Kilkenny results: 30 Paul Moran (KCH), 32 Trust Mtinsi (KCH), 36 Ken Maher (KCH), 46 Peter Barry (SJ), 59 Derek Kehoe (G), 61 Paul Deegan (G), 66 Philip Fennelly (KR), 69 Graham Bourne (KCH), 77 Tom Walsh (TT), 85 Vivon Fennelly (KR), 99 John Davis (TT), 114 Peter Breen (G), 125 Dara Fahy (KR), 139 David Forristal (KR), 140 Terry Brophy (TT).
Intermediate ladies: 1 Lisa Madden (Sportsworld), 2 Nadine Donegan (Tullamore), 3 Linda Conroy (Mullingar). Kilkenny results: 17 Aine Kinsella (SS), 21 Michelle McDonald (SS), 36 Kate O’Brien (G).
Intermediate men: 1 Mitchell Byrne (Rathfarnham WSAF), 2 Sean Doran (Clonliffe), 3 Mick Fogarty (Ferbane). Kilkenny results: 4 James Kelly (CC), 6 Dean Rowe (G), 8 Conor Rochford (SS), 10 Luke Morgan (SS), 28 Danny Shanahan (TT), 29 Jonathan Crowley (SS), 30 Denis Sullivan (TT), 35 Johan Muller (G), 36 Stephen O’Connor (SJ), 37 Shane Noonan (G), 41 Joe Tracey (G), 42 George Carpendale (SS).
Club: 3 St Senan’s: County: 3 Kilkenny (4 James Kelly (CC), 6 Dean Rowe (G), 8 Conor Rochford (SS), 10 Luke Morgan (SS), 28 Danny Shanahan (TT), 29 Jonathan Crowley (SS).
January 19 - Celtic International, Belfast.
January 20 - County open juvenile cross-country and county junior and intermediate/masters championships, Kilmacow 11am.
January 27 - County juvenile relays and masters, Tullaroan 11am.
January 30 - South Leinster schools cross-country, Carlow.
For more on Kilkenny People sport read here.