Hannah Kehoe, Loreto, Kilkenny, wins the junior girls event during the Irish Life Health All-Ireland schools cross country at Clongowes Wood College in Clane. Photo
With the magnificent backdrop of Clongowes Wood College and fantastic flat, dry courses laid out below, the scene was set for the Irish Schools cross-country All-Irelands.
The last domestic cross-country race of the season, it provided the perfect ending to the season for two Kilkenny athletes as Hannah Kehoe (Gowran) and Tadgh Connolly (St Senan’s) scored great wins.
The minor girls race had just one Kilkenny participant in Caoimhe Phelan (St Senan’s) who was representing the Abbey Community College.
The 2,000m race was fast from the gun and the pre-race favourite Erin Dunleavy from Dunleer did not disappoint as she won the race from Hollie Kilroe of Roscommon. Caoimhe finished in 25th place, a great race considering she has had some injury issues the last two weeks.
St Kieran’s College had a team in the minor boys’ race, where Billy Coogan (Gowran) also flew the flag for Kilkenny CBS.
An unfortunate tumble at the start of the race saw Billy hit the ground and leave him chasing the pack. He did very well to close in on the leading group but the rapid chase took its toll and he finished 12th - in other circumstances he might have been further up the field.
There was better success for the Kieran’s College boys as they finished third in the team event. Led home by Harry Boyle (Kilkenny City Harriers - KCH) in 24th place, the team placings of 24, 25, 50 and 51 was enough to secure the bronze with three points to spare over Wesley College, the Leinster champions.
What can be said about the junior girls and boys races except that Kilkenny athletes truly were the best!
Hannah Kehoe (Gowran) and Tadgh Connolly (St Senan’s) certainly proved as much as the duo were crowned All-Ireland champions in the junior girls and boys categories.
Kehoe was determined to win the girls’ race. Since Christmas she has embraced the New Year with some decisive victories and performances.
At the Celtic International in Belfast she was 10th overall. She won both the Leinster and South Leinster Schools in a convincing fashion. And in Clongowes, representing Loreto Kilkenny, she added another victory to her mantle.
From the outset Kehoe was up with the leaders. At the 500m mark she pulled away slightly from the leading group. As the distance gave way to her fast feet she increased her lead, with Avril Millerick (Middleton), Catherine Martin (Downpatrick), Kirsti Foster (Downpatrick), Alex Cashman (Cork) and Sophie Quinn (Mount Sackville) all fighting behind for the minor placings.
At 2km Sophie Quinn faded, leaving Millerick, Martin and Foster to attack Kehoe’s lead. However it was too late - the Gowran flyer had opened up a sizeable lead. There was no catching her. In the end Kehoe had 12 seconds to spare over Millerick in second place.
A glorious win ended what was a topsy-turvy week for Tadgh Connolly. Having been sick all week his participation in the event was not confirmed until late on Friday. Sheer will led him to the starting line for Saturday’s race - like Hannah Kehoe, he wanted that win.
Connolly, who has had a great cross-country season, including success at the under-15 nationals in Navan, selection for the Celtic International in Belfast, and wins at both East Munster and Munster Schools, went into Saturday’s race with a clear strategy.
The game plan was to sit tight with the leading pack, conserve energy and then just go for home in the last 400m.
Connolly more or less stuck to that plan. Despite still being weak with illness, he managed to gather than last drop of energy to shake off Jack McCausland’s late challenge to win the Irish Schools junior cross-country title.
Back down the field, some 15 seconds behind Tadgh, St Kieran’s College runner Tom Lodge (KCH) was having the race of his life. He was battling with Diarmuid Fagan of Mullingar for the last 200m for the bronze medal. Within metres of the finish line he managed to edge slightly ahead and take the bronze. There was an added bonus as, in finishing third, he secured a place on the schools international team.
Back in 11th place David Williams (St Senan’s), also representing St Kieran’s College was also having a great race. However he has the misfortune of being just one place off selection for the Irish team. He is however first reserve, so should anyone drop out through injury or sickness he may be called up.
Tom and David led the St Kieran’s boys home to third place in the team category, having been second last year. They were just 11 points off first place.
The intermediate girls from Loreto were the stars of their age category. Hannah O’Keeffe (Thomastown) was always in the leading group, which turned into the chasing group as Niamh O’Mahony stormed clear of the pack at 600m.
The group made up of Roisin O’Rielly (Wexford), Holly Brennan (Drogheda) and Cara Laverty (Derry) pushed ahead of the main group with one lap to go. With a place on the Irish team at stake it was important to keep forging ahead. In the end Hannah was fifth and earned a place on the Irish team.
There was more good news on the horizon when Aine Kirwan (Thomastown) came through in 19th and Fiona Dillon (Thomastown) was 23rd, earning the Loreto girls a convincing team victory - they had 49 points to spare over Banbridge Academy.
The intermediate boys were led home by John Muldowney (KCH) in 37th place. Representing St Kieran’s, he helped his school finish seventh overall in the team competition.
The St Senan’s pair of Tara Ramasawmy and Aoife Allen were the Kilkenny representatives in the senior girls’ race. Tara represented the Ursuline Waterford, with Aoife running for the Mercy Waterford.
Tara and Aoife ran together for much of the race, as they have done all this cross-country season. The flat terrain perhaps suited Tara better who, with 600m to go, pushed ahead and finished eighth, leading her Ursuline team to an overall victory. Aoife finished 17th.
In the boys’ race St Kieran’s College runner Shay McEvoy (KCH) was tipped to compete with Dublin’s Efron Giddey, last year’s champion. Giddey lived up to his pre-race favourite tag by claiming a 30-second victory over the second placed athlete.
McEvoy ran with a group of athletes for the first lap and a half, from which point Keelin Killrehill (Sligo) started to chase Giddey. He finished second, while Michael McCaul (Newry) edged ahead of McEvoy in the battle for bronze.
There was good news on the team front though when McEvoy’s team finished in third place, earning Kieran’s their third team medal of the day - one of the most successful cross-country outings for the College in a long time.
A number of Kilkenny athletes were in action at the National Masters Indoors in Athlone on Sunday.
The Brow Rangers contingent led the way as they made their mark on the throwing events. Father and son duo Joe and Murty Kelly were in shot-put action - Joe was third in the over-50 age group while Murty was second in the over-70s event. In the over-35 shot Kieran Kelly was third.
The senior weight for distance was also held with the masters in which Sean Maher was second. In the over-35 weight for distance Austin Lee (St Joseph’s) was third.
The senior women’s weight for distance saw Aoife Coady (Brow Rangers) take fourth place. There was gold for Mary Breen (St Joseph’s) in the over-55 weight for distance - Mary was also third in the shot.
Tracey Malone had another successful outing in the race walking event when she bagged a sliver for St Joseph’s.
Kilkenny results, All-Ireland schools cross-country
Minor Girls: 25 Caoimhe Phelan (Abbey CC).
Minor Boys: 12 Billy Coogan (Kilkenny CBS), Team: 3 St Kieran’s College (24 Harry Boyle, 25 Sean Bergin, 43 Kaolin Grey, 50 Luke Phelan, 51 Charlie Fitzgerald 67 Tim Brennan, 89 Dean O’Brien, 99 Sean Young).
Junior Girls: 1 Hannah Kehoe (Loreto).
Junior Boys: 1 Tadgh Connolly (Abbey CC), 3 Tom Lodge (St Kieran’s), 11 David Williams (St Kieran’s). Team: 3 St Kieran’s College (3 Tom Lodge, 11 David Williams, 35 Killian Doyle, 64 Rob Ring, 65 Joey Dalton, 70 Pauric Naddy, 74 Joe Kearns, 96 Paul Mahon).
Inter Girls: 5 Hannah O’Keeffe (Loreto). Team: 1 Loreto (5 Hannah O’Keeffe, 19 Aine Kirwan, 23 Fiona Dillon, 30 Eleanor Godden, 64 Abby Gilsenan, 67 Orla O’Keeffe).
Inter Boys: Teams: 7 St Kieran’s (37 John Muldowney, 39 Brogan McAvinney, 56 Will Fox, 77 Cathal Kearney, 81 Jack Archibald, 86 Alan Dunphy, 87 Robbie Cord).
Senior Girls: 8 Tara Ramasawmy (Ursuline), 17 Aoife Allen (Mercy). Teams: 1 Ursuline (team featured Tara Ramasawmy).
Senior Boys: 4 Shay McEvoy. Teams: 3 St Kieran’s (4 Shay McEvoy, 23 James Kearney, 42 Kevin Burns, 43 Eoin Walsh, 57 Luke Whelan, 63 Eoin Morgan, 69 Senan Forristal).
Kilkenny results, National Masters Indoors
Women’s over-40 walk: 2 Tracey Malone (St Joseph’s).
Women’s over-55 shot: 3 Mary Breen (SJ).
Women’s over-55 weight for distance: 1 Mary Breen (SJ).
Senior men’s weight for distance: 2 Sean Maher (Brow Rangers).
Men’s over-35 shot: 3 Kieran Kelly (BR), 4 Austin Lee (SJ).
Men’s over-35 weight for distance: 3 Austin Lee (SJ).
Men’s over-50 shot: 3 Joe Kelly (BR).
Men’s over-70 shot: 2 Murty Kelly (BR).
For more on Kilkenny People sport read here.