Navan racecourse was the venue for last Saturday’s Irish Life Health All-Ireland Juvenile & Novice Cross Country, the last championship action of the year. The wind howled and the rain fell in torrents. On the plus side the sod remained firm throughout with very little cutting up on what was a well designed, yet tough, course.
It was a good day overall for Wexford with a relatively small squad of athletes collecting a fine haul of individual, club and provincial medals.
Emma McCarthy of St Killians AC placed 27th in the Girl’s U11 race. She missed making the Silver medal winning Leinster team by a single place. Next Wexford girl home was Grace Kelly, Menapians AC, in 34th with Kilmore’s Rayna Thompson just behind her in 35th. Éabha Keane (DMP) placed 46th, Ava Wolohan (Croghan AC) 82nd, Sarah O’Mahony (DMP) 92nd, Erin Byrne (Croghan) 98th, Ava Barry (Kilmore) 105th, Heather Costello (United Striders) 124th, Stephanie O’Connor (Enniscorthy AC) 144th. The Wexford County team placed 8th.
Wexford’s only finisher in the Boys U11 1500m was Bree’s Cian Donovan in 59th place.
Kevin O’Mahony (DMP) found the going tough in the Boys U13 2500m race, finishing in 42nd place.
Claragh Keane of DMP has been having a powerful season, improving with each race. Her coach, the hugely experienced John Joe Doyle, has helped her to develop the core strength required to stay the distance in the toughest of cross country races. Claragh cut a determined figure as she toed the line in the Girls U15 3500m race. From the gun she was up and away, tucked into the leading group. Then calamity: rounding a bend she lost her footing and tumbled to the ground. Quickly back on her feet sensibly did not panic despite finding herself somewhere back in the 40s. She put the head down and began to pick her way through the field. Coming up to the start of the long hill to the finish she was back in the top 6. A spirited sprint finish saw her finish in a medal winning 5th place, in the process holding off the talented Fiona Dillon of Thomastown. Brilliant run. Claragh picked up a Team Gold medal with Leinster.
Wexford’s top finishers in a tough Boys U15 3500m race, won by St Senan’s uber-talented Tadhg Connolly, were the United Striders duo of Ben Wall (7th) and Myles Hewlett (8th). Both were part of the winning Leinster team. They also led Striders to Team Gold with Aidan Shannon in 46th place and Eoin Shannon 49th completing the scoring quartet. The club had three further athletes in the top 100 with Robert Wall 70th, Darragh Flannely 77th and Owen Lennon 97th. James Hegarty of DMP placed 110th and Daniel Byrne, Croghan AC, was 132nd. The Wexford team placed 4th overall.
The county’s only participant in the Girls U17 4000m race was Roisin O’Reilly of Menapians AC. After 200m Roisin was part of a large leading group which held together for much of the first of the two 2000m laps. Into the 2nd lap and this group was much reduced in size, Roisin still with them. Two girls pulled slightly ahead at this point; Roisin led the chasers. With 500 to go the Gold and Silver looked to be decided while Roisin and another girl battled it out for the Bronze. The battle for the Bronze continued all the way up the finish straight, Roisin having to give way in the end and settle for 4th with, as she said herself, “rubber legs”. She was delighted to put in such a good run in her first Athletics Ireland National cross country. As first Leinster athlete she had the honour of leading the province to Team Silver.
Adam O’Connor, United Striders, placed 94th in Boys U17 5000m race.
Aedan Rogers, also Striders, looked to be in contention in the early stages of the Boys U19 6000m race. However, a mid-race fall knocked the wind out of his sails and he finished in 29th place.
Ger Forde of Slaney Olympic was hoping for a top ten finish in the Men’s Novice 6000m. However, by his own admission, he was feeling somewhat flat and couldn’t find that top gear. Under the circumstances his 14th place finish was a good result. Mark Poole, Croghan AC, placed 79th and his clubmate Pat Foley was 88th; Alan O’Connor (US) was 124th, John Murphy (DMP) 132nd, Brian Maher (Croghan)146th, Alexander Williams (Croghan) 163rd, William Keogh (Croghan) 208th. The Wexford team were 10th overall.