Ferns hosts best attended Senior Road Champs in years

A Friday evening in mid-May and the top distance runners in the county have assembled in the historic village of Ferns for the highpoint of Wexford’s road racing season. Last year’s Mr Oil Senior Road Championships attracted a lowly twenty competitors in both men’s and women’s races. Memories of lockdown were still strong then and a return to normal service proved to be a much more protracted process than its loss. Fast-forward a year and the carnival-like atmosphere in downtown Ferns more than anything conveyed the message that the psychological scars left by the pandemic have all but vanished, that the concept of social distancing is now something almost too outrageous to contemplate. And the numbers are there to back this up: forty four women completed the women’s race, while fifty seven lined out in the men’s race.

With the sun blazing down from a clear blue sky, the main health concern this year was sunstroke. And despite the lengthening evening shadows, the heat showed no sign of abating.

Both races started directly in front of Ferns Castle, in the shadow of a stone cross commemorating the rebel priest Fr. Murphy.

The women’s 5km race followed a loop which took them out the Bunclody road by St Aidan’s GAA grounds, veering left after a kilometre heading towards Ballycarney, left after another km down Stumps’ Lane, left then at Baile na gCloch with 3kms done, and finiahed with a long and relentless 2kms pull back to the village by the old Enniscorthy Road.

International duathlete Ciara Wilson (DMP) and Kilmore veteran Fiona Kehoe were the pace-setters from the start. Tucked in behind them were Clare Barrett (DMP) and Ciara’s sister Katie, a member of Wexford Marathon Club. Running her own race in fifth place was Kilmore’s Elaine Cardiff with a short gap back to her clubmate Jackie Carthy and SBR’s Lisa Dempsey. The chasing peloton were led out by Sandra Young of United Striders. The long slow drag of the first km coupled with the searing heat meant that everyone, from first to last, was very quickly soaked with sweat. Ciara, who last month competed at the World Duathlon Championships in a scorching hot Ibiza, appeared to be totally at her ease as she gently eased away from the others to open a commanding lead. Fiona, well established in second place, was definitely glowing as she reached deep to counter the debilitating effects of the hills and the heat, while Katie, 15 second or so behind her in 3rd place, looked to be adopting a steady-as-she-goes approach. The three finished in that order, Ciara looking smooth right to the line. Clare Barrett’s stride and cadence dropped in the latter section of the race but she still had more than enough to hold off Elaine Cardiff and take 4th spot. Jackie Carthy, currently building back following a long injury lay-off, was 6th ahead of Lisa Dempsey in 7th, Sinéad O’Brien (Kilmore) 8th and, completing the top ten, Beth O’Connor of United Striders. With their top four athletes in the top ten, Kilmore easily won the team title (21 points). United Striders were 2nd on 56 points, just two ahead of bronze medallists SBR.

The men’s race was 10kms in length which meant twice around the loop. No one was too surprised to see Croghan’s marathon ace Seán Hehir taking to the lead from the gun. With plenty of miles in the bank, Seán has a big and well-trained engine which allows him move faster for longer than others. Add to that a super-efficient and economical style of running and you have all the ingredients required for getting maximum bang for your buck. Running their own race in his wake were Denis Whelan (Slaney Olympic) and Paul Doran (United Striders). Throughout the first lap they were stride for stride with Myles Gibbons (SBR) 40-50 metres behind them, Brendan Dunne (SBR) a similar distance behind him. Brendan could no doubt hear the snorting and stomping of the herd bearing down on him, a quality group led out by Mark Poole (Croghan) and Brendan Lyng (United Striders).

By the end of the first lap, Seán was so full of running that it looked like he was gaining on the lead car! Such was his lead at this point that he might have been excused the indulgence of treating his second lap as a victory lap. Still the pair behind him were locked in combat, Whelan getting a few yards ahead of Doran. Myles was still running solo in 4th place, Brendan Dunne behind him and then a group of seven, still led by Mark Poole and Brendan Lyng and including Thomas Harrington, Alan and Adam O’Connor (all United Striders), Sean Crotty (Slaney Olympic) and Kevin Morris (Croghan).

Seán Hehir continued merrily on his way, making light work of the testing ascents and the strengthening headwind on the final two kilometres. He crossed the line with a winning margin of 47 seconds. But what of the duel behind him? Doran got the jump on Whelan before going on to open a lead over him which, at the finish, stretched to 45 seconds. Whelan, even with an absence of wind in his sails, finished strongly to take the bronze. Myles Gibbons was just over half minute further back in 4th.

By the closing stages the pursuing group of seven had well and truly splintered with Harrington, Lyng and Dunne crossing the line in 5th, 6th and 7th, mere seconds between each. They were followed by Mark Poole and Alan O’Connor, with a larger gap back to 10th placed Kevin Morris. Tight packing by Striders, with 4 inside the top nine (and another four in the next ten!) gave them their 4th team title in a row. Croghan were 2nd, just 5 points ahead of 3rd placed SBR.

Host club SBR rolled out the red carpet afterwards, inviting everyone back to the community hall for tea, coffee and cáca milis. Let’s hear it for old style country hospitality!

The next championship action on the roads will be the Mr Oil Wexford Masters Road Races in Enniscorthy on June 9th. Hosted by Slaney Olympic.

Mr Oil Senior Road Races Results
1 Ciara Wilson (DMP) 17.07; 2 Fiona Kehoe (Kilmore) 17.56; 3 Katie Wilson (WMC) 18.11; 4 Clare Barrett (DMP) 18.54; 5 Elaine Cardiff (Kilmore) 19.03; 6 Jackie Carthy (Kilmore) 19.53; 7 Lisa Dempsey (SBR) 20.19; 8 Sinéad O’Brien (Kilmore) 20.25; 9 Beth O’Connor (United Striders) 20.30; 10 Maeve Mulpeter (Croghan) 20.42; 11 Sandra Young (United Striders) 20.50; 12 Vanessa McShane (Croghan) 20.54; 13 Sharon Cloney (Kilmore) 20.58; 14 Bernadette Carton (Racing 795) 21.04; 15 Katie Murphy (US) 21.19; 16 Belinda Kehoe (SBR) 21.25; 17 Louise Cosgrave (SBR) 21.36; 18 Ciara Bowe (SBR) 21.39; 19 Deirdre Waters (Croghan) 21.52; 20 Orla Fogarty (SBR) 21.56; 21 Mary Sinnott (US) 22.15; 22 Sharon Wafer (Croghan) 22.17; 23 Suzanne Keane (Croghan) 22.26; 24 Caroline Doyle (St Killian’s) 22.41; 25 Paula Dempsey (SO) 22.43; 26 Paula Gondard (Menapians) 22.54; 27 Katey Gregan (SO) 23.19; 28 Helen Wallace (Menapians) 23.31; 29 Mary Gaynor (Menapians) 24.24; 30 Tara Jarvis (St Killian’s) 24.31; 31 Ilze Bedrite (Menapians) 24.34; 32 Catherine O’Connor (Menapians) 24.51; 33 Ciara Kelly (SBR) 25.01; 34 Orla Kehoe (SO) 26.05; 35 Eilish Mantle (Croghan) 26.07; 36 Áine Cullen (US) 26.36; 37 Sarah Bermingham (Menapians) 26.45; 38 Michelle Staff (SO) 27.37; 39 Louise Henderson (Menapians) 28.07; 40 Helen Sinnott (Menapians) 28.28; 41 Annis Kehoe (SO) 29.43; 42 Melissa Stone (St Killian’s) 31.05; 43 Bernie Miller (SO) 31.48.

Teams: 1 Kilmore (21); 2 United Striders (56); 3 SBR (58).

1 Seán Hehir (Croghan) 32.02; 2 Paul Doran (United Striders) 32.49; 3 Denis Whelan (Slaney Olympic) 33.34; 4 Myles Gibbons (SBR) 34.10; 5 Thomas Harrington (US) 35.13; 6 Brendan Lyng (US) 35.14; 7 Brendan Dunne (SBR) 35.17; 8 Mark Poole (Croghan) 35.23; 9 Alan O’Connor (US) 35.34; 10 Kevin Morris (Croghan) 36.00; 11 Seán Crotty (Croghan) 36.23; 12 Paul Gibbons (SBR) 36.39; 13 John McGrath (US) 36.42; 14 Adam O’Connor (US) 36.47; 15 David Larkin (US) 37.26; 16 Pat Foley (Croghan) 37.42; 17 Martin Monaghan (SBR) 38.02; 18 Pat Callaghan (US) 38.06; 19 Killian Ronan (SO) 38.17; 20 Andrew Dowse (Croghan) 38.22; 21 James Porter (Croghan) 38.27; 22 Dirk Ardrichem (Croghan) 38.36; 23 Brian O’Shaughnessy (St Killian’s) 38.39; 24 Paul Browne (SO) 38.52; 25 John Foley (SO) 38.58; 26 Brian Kelly (Croghan) 39.07; 27 Jessie O’Connor (SO) 39.16; 28 John Hickey (US) 39.23; 29 Colin McShane (Croghan) 39.46; 30 Jimmy Grannell (SO) 39.47; 31 John Cousins (Kilmore) 39.51; 32 Michael O’Flaherty (Kilmore) 39.52; 33 Seán Doyle (Kilmore) 40.02; 34 Seán Byrne (SBR) 40.05; 35 Denis Moynihan (SBR) 40.06; 36 Kenny Rothwell (SBR) 40.07; 37 Niall Crosbie (Kilmore) 40.13; 38 Seán Murphy (US) 40.23; 39 Kevin Doyle (DMP) 40.31; 40 Tommy McElwaine (SBR) 40.32; 41 Pádraig Barron (US) 40.33; 42 Tony Harpur (Menapians) 40.33; 43 James Herterich (Croghan) 41.36; 44 Michael Quigley (SO) 41.45; 45 Tony McMahon (US) 41.47; 46 Eugene Doherty (SBR) 42.05; 47 Matthew Corrigan (DMP) 42.16; 48 Nicky Foley (Kilmore) 42.47; 49 Ken Murphy (SO) 43.24; 50 Tomas Buitendijk (Croghan) 43.30; 51 Anthony Foley (Kilmore) 43.37; 52 Allen Ronan (SO) 44.07; 53 Philip Deering (St Killian’s) 44.29; 54 Emmett Malone (US) 46.27; 55 Colm Stafford (US) 50.13; 56 James Hayden (St Killian’s) 51.34; DNF Richard Fortune (DMP).

Teams: 1 United Striders (22); 2 Croghan (35); 3 SBR (40).

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