If the Mr Oil Wexford Senior Cross Country Championships had taken place last Thursday, there would have been more than a few bruised heels and wrenched ankles among the county’s running fraternity. When John Joe Doyle and Ronnie Bent of host club DMP AC checked the course on fields just outside the village of Piercestown on the morning of that day, they found the ground to be frozen solid, hard as rock. When they checked it Friday morning it was in the same state. By last Sunday morning, however, the freezing arctic air mass had gone, to be replaced by warm moisture-laiden southerly winds. In no time the sodden ground was soft and pliable as putty. When it comes to cross country running, a frozen sod may present problems; a mucky course, on the other hand, is seen as being an acceptable part of the experience. It is just such ’classic cross country’ conditions that induce states of wistful nostalgia in old-timers.
This was the final event of a busy year in the Athletics Wexford calendar, one which is always well supported by Wexford clubs. The prestige and pride that goes with winning a county cross country title – individual and team – is something that has endured over the decades and will no doubt continue into the future. While races are in progress, tallymen update team placings lap-by-lap and impassioned pleas from the sidelines beseech weary back-markers to move up just one place, just one!
While the field in the women’s 5km race was relatively small, the quality upfront was top notch. Kilmore’s experienced campaigner Fiona Kehoe hit the front early with only the teak-tough Ciara Wilson (DMP) and Clodagh Kelly (Croghan) prepared to give chase. Fiona, who has the speed of a half-miler and the endurance required for the longer distances, brushed off the challenge of her pursuers as she pushed ahead to open a big lead. She held this all the way to the finish to win her 10th cross country title. Ciara, content to run her own race, eased away from Clodagh and ensured that, while she was never going to catch Fiona, she was never going to get caught for the silver. What a year it has been for this most versatile of athletes: winner of both Triathlon and Duathlon National Series, National Duathlon Champion and national road medals in 5km and 10km. Clodagh, a silver medalist in this race last year, was characteristically full of running all the way to the finish line. Since bursting on the local scene a few years back she has been one of our leading ladies, winning titles and medals on road and country. Elaine Cardiff of Kilmore was 25 seconds behind her with clubmate Sinéad O’Brien next across the line in 5th place.
Sharon Cloney’s 7th place finish, just behind Beth O’Connor (United Striders) ensured that Kilmore were run-away winners of the team title on 17 points, ahead of SBR in 2nd (44 points) and Menapians in third (49 points).
A field of 46 athletes lined out in the men’s 10km race. With the women having done their best to mucky up the course and no sign of the wind and soaking drizzle blowing over, conditions were less than ideal (ie classic cross country!).
Croghan AC’s talented new signing, Sean Hehir, was up and away from the gun. This was his first time competing at championship level with the club. The 37 year old is a Dublin Marathon winner, a national marathon champion and an Irish international. His marathon pb, set in 2019, is an impressive 2.16.01. A serious road accident that same year put him out action for a period but, such is his strength and resilience, that he was soon back training. Earlier this year Sean won a bronze national marathon medal at the Dublin Marathon. Watching him slipping into cruise control and running away from the field last Sunday, spectators were given a masterclass in how to run faster for longer while making it look easy.
At the end of the 6 laps Sean had almost 2 minutes to spare on Slaney Olympic’s mountain running international, Enda Cloake. Enda, who ran the bulk of the race with no one within an ass’s roar fore or aft, repeated his 2021 result in taking the silver. While first and second places were decided early on, it looked for a time like there might be a battle for the bronze between Paul Doran (United Striders) and young Joe Byrne (SBR), with Tom Hogan (SBR) and Pat Foley (Croghan) working to stay in touch. Joe, however, wearied and fell back with clubmate Myles Gibbons taking his place. Myles grew in confidence as the race progressed and moved ahead to open a good lead on Doran and, ultimately, to take the bronze. Another Striders athlete, Adam O’Connor, ran a strong final lap to finish a little behind Doran and just two seconds ahead of the always dangerous Tom Hogan in 6th place.
Completing the top ten were Denis Whelan (Slaney Olympic) 7th, Pat Foley and his clubmate Mark Poole 8th and 9th, just 2 seconds between them, and Alan O’Connor of Striders in 10th. United Striders, with 11th placed Brendan Lyng their fourth and final scorer, took the team title (30 points). Croghan, just four points behind, were runners-up, while SBR won the bronze (43 points).
Mr Oil Wexford Senior Cross Country Championships 2022
1 Fiona Kehoe (Kilmore), 2 Ciara Wilson (DMP), 3 Clodagh Kelly (Croghan), 4 Elaine Cardiff (Kilmore), 5 Sinéad O’Brien (Kilmore), 6 Beth O’Connor (United Striders), 7 Sharon Cloney (Kilmore), 8 Ciara Bowe (SBR), 9 Belinda Kehoe (SBR), 10 Ciara Dolan (Menapians), 11 Ciara Kelly (SBR), 12 Mary Gaynor, 13 Ilze Bedrite, 14 Catherine O’Connor, 15 Helen Sinnott (all Menapians), 16 Mairead O’Neill (SBR).
1 Kilmore (17), 2 SBR (44), 3 Menapians (49).
1 Sean Hehir (Croghan), 2 Enda Cloake (Slaney Olympic), 3 Myles Gibbons (SBR), 4 Paul Doran (United Striders), 5 Adam O’Connor (US), 6 Tom Hogan (SBR), 7 Denis Whelan (SO), 8 Pat Foley (Croghan), 9 Mark Poole (Croghan), 10 Alan O’Connor (US), 11 Brendan Lyng (US), 12 Liam Collins (DMP), 13 Joe Byrne (SBR), 14 Thomas Harrington (US), 15 Colin Carney (US), 16 James Porter (Croghan), 17 John Foley (Croghan), 18 John Stone (DMP), 19 Tom Moran (US), 20 Brian Maher (Croghan), 21 David Leonard (SBR), 22 Denis Moynihan (SBR), 23 Sean Crotty (SO), 24 Sean Byrne (SBR), 25 Ger Maloney (SBR), 26 Tomás Kavanagh (SBR), 27 Pat Culleton (US), 28 Kevin Doyle (DMP), 29 George Delaney (US), 30 Tony Harpur (Menapians), 31 John Hickey (US), 32 Kenny Rothwell (SBR), 33 Paul Browne (SO), 34 Jim O’Malley (SBR), 35 Adrian Doyle (SBR), 36 Sean Doyle (Kilmore), 37 Brian Kelly (Croghan), Sean Meaney (US), 39 Tommy McElwaine (SBR), 40 Richie Fortune (DMP), 41 Eddie Murphy (US), 42 Allan Ronan (SO), 43 Eugene Doherty (SBR), 44 Rory Cassidy (Kilmore), 45 Emmett Malone (US), 46 John Dier (Menapians).
1 United Striders (30), 2 Croghan (34), 3 SBR (43).