Leinster Juvenile Uneven Ages and Senior Cross Country Championships, Ferbane

This year’s Leinster Cross Country Championship action drew to a close in Ferbane, Co. Offaly on Saturday the 9th of November. Around 1500 athletes from all over the province headed to Ferbane for the Juvenile Uneven Ages and Senior Cross Country Championships. Many of them had battled through the muddy fields of Gowran at the Leinster Novice and Juvenile Even Ages a fortnight earlier. Real cross country conditions are all well and good but most were relieved to see that Ferbane was a much more benign course, unaffected by the persistent rain of the preceding weeks. 

A big crew of Wexford athletes made the long journey to the midlands, many with high hopes of qualifying for the National Championships in Dunboyne in mid-December. A good number of the underage athletes who made good on those hopes will also be participating at the National Even Age Championships in Abbotstown this Sunday.

With excellent conditions underfoot and an absence of wind and, for the most part, rain this was a course made for fast running with spectator-friendly loops of 1000m, 1500m and 2500m. The undulating 2500m loop provided the toughest challenge with one very tough incline. Athletes even had to contend with running through a farmyard!

There were U9 Girls and Boys races to kick off the action with the Championship races getting underway just after 12 noon. A big field of 148 lined out in the Girls U11 1500m. The standout performance from a Wexford perspective was unquestionably that of Ruby Gallagher O’Reilly of Croghan AC. who ran a fantastic race from gun to tape, making light work of the course and crossing the line in 4th place. This bodes very well for Ruby at the National Championships. The Wexford County team finished a respectable 7th with Ruby joined by Kayleigh Butler (Taghmon AC) 31st, Saoirse Flanagan (D.M.P.) 41st , Izzy Aspel (Taghmon AC) 50th, Lea Bolger (Bree AC) 64th and Siun Byrne (Croghan) 65th

In Boys U11 1500m, Jayden Kenny of Bree AC continued his run of excellent form, finishing 6th of the 134 athletes who completed the race and first Wexford athlete. Jayden may have a reputation as a sprinter but he clearly has plenty of talent over the longer distances also. The Wexford team placed 5th with Jayden joined by Enda Byrne, S.B.R AC (29th), Aidan Bowe, S.B.R. (32nd), Paddy O’Neill, S.B.R. (35th), PJ Breen, Bree (44th) and Oisin Ennis, D.M.P. (50th).

Next on the programme was the Girls U13 2500m. Aoife Walsh, of D.M.P. has had somewhat of a breakthrough season with a classy run at the recent even age championships in Gowran. It was clear from the gun that she is in good shape as she was never very far from the front and was looking relaxed. She upped the tempo in the latter stages and crossed the line in an excellent 7th place, so securing a spot at the Nationals. The Wexford team finished 8th with Sarah Phylan of Enniscorthy 34th, closely followed by Rayna Thompson of Kilmore in 35th. Eabha Keane of D.M.P. ran a strong race to finish 41st, followed by Heather Costello of United Striders in 60th and Katie Foley of Kilmore 74th.

Ronan Shannon of United Striders in 22nd place was first Wexford athlete home in a tough Boys U13 race. The Wexford county team, packing very well, were 8th with Joseph O’Flaherty, another one of the emerging talents from Croghan AC in 41st, Olan Delaney of United Striders 70th, Jarlath Kelly of Bree 74th, Eoin Hannon, Striders, 77th, Matthew Carroll of S.B.R. 78th.

The Girls U15 3500m started with the smaller 1000m lap before moving out onto the larger 2500m circuit. This was a very fast race from the start and Wexford champion Sofia Tkacheva of Croghan AC did well to stay on for 29th. The team were 9th overall. Freya Thompson of Kilmore was 48th, Cara Kelly of D.M.P. was 64th, Arwyn Thompson of Kilmore finished 68th, clubmate Kate O’Flaherty was 85th and Ella Darcy of Croghan was 90th

The Wexford Boys U15 team have been a force to be reckoned with over the past few years, dominating at Leinster and National level. Spearheaded by a strong United Striders contingent they are always hard to beat. The club’s Myles Hewlett was up with the action from the start which, like the girls’ race was 3500m in length. Throughout he had an epic battle with Diarmuid Fagan of Mullingar Harriers, each trying to wear the other down. As in the Leinster U16 race a couple of weeks previously, the Mullingar boy just managed to keep his nose in front and take the win, with Myles a close 2nd. The pair will lock horns again this weekend at the All-Ireland’s in Abbotstown and again in Dunboyne in December. Striders strength in depth was amply illustrated by the fact that Eoin Shannon got up for an impressive 6th place finish. Like Myles he will not doubt be looking forward to making an impact in Abbotstown and Dunboyne. No one was surprised to see the Wexford team taking the Leinster title. Myles and Eoin were joined by clubmate Will Park in 13th, Alex Lafferty of D.M.P. 21st and the Striders duo of Finbarr Kelly (22nd) and Sean Lennon (26th). United Striders also won the club team title.

The Girls U17 4000m race featured one of the stars of Wexford juvenile athletics in DMP’s Claragh Keane. Claragh, runner-up in the U16 race in Gowran, and Neasa Reilly of Dunleer were, from the start, out on their own, the pair wasting little time in opening up a gap on the field. While Neasa moved ahead of Claragh on the second lap, the Wexford girl maintained a solid tempo throughout and kept in touch, the rest of the field running their own race. In the run for home, Claragh started to eat into Neasa’s lead but just ran out of track. Another silver. Both athletes are in great shape as they look forward to the first of the national championships this weekend. Erin Shannon of United Striders AC finished 21st and Ciara Dolan of Menapians AC was 26th

The Wexford U17 Boys team had a superb performance. Like the U15 Boys team, this crop of juvenile athletes have also had remarkable success in recent times, winning club team and county team titles at Leinster level. They have such strength-in-depth, that they are extraordinarily tough to beat on any day. Joe Byrne, of S.B.R. has had somewhat of a renaissance this season. The Ferns lad ran a stunning race in Ferbane. While always in the mix, it looked like Tadgh Connolly of St. Senan’s AC was going to claim another Leinster victory. However, Joe had other ideas. Up the last hill, he began to pull away with ease and at the end he had an 11 second lead over Tadgh, covering the 5k course in 16.53 mins.

Aidan Shannon of United Striders ran an intelligent race and well-paced race to finish in 10th place. The County team cruised to victory. Joining Joe and Aidan were Ben Wall (US) 14th, Darragh Flannelly (US) 16th, Robert Wall (US) 17th and Ronan Griffin of D.M.P. 30th. Striders won silver club team medals. 

The Girls U19 4000m started just as the weather turned and the rain came bucketing down. Róisín O’Reilly of Menapians lined out for just her second race of the season following her 2nd place finish U18 (3rd Junior) in Gowran a couple of weeks previously. Her decision last Summer to take an extended end-of-season break has not held her back as she showed again in Ferbane.  Róisín was part of a small breakaway group which, ultimately, was whittled down to three on the final lap. Aoife O’Cuill was first to throw down the gauntlet as she pulled ahead on a slight downhill section. Holly Brennan then moved ahead of Róisín to give chase. They stayed like that all the way to the finish. Expect to see the trio doing battle again next weekend in Abbotstown. Rebecca Bawden of United Striders finished 25th.

Rory Cassidy of Kilmore AC was the sole Wexford athlete in the U19 Boys 6000m. He finished in 32nd place. 

Ciara Wilson of D.M.P. shouldered the Wexford hopes going into the Senior Women’s 5000m race. The International duathlete did not disappoint. Having run poorly at the Autumn Open International earlier in the season, describing it herself as her worst race ever, Ciara was determined to right the wrongs. She was in a prominent position from the beginning of the race, running in a group with Claire Fagan of Mullingar Harriers AC, who ran in the European U23 Championships in the 10000m during the summer, and Lauren Dermody of Castlecomer AC. On the second of the 2500m laps, Wilson started to make headway. As they entered the second field and headed into the last 1k, Wilson made her break. From there she was never going to be caught. She swept the field away with her decisive kick, leaving Fagan adrift at the finish line by a margin of 15 seconds. It will certainly be interesting to see how Ciara gets in Abbotstown at the weekend. 

Ger Forde of Slaney Olympic AC and George Delaney of United Striders AC both contested the Senior Mens 10000m race, which concluded the day’s action. While Liam Brady of Tullamore Harriers was the runaway winner, Ger battled well throughout the race and was in the chasing pack throughout. With the light fading he dug deep to stay with the pace and hold on for a good 6th place finish. George Delaney finished in 41st.

Attention now turns to this Sunday’s National Juvenile Even Ages, Junior, U23 and Senior Championships at the National Cross Country Course in Abbotstown. In the Juvenile races, several Wexford athletes, including a good number of those who starred in Ferbane, are expected to be in contention. Places on the Irish team for the European Junior, U23 and Senior Cross Country Championships in Lisbon will be on the line also, meaning it will be a fascinating day’s racing on the course that will host the European Championships next year. 

The National Novice and Juvenile Even Ages Cross Country will take place on Sunday the 15th of December at Cow Park, Dunboyne. 

The National Novice and Juvenile Even Ages Cross Country will take place on Sunday the 15th of December at Cow Park, Dunboyne. 

Results of Juvenile races

Results of Senior races

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