Mr Oil Wexford Intermediate Road Championships 2023

Rathgarogue (Rath Gearróg) is a small townland, in the civil parish of Ballyanne, wedged into a corner of County Wexford with Kilkenny on one side, Carlow on the other. It is a beautiful and well-tucked-away part of the county, an area one does not visit unless having good reason to do so. Last Sunday, athletes from throughout the county had reason to be there, that reason being the Mr Oil Wexford Intermediate Road Championships.

Rathgarogue, the ecclesiastical centre of the townland, is, in the truest sense, a sráidbhaile, a not-quite-village with a school, a church, a graveyard, a few residential houses. And one barking dog. While no locals appeared curious enough to venture forth and seek out the source of the hubbub on what would otherwise have been a quiet Sunday afternoon, one could not but sense that Rathgarogue, despite its outwardly somnolent nature, is the centre of a vibrant rural community. If, say, the priest were to get up from his Sunday lunch with a chicken bone stuck in his throat and summon help from his flock by ringing the old church bell, they would show up in droves from the farms all around. And they would show scant regard for the motley party of scantily-clad human gazelles in their bright coloured singlets and shorts running down the middle of Main Street, Rathgarogue on, of all days, the Sabbath. One imagines the locals looking with a jaundiced eye on such irreverent ostentatiousness. Indeed, one could, at a stretch, see this as the kind of place in which things might take a turn, and not for the better, in the blink of just such an eye!

Happily, no church bell rang out to disturb the early afternoon quiet and the village and the rolling hills all around were filled with sunshine and birdsong. Perfect conditions for the coming together of enthusiasts, all being of ‘intermediate’ class as stipulated by the governing body, excited by the simple act of mechanical self-propulsion of the human body, over set distances, using nothing other than the machinery that came with that body, with the aim of covering the distance in the shortest possible time.

United Striders (in their wisely unostentatious black and white strip!) has, within its ranks, many such enthusiasts. As host club for this event, one of its duties was to design a suitable course. The club chose a loop of around 2.5 kilometres on narrow and rather quaint country roads which provided a mini-tour of the quiet delights of the townland. Apart from a gentle rise mid-lap, followed by a gradual descent to the finish, the course was generally flat and fast. While the women’s and men’s races had different starting points, the finish line for both was directly in front of Scoil Naomh Áine in the village.

Both races had big fields with numbers in the women’s race more than 50% up on last year and the increase in the men’s race just a little less than that.

The women’s 4km started on the back section of the lap with 34 runners toeing the line. Lisa Dempsey (SBR) and Maria McDonald (Wexford Marathon Club) showed from the start that they meant business, opening a gap on the field. With a lap done, Lisa had around 20 metres on Maria with Sandra Young of United Striders 30-40 metres further back, Vanessa McShane (Croghan) 10 metres behind her and tracking her the SBR duo of Louise Cosgrave and Claire Walsh. From that point to the finish line, the top two stayed pretty much as they were, Lisa taking the title with Maria in the silver medal position just 8 seconds behind her. Vanessa made good use of the descent to the finish to overtake Sandra and claim the bronze. Sandra stayed on for fourth while Claire leap-frogged past Louise to place 5th. With Louise in 6th and Orla Fogarty 7th, SBR’s scoring four finished with a points total of 19 and team gold. Striders were second (44 points), Croghan third (59).

A field of 50 runners lined out in the men’s 8km. From very early on it was obvious that, barring a meteorite striking Rathgarogue, a surprise attack by the Martians or a choking priest summoning his flock, the title was going to Brendan Lyng of United Striders. Brendan genuinely looked like he was enjoying the whole experience: light on his feet, loose-limbed and full of running. At the other side of the daylight he left in his wake were his clubmates Adam O’Connor and Thomas Harrington with a further gap back to a larger group. With a lap to go it was a case of as-you-were with the top three, Lyng in cruise-control and stretching his lead, Harrington and O’Connor happy to let him go and matching each other stride-for-stride. Closing slightly on them was the hard-working trio of Brian Maher and Kevin Morris of Croghan and Brendan Dunne of SBR.

By the finish line a fresh-looking Brendan had a 29 second winning margin. As the battle for silver intensified, young Adam O’Connor felt the hot surge of last-lap lactic setting in and Harrington broke clear to open a six seconds gap and take the runner-up spot. Adam was more than happy with his bronze. Of the pursuing trio, Brendan Dunne proved to be strongest as he sprinted home for 4th, Brian Maher 5th, Kevin Morris 6th. Striders, with three in the top three and fourth and final scorer David Larkin 11th, with, for good measure, the reassurance of having Pat Murray in 12th place, were easy winners of the team title (16 points) ahead of second placed SBR (37) and bronze medallists Slaney Olympic (46).

Following a post-race jog everyone gathered in the community hall for a well-deserved cuppa and a feast of home-bakes. In this quiet and untroubled corner of the county they do old-time hospitality in style.

Women’s results …. Men’s results