Mr Oil Wexford Masters Cross Country and Juvenile Relays, Lingstown.

Wexford’s cross country season resumed last Sunday, with the Masters Cross Country and Juvenile Relays taking place in Lingstown. The location is stunning, with views out over the extensive costal marshlands and, all around, almost drumlin-like farmland. The same course was used for this event back in 2019, while in 2021 the County Senior Cross Country was held there.

The competition, sponsored by Mr Oil and hosted by Kilmore AC, was blessed with largely benign weather conditions, although the rain did roll in late in the day. The land out that way has great soakage so that the heavy rain of the previous week had little impact, although the gaps did get a bit messy.

The cross country relays followed the two masters races, something which might not have pleased all the mammies and daddies as morning turned to afternoon, the temperature dropped and the expected rain finally arrived. It would be great to report that the relays were very much about putting participation and fun ahead of winning at all costs. However, while the fun element was undoubtedly present, once some of those kids got the batons in their hands there was only one thing on their hyper-competitive young minds. With teams of four, the under 10 to 12 age groups ran 250 metres each while the older age groups ran 500 metres each. DMP was by far the most successful club, winning eight of the eleven races. That fact does not, however, get across the excitement of the relays, especially in the mixed races. Put it this way: just as the camera men make a b-line for the water-jump during a steeplechase race, the baton change-overs were where races were lost and won last Sunday. Full results here and photographs here.

The day opened with the Master Women’s 4km race, 2 and a bit times around the 1800 metres lap. Kilmore’s Elaine Cardiff broke away from the field in the early stages with clubmate Sinéad O’Brien following her at a distance. There was then another gap back to a group of five led out by Belinda Kehoe of SBR. On the final lap Elaine continued to stretch her lead, Sinéad holding firm in 2nd and, 40 seconds behind her a breakaway duo, Belinda being joined by Beth O’Connor of United Striders. Elaine trotted home to take the gold, Sinéad staying on for a comfortable 2nd. The bronze medal came down to a home-straight battle between Belinda and Beth, both coming through the final gap together with the finish line less than 100 metres ahead. Belinda’s superior speed proved decisive in the end, Beth having to settle for 4th. Kilmore on 10 points easily took the team title with Helen Doyle in 7th place the 3rd of their scorers. Croghan (5, 8, 9) and SBR (3, 6, 13) both finished on 22 points with the former getting the silver on countback, SBR having to settle for the bronze.

A big field of forty athletes lined out for the men’s 6km race. Fastest out of the traps was Myles Gibbons of SBR. Sean Crotty (Slaney Olympic) made an effort to go with Myles while the peleton was happy to stick with a more moderate pace. At the end of the first lap, Myles had 40 metres or more on Pat Foley (Croghan) with Sean Crotty, Alan O’Connor (United Striders) and Mark Poole (Croghan) a further 10 metres back. Trying to get back in contact with them were Liam Collins (DMP) and Colin Carney (United Striders), Paul Flanagan (DMP) looking a little weary in 8th place with Pat Culleton (US) 10 metres behind him. With two laps down and one to go, Myles was pretty much home and dry but things were heating up behind him. Alan O’Connor, Pat Foley and Mark Poole had upped the tempo and put daylight between themselves and the others. Three athletes, two medals up for grabs: game on! At this point, Liam Collins was best of the rest with Sean Crotty and Colin Carney on his tail. Next to show was a much rejuvenated Paul Flanagan looking like a man in a hurry. Myles remained in cruise control through the final lap to take the win. As in the women’s race, that final muddy gap to the finish brought further excitement as the two Croghan lads, Mark Poole and Pat Foley burst through to the finish straight together. Mark put the head down and summoned a great burst of speed to get ahead and take the silver by 2 seconds from Pat. There was a gap of 15 seconds back to Alan O’Connor in 4th place with Paul Flanagan putting in a super last lap to get up for 5th. Alan led the United Striders team to victory, the other scorers being Pat Culleton (6th), Colin Carney (7th) and John Byrne (10th). Croghan were runners-up on 36 points ahead of 3rd placed SBR on 39 points.

Ger Maloney, SBR place 11th overall and was first O60. Eugene Doherty of SBR won the O65 4km race while his clubmate Billy Harpur received a great reception as he took the O70 title. This was Billy’s first cross country race since crashing out of the Dublin Marathon following a tumble.

Full results of masters races.