The Athletics Year in Wexford

The year just past was one of the strongest in years for Irish athletics with some powerful record-breaking performances on the world stage. Ciara Mageean had a stellar Summer, breaking Irish 800 metres, 1500 metres and mile records and just being denied a medal at the World Championships in Budapest. Rhasidat Adeleke won the NCAA Division 1 400 metres and placed 4th at the World’s. Along the way, she became the first Irish woman to break 50 seconds for the distance. The Irish women’s 4×400 metres relay team, which included New Ross athlete Sophie Becker, placed 8th in the final at the World’s. Sophie also played her part in getting the mixed 4×400 metres team to the final. Sarah Lavin set new records for 100 metres flat and over hurdles as well as placing 10th in sprint hurdles in Budapest. Also breaking records were sprinter Israel Olatunde and combined eventer Kate O’Connor. At the European Under 20 Championships, Elizabeth Ndudi won long jump gold while multi-record breaking Tyrone wunderkind Nick Griggs took silver in the 3000 metres. Just last month, young Griggs struck individual bronze and led Ireland to team gold in the under 20 race at the European Cross Country. Darragh McElhinney continued his development as a world class athlete with a fine 4th place finish in 3000 metres at the European Indoor Championships. He was just one of a number of middle distance athletes mixing it with the best at top meets and running very fast times. These included Brian Fay, who broke the Irish 5000 metres record, Andrew Coscoran, who knocked chunks off his own 1500 metres record, and Eric Favors who continued to push out the shot put record. And who will forget seeing Sophie O’Sullivan out-kicking Sarah Healy to win the 1500 metres final at the European Under-23 Championships? Athletics Ireland chose to skip last February’s World Cross Country Championships in Australia, a decision that left some disappointed.

Looking ahead, Ireland will have athletes at the World Cross Country Champs in Croatia next month. The World Indoor Championships take place in Glasgow in early March and the European Masters Indoors taking place in Poland later the same month. Paris hosts the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad in August.

County Championship events
Just as this has been a fine year for Irish athletics on the international stage, Wexford athletics has enjoyed a successful year. This is largely down to the hard work of county administrators, club personnel and the ongoing support of sponsoring company Mr Oil.

The county’s athletics year started with the Wexford Masters Cross Country and Juvenile Relays in Lingstown. DMP was dominant in the relays, winning eight of the races. Kilmore’s Elaine Cardiff won the women’s 4km race while Myles Gibbons of SBR won the men’s 6km race.

Annalise Crean of Adamstown was crowned Wexford novice road champion in February. United Striders took the women’s team prize. Thomas Harrington won the men’s race and his club United Striders took team gold by the slimmest of margins.

The Intermediate road races were held in Rathgarogue in March. Lisa Dempsey won the women’s race and led SBR to team gold. Brendan Lyng won the men’s race and his club Striders were best of the teams.

The Mr Oil Wexford Juvenile T&F Championships took place over three days in May. With athletes encouraged to participate in as many events as possible the focus was on giving it a lash rather than winning although this did not stop some athletes excelling in all areas. As usual it was a case of all hands on deck and all the clubs got stuck in to ensure everything ran smoothly.

The county’s top athletes came together on a blazing hot evening in May for the senior road championships. Ciara Wilson (DMP) was an impressive winner of the women’s race, Kilmore AC being best team. Marathon man Seán Hehir (Croghan) won the men’s race at a canter while United Striders’ strength in depth secured the team title.

Menapians hosted the inaugural county senior road relays at Wexford Racecourse on a very wet June evening. The Kilmore team of Helen Doyle, Sharon Cloney and Elaine Cardiff won the women’s event. Victory in the men’s race went to the Croghan team of James Porter, Seán Hehir, Mark Poole and James Herterich. Croghan also won an exciting mixed relay race, Seán and Mark being joined by Sandra Bernie and Clodagh Kelly.

The Wexford Senior T&F Championships in July marked the highpoint of the county’s Summer athletics programme. While numbers on the first of the two days of competition might have been better, the second day was much livelier. There were several fine solo efforts, including Chloe Reck (St Killian’s) in 100 metres and triple jump, Blánaid Fogarty (Enniscorthy) in 400 metres, Cara Kelly (DMP) in 200 metres, Fiona Kehoe (Kilmore) in 800 metres, Róisín O’Reilly (UCD/Guest) and Niall Sheil in their 1500 metres races, Seán Hehir in 5000 metres, Áine Cullen (United Striders) in shot, Maggie O’Connor (Enniscorthy) in javelin and international pole vaulter Michael Bowler (Enniscorthy).

Last August’s Oylegate Half Marathon doubled as the county championship. The women’s title went to Beth O’Connor of United Striders with Slaney Olympic taking the team title. Seán Hehir won the men’s race, United Striders winning team gold.

Photo by Niall Moran.

At the National Half Marathon, David Mahon of Slaney Olympic (now with GCH in Galway) ran 68.38 to finish second in a huge field. The United Striders M50 team of Brendan Lyng, John Byrne and David Kehoe were 2nd. Brendan, running a pb of 75.38, won individual M50 gold. Eugene Moynihan (SBR) was 3rd M65.

At the County Novice Cross Country held in Camross last October, Eilís Peat won the women’s 4km race and led United Striders to team victory. Brendan Dunne of SBR won the men’s 8km race with Striders taking the team title.

Photo by Sean Rowe

In December, Enda Cloake of Slaney Olympic claimed the 2023 Wexford Senior Cross Country title holding off last year’s champ Seán Hehir, although Hehir had the satisfaction of leading Croghan to the team title. Earlier in the year, Enda was a member of the Irish team which competed at the World Mountain Trail Running Championships in Innsbruck. Fiona Kehoe claimed her 11th senior county cross country title. SBR women were women’s top team.

Not a Wexford event but one worthy of mention: at the Autumn Open Cross Country in Abbotstown, Elizabeth Gahan, formerly of Enniscorthy AC and now with Celtic DCH, ran the opening leg for her club’s second team in the inaugural national senior mixed 4 x 1500 metres relay. Her team placed third. The first two teams, Rathfarnham W.S.A.F. and DCH, compete at next month’s European Cross Country in Portugal.

The county’s athletics clubs typically rely on a small committed crew to deal with the humdrum business of admin, coaching, submitting entries, etc. Tedious stuff to be sure, but that does not stop some going one step beyond. Adamstown organised a successful Spring T&F league for children over two weekends in April. DMP and Kilmore’s Winter League provided a welcome and fun early season series for children. Menapians hosted a well-attended ‘Her Outdoors’ throws demo session in Wexford town. Slaney Olympic in association with My Sport ran a popular Summer League. On top of that there were a plethora of races and meets organised by various clubs.

Especially worthy of mention is WMC’s Festival of Running at Johnstown Castle and the United Striders organised 5K Stride on the new South East Greenway. Take a bow all you hard-working officials! As Athletics Wexford Chairman John Joe Doyle says, without you athletics in Wexford would not be as strong as it is. Competitive athletics aside, big numbers of fitness enthusiasts continue to turn out for the weekly parkrun. Many of these joined radio presenter Alan Corcoran on his successful RUN65 Summer fundraiser for Wexford Marinewatch.

Wexford’s top performers in 2023
Wexford athletes performed with distinction over the past year on both international and home stages. One athlete we will not see in a green singlet again is former Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and Menapians AC member Leon Reid who announced his retirement in 2023.

Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Sophie Becker
International athlete and New Ross native Sophie Becker (Raheny Shamrocks) comprehensively won the women’s 400 metres final at the National Indoor Championships, beating Phil Healy. She was 2nd to Sharlene Mawdsley in the National outdoors 400 metres. Sophie was a member of the Irish women’s 4x400m team which placed 8th in the final at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest.

Michael Bowler
Pole vaulter, decathlete, athletics commentator and physio, the popular Enniscorthy athlete placed 2nd in national indoor pole vault and won Wexford’s only gold medal at the outdoor championships. He vaulted 4.50m to win at July’s AAI Games in Santry. At the European Team Champs that same month, he was forced to use borrowed poles, his own having gotten lost in transit. He still managed a 4th place finish, albeit well off the 4.80m clearance he achieved in Loughborough the previous month. Michael is a real asset to the athletics community, one who is proactive in developing strong camaraderie among vaulting and combined events athletes.

Jack Forde
One of the hardest working and most respected athletes in Wexford athletics is the awesomely talented Jack Forde. During the year, he brought honour and glory to both St Killian’s AC and to Dublin City University. His year started in January with the National Indoors. Competing under 23, he got golds in high jump (1.85m) and shot put (12.57m) and bronze in long jump (6.29m). A week later at the National Indoor Senior Heptathlon, Jack won six of the seven events, winning the competition outright with 4624 points. The same month he steered DCU to another IUAA indoor title. He was 2nd in Leinster Indoor Senior heptathlon in March (4543 points). At the outdoor IUAA Championships in April, he showed himself to be a class apart as he won the men’s pentathlon on a score of 3126 points off the back of a string of fine performances. All told, between individual and combined events, he contributed 33 points to DCU’s winning total of 161. Indeed, had he been a stand-alone college he would have placed 6th overall! Fellow DCU athlete Maeve Hayes placed 3rd in the women’s pentathlon. Jack won high jump at the National Under 23 Championships (1.90 metres) as well as winning pole vault, equalling his pb with a jump of 3.70m, and getting bronze in discus. Last May, Jack travelled to Manchester for the English Senior Decathlon and, with more pbs and notwithstanding injury on day 2, came away with a new best of 6155 points. He had to cope with some fairly atrocious weather for July’s National Senior Decathlon. He won comfortably with yet another pb of 6211 points. The same month he won high jump silver at the national championships. In September, Jack won silver medals in high jump and 4×400 metres relay at the CSIT World Sports Games in Italy. What a year!

Dannan Long
And what a year it has been for Dannan Long. In January he received a call up for the DNA U20 International meet in Madrid. A subsequent injury meant that he ended up not travelling. He opened his indoor season with the National Indoor League, posting good times in both 60 metres (7.07) and 200 metres (21.9). He then won national indoor junior 200 metres in a new pb time of 21.84 seconds. At the Leinster Schools T&F in May, Dannan, in the colours of FCJ Bunclody, won senior 200 metres in an impressive 21.9 seconds. He next won the Leinster junior 100 metres in 10.75 seconds (pb), as well as winning the 200m. Pre-race favourite in the senior 200 metres at the All-Ireland Schools, he did not disappoint, blasting out of the blocks to win in a new personal best of 21.83 seconds. He was a class apart at the Leinster T&F Champs as he smashed the championship record for under 19 100 metres, running 10.78 seconds in the heats and going two hundredths of a seconds faster in winning the final. Dannan was on the team that nailed European Under 20 qualification at the Mannheim Junioren Gala Meet. He also ran the 200 metres at that meet, lowering his pb to 21.63. At the All-Ireland under 20s, he won his 200 metres heat comfortably in 22.48 seconds. In ever-worsening weather conditions, he came a very close 2nd in the final in 22.15 seconds. He had another 200 metres win at the DSD Games clocking a new best of 21.64 seconds. Very much on a roll, he then clocked 21.37 seconds at the AAI Games as well as running 10.81 for 100 metres. At the All-Ireland’s in Tullamore, he won the under 19 100 metres in a relatively sedate 11.05. He placed 7th in the national senior 200 metres final (22.19). Come August he headed to Jerusalem for the European Under 20 Championships 4×100 metres relay. The boys clocked 41.34 to finish 7th in their final before, alas, later being disqualified. Dannan has wasted little time in getting his new year off to a fast start, running 7.01 for 60 metres at last weekend’s National Indoor League.

Michael Kent
Mikey Kent is a force of nature. He gets the whole citius, altius, fortius thing. Faster, higher, stronger. No quarter asked, none given. He is exciting to watch, cool under pressure and always gracious to his fellow competitors. Early in the year he was awarded the Áine Pobjoy Award for outstanding performances by an under 16 athlete.
He started the year with a joint 2nd in national indoor junior pole vault (3.70 metres). He was 2nd again in a close-fought high jump (1.93 metres pb). Shortly after that he won the National Indoors Youth Heptathlon by a massive 600 points, setting a new championship best performance (CPB). Last February, while still competing at under 17 level, he won his first national senior medal, placing 3rd in triple jump with a leap of 13.34 metres. He also placed 6th in senior pole vault (4.05m). The following month, Michael was in scintillating form, winning high jump (1.80m), triple jump (13.34m CBP) and pole vault (CBP-equalling 3.90m). He gave a thrilling exhibition of vaulting to a delighted audience at the juvenile Leinster indoors in April. With the under 17 competition already well won, he finished with a big record-obliterating clearance of 4.20 metres (pb) which really raised the roof. He won Leinster Schools intermediate long jump and was 2nd in high jump. Next he won senior county titles in long and high jump. On May 28, as Wexford were beating Kilkenny in hurling, Michael was setting a CBP of 7.00 metres for long jump at the Leinster Championships in Tullamore. That was more than good enough to give him the win and gain him qualification for the European Youth Olympics. Michael hit the jackpot twice at the All-Ireland Schools at the start of June, winning long jump (6.96 metres) and high jump (1.91 metres). The same month he won the Leinster under 17 long jump with 6.70 metres, a new championship record (CR). He then cleared a new best of 4.25 metres in pole vault to obliterate the old record. He ended the month with wins in the same two events at the inter-provincial Tailteann Games, for which he was awarded the Fr. Lonergan Trophy for Best Male Athlete. He started July on a high with a win in national under 20 long jump (6.69 metres) and bronze in pole vault (3.70 metres). He crowned a brilliant Summer season with a fabulous 8th place finish in long jump at the European Youth Olympics in Maribor, Slovenia. In doing so he jumped a personal best of 7.02 metres. His team mates surprised him with a 16th birthday cake at the post-meet banquet. Michael finished out the year with Leinster gold and All-Ireland Silver in schools combined events.

Fiona Kehoe
Kilmore AC’s Fiona Kehoe started the year with a bronze medal, and first F40, in Leinster Masters Cross Country. The following month she won the W40 1500 metres at the National Indoor Masters in 4.36.56 minutes, the fastest time across all categories. Then at National Indoor Seniors she placed 6th in the 1500 metres final (4.32.46 minutes). She was overall winner of the Leinster masters women’s road race held last April in Gowran. In July she ran 2.13.94 minutes for 800 metres at the AAI Games and 4.29 minutes for 1500 metres when winning at the DSD Games. She followed this with an excellent 5th place in a very exciting 1500 metres final at the national championships. At the national masters in August she won W40 800 metres (2.18) and 1500 metres (4.39) and in September she won silver in 1500 metres (W40) at the European Masters Championships in Italy. Last month, Fiona claimed her 11th senior county cross country title.

Joe Mooney
Another year of top class performances for the Adamstown race walker who, like his sister Ciara, won medals and set pbs at provincial and national levels. Joe also managed to take part in a few international events. See racewalking report below for further details on Joe’s achievements.

Ciara Wilson
One of the country’s top international tri/duathletes and a member of DMP, Ciara says that for her 2023 was ‘an average year’ performance-wise. So, what does an average year look like? She earned her first senior vest in the Armagh 3k, followed by a second vest for the Antrim Half Marathon. She defended her national duathlon title and won the national series; was 3rd in the national aquathlon; won age group medals in national triathlon championships. She was 5th in national 5km in Phoenix Park, won the Wexford 5km road champs in which her sister Katie was 3rd and she won the Stride 5k on the new greenway. Ciara ran 3hr 10mins in Dublin Marathon, her first and followed this up with a win in Waterford Half Marathon in 1hr 16mins. On the first day of the new year, she won the Tom Brennan 5km in the Phoenix Park in 16.10 mins (pb). And looking ahead? Another half marathon in March, a full marathon in April and, of course, a few tri/duathlons.

Ger Forde
A member of Kilkenny City Harriers, Ger’s year started last January with a pb of 24.27 minutes in the Raheny 5 mile. In February he ran a pb 65:32 minutes at the Barcelona Half Marathon. He was 34th in the National Cross Country and KCH won team gold, meaning that they qualify for the European Club CC in Portugal next month. Indeed, February will be a busy month for Ger as before going to Portugal he heads to Spain for the Seville Marathon.

Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Claragh Keane
DMP’s Claragh Keane has shown herself to be one of the country’s rising stars. 4th in Leinster Schools cross country and again at All Ireland Schools; 2nd in senior 1500m steeplechase and 3rd in 3000 metres flat at Leinster Schools; 2nd in steeplechase at All-Ireland Schools; 3rd in national under 20 steeplechase; 7th in national novice cross country despite illness. Since moving to Iona University in the USA on an athletics scholarship, she has put in some fine inter-collegiate performances.

Róisín O’Reilly
Formerly of Menapians AC and now competing in the yellow and blue of UCD, Róisín last year began to feel the benefits of a new training regime. She opened her account for the year with 1500 metres under 23 bronze at National Indoors. She won the IUAA 3000 metres steeplechase and was 3rd in 1500 metres. She won Wexford senior titles in 1500 metres (4.46.30) and 3000 metres (9.58). She won Leinster Senior 1500 metres (4.45.16 minutes), and was 2nd in 3000 metres (10.04.51). Róisín had a so-so run at the Autumn Open in Abbotstown, but she was much happier at the Dublin championships, placing 9th and happier again when being 5th across the line in the national under 23 cross country in the muck of Gowran. One of her varsity highlights was playing her part in retaining the IUAA Road Relay for UCD. Next weekend, Róisín competes at the Celtic Cross Country in Glasgow.

Clare Barrett
The popular and quiet-spoken DMP athlete made good strides forward this year. She doubled up in senior 1500 metres and 3000 metres at the Leinster Indoors, winning the 3000m in 10.27 minutes (pb) and taking silver in 1500m in 4.58 minutes (pb). Moving outdoors, Clare was 3rd in both Leinster under 23 and Wexford cross country champs. She won steeplechase silver at the national under 23 champs, and bronze in the same event at national senior.

Kara Morrissey
Since Kara Morrissey first tried pole vault she has set her sights on scaling the heights and making a name for herself in the sport. A Wexford native but competing with Carlow club SLOT, Kara’s year opened with the national indoor juniors where she was 3rd with 2.95 metres (pb). She was runner-up at the AAI Indoor Games (2.80 metres). She smashed the Leinster under 17 record, jumping 2.70 metres. She cleared 2.85 metres when winning at the nationals and placed 2nd at the Tailteann Games.

Saidhbhe Byrne
Saidhbhe, a member of Enniscorthy AC and a county footballer, won both javelin (36.80m) and shot put (9.28m) at senior level at Leinster Schools, going on to win javelin at the All-Ireland Schools (39.19 metres). She won Leinster junior javelin (38.75 metres) and placed 2nd at the DSD Games. Saidhbhe was last year awarded the Marian Feehan Award for Best Achievement at Combined Events in 2022.

Pádraig Hore
DMP and UCC national medal winning thrower Pádraig Hore was 2nd in IUAA discus (44.72 metres) and 3rd in shot put (12.89m). At Leinster Champs, he was an easy winner of both senior shot put (12.45m) and discus (43.30m). In the national champs he repeated his discus bronze medal effort of the previous year with a pb-equalling 46.05 metres. Pádraig was selected as the team captain of the team which competed at the CSIT Games in Italy last September. He threw close to his best in the discus competition, placing 2nd place (45.07 metres) and he was 3rd in shot (12.19 metres).

Cara Kelly
Another DMP athlete, Cara Kelly has just enjoyed her best year yet in athletics. Silver at the Leinster Schools in intermediate 300 metres; 1st in Leinster indoors under 18 800 metres (2.21.38) and 3rd in 400 metres (58.61 pb); 2nd in Leinster 400 metres final having run 57.72 in qualifying and 1st in 400 metres hurdles in 68.27 seconds; 1st in Wexford senior 200 metres; bronze in 300 metres and relay silver at the Tailteann Games; 2nd at All-Ireland’s in under 18 400 metres hurdles and 5th in 400 metres flat; 6th in national under 20 400m hurdles; 4 x 300m relay silver at the SIAB schools international.

James Prendergast
One of two Wexford athletes making the Irish team which competed at the English Championships in Birmingham last August, the Adamstown athlete threw a personal best of 13.91m in under 15 shot put to place 4th. Earlier in the year, James was 2nd in under 16 shot at national indoors (11.36 metres); 2nd in shot at All Ireland Schools; won Leinster shot (13.46 metres) and hammer (33.77 metres); 2nd at All-Irelands in both shot (13.65 metres) and discus (39.63 metres).

Abbie Doyle
Abbie, a student at Coláiste Bríde and a member of Enniscorthy AC, accompanied James to the English Championships where she was 6th in under 17 triple jump (10.61 metres). A fine camogie player as well as being a class triple jumper, she won silver medal in triple jump at the Tailteann Games. Her jump of 10.72 metres was the same distance as her bronze medal winning effort at the All-Ireland Schools Championships. She won the under 18 triple jump at both Leinster and All-Ireland Champs with a best effort at the latter of 10.86 metres. Abbie jumped 10.70 metres in triple jump to place 5th at the SIABs in Glasgow.

And there’s more
The trouble with lists is that they can be exhaustive; they tend to run out. Yet Wexford had so many athletes performing well during the year that we could be here until kingdom come listing them. Ergo, the following is a very quick run-through of some other Wexford athletes who impressed in 2023.

Artem Kelly (Meanscoil Gharman and St Paul’s AC) medalled at Leinster and national levels in combined events and jumps/sprints. Shannon Codd (Presentation Wexford and DMP) did likewise in hammer and shot, including getting hammer silver at the Tailteann Games. Among others medalling underage at provincial and national level were Enniscorthy’s Stephanie O’Connor and Jack Browne, Bree’s Ava Wilson who had a sensational year along with her clubmates Lea Bolger, Kiera Wilson and Sarah O’Brien, Taghmon’s Izzy Aspel, Elijah and Lucas Page Redmond (Menapians). Wexford’s young middle distance athletes making a mark in 2023 included Saoirse Flanagan, Aoife Walsh, Maria Coone and Éabha Keane (all DMP), Emma Hickey and Max Murphy (United Striders). And it was good to see Myles Hewlett, now a member of KCH, showing a return to form.

International 400 metres runner Blánaid Fogarty (Enniscorthy) had a relatively quiet year although one of her achievements was to help the Enniscorthy women to a 4th place at last August’s National League Division 1 final. Expect to see her pushing on in 2024. Menapians thrower Sarah Louise Carr and St Paul’s high and long jumper Maeve Hayes will also hope to build on the solid performances of 2023.

Rory Cassidy (Kilmore AC)

One of Wexford’s star performers who really merits a mention is Kilmore’s Rory Cassidy. Through his media, promotional and commentary work for Athletics Ireland, Rory has become one of the most recognised and respected people on the Irish athletics scene. Late last year he was confirmed as the new editor of Irish Runner magazine with the stepping down of the magazine’s founder, Frank Greally. 2024 is a huge year for Rory with the Paris Olympics taking place in July/August. Always calm under pressure, we know that he will take it all in his stride.

Racewalking
John Egan (St. Killian’s) was 2nd in M40 3000 metres walk (15.36 minutes) at National Indoor Masters in February. He placed 2nd again at the National Indoor Seniors (15.14).

At the Leinster Indoors in March there were wins in racewalking for Seán Walsh of Adamstown (under 14) and Maria Coone of DMP (under 17). Ciara Mooney (Adamstown) was 2nd under 19. At the national indoors, Seán placed 4th, Maria 3rd and Ciara 2nd.

Wexford won three medals in race walking at the Leinster Schools in May – Lily Ryan (OLOL Rosbercon) won the junior girls race, Maria Coone (Loreto Wexford) took the intermediate title (as well as placing 6th in 3000 metres), while Ciara Mooney (St. Mary’s New Ross) won silver in a competitive senior event. Lily went on to win at the All-Ireland Schools. Her St. Joseph’s AC clubmate, Evan Walsh (CBS Kilkenny), won the junior boys event.

Adamstown’s Joe Mooney finished an excellent 12th in the 20k at the Warsaw Race Walking Cup in May. Back home, he won Leinster senior 5000m walk (20.07 minutes), while John Egan (St. Killian’s) was 2nd M40 (35.49 minutes).

At the Leinster outdoor champs in June, Seán Walsh and Maria Coone repeated their indoor exploits outdoors, both winning. Ciara Mooney was again 2nd under 19.

Maria showed how her racewalking skills have progressed with victory at the All-Irelands. Seán Walsh was 3rd in the under 14 walk, and Ciara Mooney was 2nd under 19.

On then to the national champs. Joe Mooney was 4th in the 10000 metres walk (42.42.32), while Ciara was 5th in women’s 5000 metres walk (28.48.29).

At the National Masters in August, John Egan played a key part in one of the races of the day, the 5000 metres walk. He and the athlete who beat him indoors, David Kidd of SLOT, set a hot pace from the start and were together, stride for stride, right up to the finish. It is not often you see a sprint finish in a walk but that is exactly what happened. John took the win by a whisker (25.46.87 minutes).

Joe Mooney placed top 12 and came away with a pb at last month’s Dublin-hosted World Race Walking Tour. The programme included national champs and in the women’s 5km Ciara Mooney was 1st under 20, 3rd overall in a pb time of 26.14. In the men’s 10km race, John Egan placed 5th overall and 1st master (M40). In the younger age categories there was further good news for Adamstown with Seán Walsh 1st under 14 and Anna Walsh 4th under 12.

Masters athletics

The county’s athletics year started started one year ago with the Wexford Masters Cross Country and Juvenile Relays in Lingstown. Kilmore’s Elaine Cardiff won the women’s 4km race and, in the process, led her club to victory. Myles Gibbons of SBR won the men’s 6km race and United Striders took team gold. Ger Maloney, SBR was first M60 and Eugene Doherty of SBR was first M65. The indefatigable Billy Harpur was a popular winner of the M70 title. DMP was dominant in the relays, winning eight of the races.

At the Leinster Masters Cross Country held last January in Rathdrum, Fiona Kehoe was 3rd across the line overall as well as being first F40. The Wexford M50 team placed 2nd, the scoring members being Brendan Lyng (3rd M50), John Byrne, John McGrath and Ger Maloney. The United Striders M50 team was 2nd club. The following month, Brendan Lyng placed 7th at the nationals, leading the Striders M50 team to gold and the county to the runner-up spot.

At the Leinster indoor champs in March, Fiona Kehoe won W40 1500 metres (4.36.56 minutes). Jackie Carthy (Kilmore), running in the M50 1500, won the gold by a nose (5.12.26 minutes). Niall Sheil (St Killian’s) took gold in the M45 1500 metres (4.25 minutes). Elaine Cardiff (Kilmore) won W35 3000m. Áine Cullen (United Striders) got a W40 Championship Best Performance in weight for distance – 5.16 metres.

Fiona Kehoe (Kilmore) was overall winner of the Leinster masters women’s road race held last April in Gowran. With her clubmates Elaine Cardiff in 11th place overall and Jackie Carthy 14th (and first W50), Kilmore took team bronze (W35). Seán Hehir (Croghan) won the masters men’s race in some style. Myles Gibbons (SBR) was 4th overall and 2nd M45. Striders M50 athletes Brendan Lyng, John McGrath and John Byrne were 3rd, 4th and 6th respectively in their category giving them the team title.

The run of success continued at the national indoors. Fiona won W40 1500 metres (4.36.56 minutes). Jackie was 2nd in W50 3000 metres (11.13.39 minutes). Niall led from the front, to win with ease, M45 3000 metres (9.20.15 minutes) while Martin Kelly (Menapians) was 2nd M65.

Áine Cullen won W40 gold in weight for distance (5.02 metres) and was third in shot (7.69 metres). Enniscorthy’s Deirdre Bowers Kavanagh (W55) was 2nd in both shot (6.96m) and weight for distance (5.40m).

At the World Masters Indoor Championships in Toruń in March, Niall Sheil placed 7th in both the 3k and the 8k cross country and he won a bronze medal in the team event. Jackie Carthy was 4th in W50 3000m although she was subsequently disqualified for an infringement. She was also 4th in the 8k team Cross Country race (W35 / W40). John and Maggie O’Connor of Enniscorthy AC also travelled to the championship. Maggie competed in W50 60 metres and 200 metres heats, placing 4th in both as well as running 4 x 200 metres relay (4th). John ran M55 60 metres and 200 metres placing 4th in both.

The United Striders men’s M50 team of John Byrne, Brendan Lyng and John McGrath won silver medals at the National 5km Road Championships (part of The Irish Runner Series) in the Phoenix Park (May). Brendan won individual bronze (16.54 minutes).

The contest to see who would be Wexford’s masters of the road for 2023, was held on the quiet and hilly roads of Davidstown in June. Jackie Carthy won the women’s race, leading her club Kilmore AC to victory; Seán Hehir did likewise in the men’s race, Croghan taking the team title.

At June’s National 5 Mile Road Championships, part of the Irish Runner series, Brendan Lyng was 2nd M50 (29.07 minutes), his clubmates John McGrath 5th M50 (29.07) and Pat O’Callaghan 8th M55. Team silver for Striders.

At the Irish Runner 10 mile Challenge / National Championships in the Phoenix Park last July, Brendan Lyng won M50 bronze (57.46) and again led the Striders men – this time John Byrne, David Kehoe and Patrick Culleton – to second place in the M50 team event.

Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Wexford had a good medal haul at the National Masters Track and Field last August in Tullamore. As mentioned above, John Egan needed a sprint finish to win the 5000 metres walk. Fiona Kehoe, preparing for the European Masters, was an easy winner of both the 800 metres and 1500 metres races (W40), while Jackie Carthy won W50 bronze in 800 metres and silver in 1500 metres.

Martin Kelly was 2nd in M65 1500 metres; his clubmates Mary Gaynor (W55 800m) and Catherine O’Connor (W55 1500m) also made the podium. Wexford throwers really outperformed at the championships with three Enniscorthy women leading the way: Lisa Breen (2nd discus W40), Deirdre Bowers Kavanagh (2nd hammer; 3rd shot, 3rd WFD W55) and Maggie O’ Connor (1st javelin W50). Willie Hunt Tyrrell (Croghan) won M50 shot and Gerry Devereux (SBR) won M70 bronze in discus.

Fiona Kehoe was one a number of Wexford Masters athletes who travelled to the European Masters Championships which took place in Pescara, Italy last September. While looking like she had the winning of the 1500 metres (W40) she had to settle for silver. Brendan Lyng, Pat Culleton and John McGrath ran the M50 8km cross country event, Brendan in 7th place leading the team to a 4th place finish. Brian Smyth of Menapians was 16th in M40 8km. Maggie and John O’Connor were the heart and soul of the trip. Maggie competed in sprints and relays, medalling in the latter. John scored 4368 points in a very competitive decathlon event.

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Jackie Carthy, Niall Sheil and Eugene Doherty of SBR competed at a Masters Cross Country International in Glasgow last November. Niall’s team placed 2nd while Jackie’s team placed 4th. Eugene was 5th M65.

European and World champion and multiple record holder Anne Gilshinan of Slaney Olympic received the European Master Athlete of the year for 2022 in Pescara. She will be hoping to set a raft of new records this year as she moves up an age category.

Ultra Distance
Wexford Marathon Club has had a busy year with members competing championship and open races around the country. Some of their members ran in ultra distance races at home and abroad. Home races included the Irish 50 km Championships at Donadea Forest Park in February the Connemara 100 mile in August and the Kerry Way Ultra (190 km) in September. Turning to overseas, Wayne Holmes completed the 87 km course of the Comrades Marathon in South Africa in 10 hrs 58 mins. Owen Fenton and Karl Richards travelled to the USA for the brutally tough Ozarks 100 mile endurance run. Serious stuff. The club runs the annual Festival of Running at Johnstown Castle which takes place in May.

Finally, Chairman John Joe Doyle was delighted to see the work of two Wexford women of athletics being acknowledged by European Athletics. Aideen Sinnott, a native of Murrintown, received a coaching award and Evelyn Cox O’Reilly, originally from Fethard, received a women’s leadership award.

Sin é. Athbhliain faoi mhaise do gach duine in san phobal lúthchleasaíochta agus go mbeirfimid beo ar an am seo arís.