The final of the Irish Life Health National League took place on Saturday in Tullamore. After making it comfortably to the Division One final having performed strongly in Round 1 in Templemore and Round 2 in Santry, the Wexford County Men’s team were heavily fancied by many to claim national glory. However amongst the team, everyone knew it was not going to be easy and that they would have to perform close to their best in every event. A strong team was selected comprising of some of Wexford’s strongest athletes, including the likes of International multi-eventer Michael Bowler and international walker Joe Mooney, who was also the team captain.
The action on the track began with the 110m hurdles. Representing the team in this event was Enniscorthy AC’s Michael Bowler. Multi-eventers are a fantastic asset to the team as they can step into a variety of track and field events and Michael did exactly that on Saturday. After recently securing a new Personal Best in the decathlon at the European Combined Events Team Championships, hopes were high amongst the team that Michael would secure all 9 points that are available in each event. He moved swiftly over the hurdles and his victory was never really in doubt, winning by a massive margin in a time of 15.20s. Despite being disappointed with his time, Michael and the team were delighted to get off to such a smooth start.
Meanwhile outside the stadium, the Hammer Throw competition was getting underway. Eamonn McEvoy of Adamstown was selected to represent the team in this event. The masters athlete is normally used to throwing a 5kg Hammer but with it being a senior competition he had to throw the 7.26kg Hammer. This was definitely not an easy task but Eamonn did remarkably well. He threw a best of 28.93m, placing him in 3rd. This earned a crucial 6 points for the team.
Back on the track it was time for the Men’s 3000m walk where team captain Joe Mooney of Adamstown AC was lining out. Joe is a former National 10000m walk champion on the track and his class showed throughout the race. While he may have picked up a couple of warnings along the way, he wasn’t disqualified. He won by a clear margin, lapping a lot of the field over the course of the 7 and a half laps. He clocked a time of 14.50 mins, which was well over a minute clear of the athlete in 2nd place. Another very convincing 9 points in the bag.
Peter O’Connor, a silver medallist in the recent Irish Life Health National Senior Combined Events Championships was next up in the Long Jump. The Enniscorthy AC man, is also very flexible when it comes to events and was an integral part of both relay teams. He bagged a crucial 7 points in the Long Jump, by finishing 2nd, with a best jump of 6.03m. As soon as the Long Jump finished Peter rushed over to the start line for the 400m Hurdles. In this event Peter had a strong race to finish in 4th place, bagging 5 points for the team in a time of 60.82s.
Shortly after the Mens 4x100m relay team were in action. The team comprised of Peter O’Connor, Adam Fitzhenry (Adamstown AC), Chris St. Claire Johnson (Adamstown AC) and Michael Bowler. Peter got the lads underway running a strong leg and handing over to Adam. Adam tore down the back straight, putting in a really solid effort before handing to clubmate Chris who ran a really strong bend. The baton was then past to Michael Bowler who finished strongly, crossing the line in 2nd place in a time of 44.24s. This earned yet another 7 points.
Straight after the relay, Michael was back over to the Pole Vault. This is Michael’s favourite event and he was eager to perform strongly in it a week out from the National Senior Championships. From the start of the delayed competition, his victory was never in doubt. He had first time clearances from 3.60m all the way up to 4.50m. Despite struggling at 4.60m, he cleared it on his final attempt. As the Pole Vault mat is right beside the stand, Michael had a great crowd watching the event and cheering him on which really helped to push him on. What an athlete!!
Aedan Rodgers of United Striders AC was next to put on the purple and gold singlet in the 1500m. The race was very tactical in the first couple of laps before Darragh Lynch (Ennis Track Club) and Andrew Connick, formally of St. Paul’s AC (Waterford County) began to pull away. Aedan continued to dig in and finished in 5th earning some more points for the team and running a time of 4.11.48 mins.
Padraig Hore was in action in the Shot Put during the 1500m races. Padraig tends to always be good for securing points and he did exactly that yet again. He won his Shot Put competition by a big margin of over a metre, throwing 11.66m. This was a great result for Padraig and made sure the team got yet another 9 points.
Ryan Carthy Walsh of Adamstown AC was next to compete. The talented high jumper was looking to win maximum points for the team. With an impressive PB of 2.11m, set a couple of year ago now, he was the firm favourite to win. Ryan entered the competition at 1.85m and soared over that height and 1.90m. He sealed victory with a first time clearance of 1.95m. Despite having three failures at 2.00m, the points were already secured so it didn’t have any impact on the team. It is great to see Ryan back in action.
Chris St. Claire Johnson of Adamstown AC was next to go in the 400m. Chris is both a strong 400m and 800m runner and his superior strength tends to show in the last 100m of a lot of races. This was once again the case on Saturday, where he collected 7 points for the team by finishing 2nd in a time of 51.04s. This was yet another impressive performance from a member of the Wexford team and at this stage the overall standings were looking quite good.
Padraig Hore was back in action in the discus. After a comfortable win in the Shot Put his victory in the discus was not so facile but was very arguably more than impressive. In what is only his first year throwing the 2kg discus, Padraig is without doubt getting better with every competition. On Saturday he threw yet another PB of 43.40m, to take the win and secure another 9 points. This was a great day’s work for Padraig, with two victories proving crucial.
Peter O’Connor was also in action in the Triple Jump. This is definitely not one of Peter’s favourite events but he still competed finishing 4th with a best jump of 11.56m.
Adam Fitzhenry was back in action in the Men’s 200m. The Adamstown man is having a strong season and that trend continued on Saturday. In what was a really close race, Adam placed 3rd in a time of 23.37s winning 6 points. There was only 9 hundredths of a second separating Adam and the winner of the race from Waterford County.
Peter O’Shea was then in action in the Javelin. The D.M.P athlete bagged maximum points in the opening two rounds so it was hoped he could do the same on Saturday. Peter had yet another strong performance, finishing 1st, with a massive throw of 53.85m.
Aedan Rodgers ran his second race of the day in the 800m. It is far from easy to run two middle distance races in a day and Aedan probably did feel his earlier exploits in the 1500m a little. He finished 7th in a time of 2.09.17 mins.
Eamonn McEvoy was also back in action in the 56lbs weight for distance. This is a very tough event which drew a large number of spectators to the corner of the stadium where it was taking place. Despite having a shoulder injury Eamonn placed 4th throwing 4.94m. This was only 10cm off the winning throw of 5.04m. This was a great day’s work for Eamonn, where he gained very important points for the team.
Michael Bowler returned to the track to run the 100m. Many believed that a victory in this race was crucial for the team’s chances so tension was high. Michael had a really strong performance where he took maximum points once again in a time of 11.12s. Team manager Paddy Morgan was nearly jumping for joy at this stage as victory was nearly in our hands.
However, it would all come down to the final event the 4x400m. Peter O’Connor, Michael Bowler, Adam Fitzhenry and Michael Bowler were the team chosen to run. Despite having a knee injury Adam continued on showing great determination. The strong quartet had a really strong performance placing 2nd and winning yet another 7 points, in a time of 3.27.93 mins.
While everyone was pretty sure at this stage that Wexford had gotten the victory, nobody was 100% sure of the final result. The team were delighted when it was announced that they were victorious beating near neighbours Waterford County by eight points. Joe Mooney collected the shield on behalf of the team, who received hard earned national medals.
Other members of the team in the other two rounds who win national medals are, Jack Forde (St. Killian’s AC), Rory Cassidy (Kilmore AC), James Hanlon (Taghmon AC) and Tom Furlong (D.M.P AC).
Great credit is due to all the team but special thanks must be given to Paddy Morgan (Kilmore AC) and Annemarie Forde (St. Killian’s AC), the team managers throughout the league. Also special thanks to Joe Mooney, the captain who organised the team for all the rounds along with the managers.
The team are now promoted to the Premier Division for next year where although the standard will be higher, the Wexford team have showed that they have the ability to compete!