Wexford Juniors & Under 23s impress in Tullamore

This is the biggest week of the year in the athletics firmament with the World Championships taking place in Eugene, Oregon. For athletics-lovers this is as good as it gets, seeing the world’s very best athletes sweating blood to get the very best from themselves. Athletes may have come to Oregon with a string of Diamond League wins and best-of-year times or distances; but in the heat of championship battle where psychology is as important as fitness and where sense of occasion can turn the swiftest and strongest limbs to jelly, one’s curriculum vitae contains nothing more than a record of past achievements. It’s all to play for with success meaning as much to former champions as to those making their first big break-through. Look at what victory means to women’s 100 metres gold medal winner Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, her fifth World Championship title. Or the undisguised delight of shot put world record holder Ryan Crouser in triumphing over his US team mate and previous world champion Joe Kovacs by just five-hundredths of a metre. At the other end of the spectrum, there was no consoling the USA’s Devon Williams, one of the favourites in 110 metres hurdles, who was deemed to have false-started in the final and disqualified. The ecstasy and the agony. And all for our entertainment!

Meanwhile, the Irish track & field season continued on its way last weekend, with more national titles up for grabs at Junior and under 23 levels, and the annual end-of-season schools international (SIAB) featuring the best young athletes from what we once called ‘the home nations’.

This month, two of Wexford’s middle distance stars donned the green vest in the service of their country: one is Slaney Olympic’s much-lauded master athlete Anne Gilshinan who won two gold medals at the World Masters Championships in Finland; the other is DMP’s Claragh Keane who competed, for the first time, at the European Athletics Off-Road Running Championships in El Paso (Canary Islands). This is real mountain goat stuff where you try ignore the fact that the hot sun is frying your brains while you spend half an hour running up a mountain, then running down a mountain. Brilliant and exhilarating? Yes. Mad? Absolutely. The following weekend, Claragh was a weary 10th in the under 17 3000 metres. Being human and behaving like a mountain goat may have unintended consequences!

At last Sunday National Junior & U23 Championships in an infernally hot Tullamore, Claragh was like a figure from the fantastical mind of author Flann O’Brien as she ran like Bodach an Chóta Lachna and soared like Queen Púc to win the junior 3000 metres steeplechase with ease (11.22.38). Normal service resumed. Clubmate Clare Barrett showed further signs of her return to form as she was runner-up in the under 23 event.

Jack Forde (St Killians) has just completed his first year at university where he is studying something complicated involving numbers and formulae. While on holidays, perhaps too strong a word, he spends the first half of the day training, the second half working. Presumably he spends the third half sleeping. A paragon of diligence and self-discipline, Jack does not do things by half. And yet, in giving his all, he makes it look so easy. Competing at junior level in Tullamore, he flung the discus out to 37.16 metres to win. Gold and another pb for Jack. As a combined events athlete, his day was far from over. He aded a bronze in shot (13.79 metres) and another in high jump behind Enniscorthy’s Dannan Long, both on 1.80 metres, and he place 4th in long jump with 6.40 metres, one centimetre away from a medal. Nice work Jack.

Still on throws, one of Wexford’s emerging stars is DMP’s strongman Padraig Hore. He won the under 23 discus with 45.68 metres, close to his pb, and placed 3rd in shot (12.15 metres).

Menapians thrower Sarah Louise Carr was 4th in last year’s weight for distance event. This time she threw a pb of 5.40 metres to take a silver medal (under 23).

Ciara Mooney (Adamstown) went slightly faster than her silver medal winning performance in the previous week’s All-Ireland under 18 3000 metres walk to place in the same position in the junior event (15.24.57).

Enniscorthy’s international star Blanaid Fogarty won the under 23 400 metres in 56.78 seconds. Lots more to come from this lady. And the same may be said about her young clubmate Elizabeth Gahan who placed 4th in junior 400 metres in 58.22, a pb. Aaron Tierney Smith of Menapians qualified in 2nd place in his under 23 400 metres heat and was 3rd in the final in 50.49.

Last week we reported on how two Wexford athletes hogged the limelight at the National Juvenile Championships. Both, Michael Kent and Dannan Long, were in action again last Friday at the schools international, of which more below, with the latter also competing in Sunday’s National Juniors. Dannan, as mentioned above, placed just ahead of Jack Forde in high jump to take the silver; he was also 2nd in his 200 metres heat (22.41) but opted not to run the final.

Maeve Hayes of St Paul’s was 3rd in under 23 long jump (5.24 metres) and 5th in 100 metres hurdles. Eimear Halpin, Menapians, was 5th in junior 400 metres hurdles.