Sometime mid-afternoon last Sunday, word started filtering through the Wexford contingent at the SETU sports grounds in Carlow that Wexford were a goal up on Kilkenny. Surely some mistake! Just because The Model County was, a week earlier, reduced to a model of what not to do when you have a 17 point lead over a county not on intimate terms with the game since the days Tuathal Teachmar ruled Ireland from the top of Uisneagh Hill, only to see it evaporate like a government majority, it didn’t mean the Cats were going to cut you some slack out of the kindness of their feline hearts. If there’s one principle our nearest and dearest neighbours adhere to it is, to quote Will Shakespeare, that “There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” Like, put the boot in; nothing personal. To paraphrase the title of a 1914 poem by Maeve Cavanagh: ‘Wexford’s Difficulty, Kilkenny’s Opportunity’.
That Wexford’s hurlers kept their noses in front all the way to the finish line was more than enough to fire Wexford hearts, even at that late hour, at the annual extravaganza of athletics that is the Leinster Senior, Junior and Masters Track & Field Championships. Cast aside the playbook; anything is possible!
Let’s start at the beginning. Conditions were ideal on Saturday with glorious sunshine and little wind; Sunday, on the other hand, was a less benign day, being overcast and windy (obviously a sign that the gods were working their behind the scenes celestial trickery in preparation for the ding-dong later in the day!). Conditions aside, the competition was of the usual high standard with an abundance of top class performances including a number of championships bests, national records and qualification standards for upcoming international events. With so many events and age categories to cover the weekend, while offering a feast of entertainment for T&F enthusiasts, is a real feat of endurance for everyone, not less the officials.
Dannan Long showed that the excellent form he showed at last weekend’s Leinster School’s meet was no once-off performance. The Enniscorthy AC athlete powered away from the field in the junior 100 metres to win in a huge personal best time of 10.75 seconds, breaking the 11 second barrier for the first time. Dannan then went on to complete the double, winning the 200m in 23.17 seconds. Aisling Kelly (Taghmon) was 4th in the under 23 and senior 100m (12.66 seconds).
Michael Kent (DMP) won junior long jump in a championship best performance of 7.00m, 8 cms better than the previous best set back in 2004 and 10cms in excess of the qualifying distance for the European Youth Olympics Festival which this year will be held in Maribor, Slovenia. He will be looking forward to tackling the same event, along with the high jump, next weekend at the All-Ireland Schools meet.
A fit looking Cara Kelly (DMP) followed up on her Leinster Schools 300 metres silver with a stylish win in her 400m heat in an excellent 57.72 seconds; she placed second in the final. She then won the 400 metres hurdles in 68.27 seconds. Cara’s base of cross-country running over the winter months, as well as her swimming work, is standing her in good stead. Clodagh Dunbar (Clonliffe Harriers) was 8th in the senior 400 metres.
Maeve Hayes was 3rd in senior 100m hurdles (16.28s) and 4th in both high jump (1.50m) and long jump (5.23m). Maeve looks to have rediscovered her athletics mojo which will no doubt please her coaches and colleagues at DCU as well as her clubmates at St. Paul’s.
Veteran Enniscorthy athlete Michael Ryan was 3rd in the M80 100 metres in a time of 18.01 seconds. (Just you try doing that when you reach the same milestone!)
Conor Wilson (Clonliffe Harriers) was 5th in senior 200 metres (23.35s). Dusan Radicanin (Enniscorthy) was 4th in M35 200 metres (27.46s). Ilze Bedrite (Menapians) really enjoyed her first outing at this level, placing 5th in M45 200 metres and 4th in 800 metres.
Joe Mooney (Adamstown) won the Senior Men’s 5000m walk in a time of 20.07 minutes, while John Egan (St. Killian’s) was second in the M40 event (35.49 minutes).
Róisín O’Reilly (UCD) won the senior 1500 metres (4.45.16 minutes) with Clare Barrett (DMP) in 5th place (4.54 mins). Jelena McNamara (Enniscorthy) was 12th in the junior race (6.16 minutes). Catherine O’ Connor (Menapians) won the W55 1500 metres (6.44 minutes). Niall Sheil (St Killian’s) was 2nd in M45 1500 metres (4.22.76 mins), while Martin Kelly (Menapians) was the M65 winner (5.33.47 mins).
Róisín and Clare were back in action the following day in the 3000 metres, the UCD girl taking a close runner-up spot in a time of 10.04.51 minutes and Clare again coming home in 5th (10.32.12). Catherine O’Connor won the W55 3000 metres.
Wexford’s strength in the throws was very much on display. Padraig Hore (DMP) was an easy winner of both senior shot put (12.45m) and discus (43.30m). Keelan Dobbs (Enniscorthy) was 3rd in senior javelin (17.02m) and 5th in shot (5.77m). Ronan Gately (DSD) was 4th M50 javelin (25.40m).
Saidhbhe Byrne (Enniscorthy) had a comprehensive win in junior javelin with a best of 38.75m; she was 4th in shot put (9.43m).
Croghan’s Will Hunt Tyrrell, formerly with DMP, made a welcome return to championship athletics, winning the M50 shot put (12.58m) and placing 3rd in weight for distance (7.71m). His clubmate Des McCarty was 4th in M60 shot (7.39m) and 3rd in javelin (15.04m).
Female masters throwers have been gaining momentum in Wexford in recent years led at one end of the demographic scale by the aforementioned Saidhbhe Byrne and, at the other, by a slew of late developers. Deirdre Bowers Kavanagh (Enniscorthy) was 2nd in M55 shot (6.24m), javelin (10.84m) and weight for distance (5.69m). Mary Breen (St. Joseph’s) won M60 shot (5.76m) and hammer (14.99m). Áine Cullen (US) was 2nd in M45 shot put (7.32m), 2nd in hammer (18.99m) and best in class, by just 2 cms, in weight for distance (5.67m).
Enniscorthy stalwart Margaret O’Connor won the M50 javelin (26.20m) and long jump (4.08m), and she got a silver in 200 metres (30.89s) and a bronze in 100 metres (14.48 seconds). Further hammer glory came Wexford’s way with Tracey Nolan (Menapians) winning M45 bronze (15.01m) and Lisa Breen (Enniscorthy) getting M40 bronze (12.11m). In discus, the Wexford women were again on top of their game, Áine Cullen finishing 2nd in M45 (19.10m) just one place ahead of Tracey Nolan (13.42m); Lisa Breen was 2nd M40 (15.95m) and, rounding off a very successful championships, Maggie O’Connor was 3rd W50 (15.60m).
Well done to all and best wishes to our secondary school competitors who head to Tullamore on Friday evening and Saturday to compete in the All-Ireland Schools Championships, one of the most competitive and enjoyable meets of the year.