One of the highlights of the Cross Country season is the AVIVA All Ireland Schools and Irish Universities Championships and this year’s competition was as good as any witnessed in recent years, with several promising young athletes of the future excelling.
The National Aquatic Centre in Abbotstown Dublin was the perfect venue as the flat course provided great underfoot conditions and as a result fast running was the order of the day.
When Shane Quinn (De La Salle Waterford) took over the lead Kevin Dooney (CBC Monkstown) was the only one to go with him. However, Quinn was on his own after a couple of hundred metres and he coasted to another fine win at national level to provide the perfect preparation for the World cross country championships next weekend. Dooney held on to second with Liam Brady (St. Brendan’s Birr) third. Douglas Community School won the team contest by one point from St. Malachy’s.
The outcome of the senior girls race was much closer with Amy O’Donoghue (Villiers School Limerick) outsprinting Maire Aine Ni Shuilleabhain (Gaelscoil Ceatharlach) in the closing stages. Megan Ni Iosagain) was third. Colaiste Iosagain won the team contest from Rathmore Grammar.
Sean Tobin (High School Clonmel) had to work hard to get away from the persistent challenge of Ian O’Hairtneid (Colaiste Daibhead Corcaigh), opening up a ten second lead towards the finish. Aaron Hanlon (St. Mary’s Drogheda) was third. Team victory went to High School Clonmel from St. Fintan’s.
Siofra Clerigh Buttner (Colaiste Iosagain) took the lead from the gun in the intermediate girls race and was never in danger of being caught as she raced to a fine win. Linda Conroy (Mercy Kilbeggan) was second with Jean Clancy (St. Michael’s Kilmihil) third. Colaiste Iosagain won the team from Ballyclare High School.
The junior boys race produced a close finish with Hugh Morgan (De La Salle Waterford) outpacing Paddy Robb (St. Malachy’s) and Shane McGowan (St. Columb’s Derry) for a good win. St. Kieran’s College won the team from Douglas Community College.
Ella Fennelly (Mount Anville) produced a strong finish to outsprint her rivals in the junior girls race, with Nicole Cuskelly (Killina Secondary School) getting the better of Niamh Cotter (Bantry Community College) for the minor places. Ursuline Thurles won the team from Victoria College Belfast.
The introduction of minor races at All Ireland level produced two fine winners. In the girls race Nadia El-Tom Power (St. Macdara’s Community College) had a strong finish to win from Clodagh O’Reilly (Loreto College Cavan) and Laura Costello (Ursuline Thurles), with Ursuline Thurles winning the team from St. Macdara’s.
Daniel Gallagher (St. Catherine’s Killybegs) was another to produce a strong finish to win the minor boys race from William Hynes (St. Attracta’s Tubbercurry) and Luke Dinsmore (Coleraine AI). Colaiste Mhuire Mullingar won the team from St. Malachy’s.
The closest finish of the day came in the Universities women’s race. A breakaway group of four – Becky Woods, Bryony Treston, Ciara Durkin and Laura Shaughnessy – dominated the race, but that was down to two turning into the finishing straight. An all out sprint saw Ciara Durkin (DCU) just edge ahead on the line to win from Bryony Treston (TCD) with Becky Woods (TCD) third. DCU won the team from TCD.
Dan Mulhare (WIT) was never challenged as he romped home to win the Universities men’s race, with Liam Reale (UL) outsprinting Brendan O’Neill (DCU) for the minor places. DCU were team winners from WIT.
On the basis of what we saw this weekend, the future for Cross Country in Ireland is exciting.