IT was great to see the couple of dozen Tullamore Harriers athletes who arrived to compete in the Leinster Schools Cross Country Championships in Santry Demesne, Dublin on Wednesday, February 16.
This course hosted the European Cross Country Championships late in 2009 and with mucky underfoot conditions and steep hills it offered a tough challenge for all those competing.
Minor Girls: First out were the under 14 girls. For the Scared Heart there was the trio of Nadine Donegan, Ciara Galvin and Keelin Guilfoyle competing and for Killina, Emily Grennan who is taking part in only her second Cross Country race. Nadine Donegan put in a fight all the way to finish 16th, just one place shy of qualification for the All Irelands. Ciara Galvin, who was out injured for almost six months, is showing steady improvement in each race and to finish 50th of 200 starters should be a great confidence boost. Emily and Keelin had both been suffering from flu in the days leading into the competition but didn’t baulk at the tough 1500m course and ran strongly to finish in the top one third of runners.
Minor Boys: The Coláiste Choilm duo of Chinnie Izuchukwu and Sean Rigney had a great debut in the Schools Cross Country scene with both qualifying for the All Irelands in two weeks time as a result of their strong early running. Chinnie was one of the early front runners who set a blistering pace. While he faded to 5th in the end he should, with the longer distance of 2500m for the All Irelands, be looking to claim a top five position there too. Sean fought all the way and his fifteenth position is a great showing for the young Killeigh athlete.
Junior Girls: Nicole Cuskelly of Killina took her place in the leading group of four athletes.right from the gun.
For the next two thousand metres the positions of these four changed regularly with Nicole pushing the pace herself after the first lap. With a quarter of the race left she was in second but in the finishing straight was caught for pace and came home third. This puts her as a leading contender for the upcoming All Ireland competition.
Nicole will be joined there by Eileen Rafter who had a great run in the Munster Schools Cross Country the following day. Finishing seventh in a tough field of athletes, Eileen was only thirty yards from the bronze medal position and also should be aiming high for the All Irelands.
Junior Boys: Barry Mooney is one of the best all round sportspeople to have joined the Harriers. It is easy to see why he is constantly in demand by soccer, hurling and football coaches.
He never complains and always gives 100%. On Wednesday over two miles thirteen year old Barry was fighting all the way. His eight place finish comfortably qualified him for the All Irelands where, with a less hectic schedule in the week before competition, Barry should be looking to finish in the top dozen.
Intermediate Girls: Sinead Rigney and Ciara Izuchukwu ran well over the challenging conditions and both girls can be rightly proud of their top forty finishes.
Senior Boys: After a hectic few weeks of competition, Liam Brady ran a solid race in the Senior Boys, doing enough to qualify comfortably for the All Irelands where he will be expected to put in an excellent performance to finish off his career in school’s competitions.