AFTER battling it out at local and regional level, the best of Irish schools’ athletics talent are ready to compete at the ‘Aviva’ All-Ireland Schools Track & Field Final on Saturday next, June 4 at Tullamore Harriers Stadium.
This annual event is the culmination of months of tough competition for schools’ athletes throughout Ireland, who have progressed through regional and provincial championships to secure their much sought after place in the All-Ireland final.
Ten athletes from Offaly have qualified with profiles and times of their events provided below. This is the best attended of all Irish schools athletics events and it would be great if as many local people could attend to support the Offaly athletes.
Nicole Cuskelly - Killina Secondary School
Junior Girls 1500m - 4.25pm
FOURTEEN year old Killina secondary school student Nicole Cuskelly has packed more into the first five months of 2011 than many athletes could hope to experience in a life time.
As a cross country athlete Nicole had her best ever national finish when she was second to Mount Sackville’s Ella Fennelly in the Junior All Ireland. In that race Nicole should grit and determination to fight past four competitors in the last quarter of the 2.5km race to gain the podium spot. For this and earlier efforts she gained two selections to represent Ireland. Her performance at both the Celtic International in Dublin and the SIAB International in Antrim were great and her respective 8th and 16th place finishes show great promise for the future.
On the track Nicole has continued to make great strides forward. Over the past three months she has edged her 1500m personal best down from 5 minutes 10 seconds to 5 minutes 1 second. This significant improvement means that Nicole version 2011 is almost fifty metres ahead of Nicole version 2010. On Saturday Nicole will face some stiff competition from Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Antrim and Donegal. What you can be certain of is that she will try her best and that this is only the first of many visits to All Ireland Schools Track and Field Championships.
Liam Brady - St Brendan’s CS, Birr
Senior Boys 5000m - 5.05pm
LIAM Brady will be hoping to make the podium in the Irish Schools Senior Boy’s 5,000m final (at 5.05pm), having been fourth in the same race last year. He finished third in the Leinster School’s 5,000m, after being sidelined with an injury for 9 days recently and is expected to perform much better on Saturday next. He ran the European Junior qualifying time in the 10,000m just four weeks ago, despite carrying an injury and now that injury has healed, he will no doubt perform up to his usual high standard. Liam is the current National U-19 Cross Country champion but he can expect stiff opposition from the runner-up in that race, Jake Byrne, who won the Leinster Schools 5,000m title. Kevin Dooney from Dublin and the Ulster competitors are others who will make this race a battle to the end.
Eileen Rafter - Ursuline, Thurles
Junior Girls 800m - 1.45pm
IN the past three years Eileen Rafter has had steady and significant improvement as she has stepped up to become one of Ireland’s best competitors over the half mile distance. From a personal best of 2:27 in 2009 through 2:23 last year and already down to 2:20 this year these seconds of improvement have meant that Eileen has won many provincial and a couple of national medals too (her silver medal in under 16 age group at the All Ireland Indoor Championships the most recent). Her time of 2:20 in Indoor competition this winter actually put the fourteen year old inside the top twenty of all Irish female 800 metre runners. Her precocious talent is aided by a huge level of determination and you can always be sure that Eileen will give one hundred percent.
On Saturday Eileen will face stiff competition from Louise Shanahan from Cork, Alanna Lally from Galway and Vera Fadel from Carlow but Eileen has earned the right in the last two years to be considered one of the favourites for a podium finish
Stephen Kelly - Yates College
Senior Boys 440m Hurdles- 12.30pm & Senior Boys 400m- 4.05pm
STEPHEN Kelly from Moate will run in the Senior boys 400m. Stephen spent his first five years of secondary school in Cistercian College Roscrea where he represented the school in both athletics and rugby. He has won two All-Ireland pole vault gold medals and represented Ireland on three consecutive years at Combined Events in Kelvin Hall, Glasgow.
He joined Tullamore Harriers three years ago under Nick Hannon and in May of 2010 decided to concentrate on 400m running. Stephen now attends Yates College in Galway whom he represented when winning the Connacht finals two weeks ago.
He has had a minor setback recently by pulling his hamstring but is now coming into good form and hopes to perform well on Saturday.
David McElligott - Tullamore College
Senior Boys Javelin - 4pm
DAVID McElligott competed in the Leinster Club Championships ball throw competition 5 years ago and took home silver. Coach Tom Godley noticed that David had a good throwing arm and suggested that he try the Javelin. In 2010 David won the South Leinster Schools with a throw of 42.95 and came third in the Leinster’s with 39.82. Though not his best throw David still got through to represent Tullamore College in the All Irelands where a p.b. of 45.59 secured bronze. Two weeks later, representing Tullamore Harriers, David won the Leinster Championships with 41.55, ensuring selection for the Inter Provincials. A new p.b. of 46.60 guaranteed silver in the Tailteann games but narrowly missed international selection. David did not lose heart though and went on to take silver in the All Irelands.
2011 has started out very well for David as he won the South Leinster schools with a throw of 44.84, and the Leinster schools with 44.52 even though this is his first year as a Senior. He is looking forward to competing once again in the All Ireland Schools in Tullamore on June 4.
Kelley Cunninham - Killina Secondary School
Senior Girls Discus - 1.30pm
FOR Kelley Cunningham 2010 was a year to shine with Provincial and National honours. Kelley competed in the South Leinster Schools where she finished 2nd in the shot putt with a new personal best of 8.45m and 3rd in the discus. She progressed to the Leinster Schools where she finished 3rd in the discu and went on to compete in the All-Ireland Schools in Tullamore representing Killina Presentation School where she finished 7th. A few weeks later she competed in the Leinster Juiniors for the first time and finished 3rd with a throw of 28.54m. Kelley again finished third in the Leinster u-18 discus with a new personal best of 29.94m and progressed to the All-Irelands where she had a great day when she finished 3rd place. It was a great achievement and a memorable day.
Kelley also competes in the Mazda League in discus and shot putt for Tullamore Harriers. 2011 also started well when Kelley won the south Leinster Schools discus with a throw of 29.87m and 3rd in the shott putt with a throw of 8.21m.In the Leinster Schools Kelley was 2nd in the discus with a throw of 28.67m and fifth in the shot putt with a throw of 8.35m. This qualifies her for the All-Ireland Schools on the 4th of June in the discus. We can expect great things from this athlete as 2011 progresses.
Laura Dolan - Gallen Community School, Ferbane
Intermediate Girls Javelin - 2pm
LAURA is 15 years of age and has been involved in athletics since she was 12. She is a member of Ferbane AC and a third year pupil at Gallen Community School, Ferbane. Laura has always competed in throwing events.
2010 U-16 Shot Putt –Bronze Leinster Indoors. Intermediate Hammer-Bronze South Leinster Schools 4th in Leinster Schools. Javelin – Bronze Leinster Juveniles Hammer – Silver Leinster Juveniles. Javelin – Bronze All Ireland Juveniles Hammer – 4th All Ireland Juveniles. Silver for Offaly in Javelin in Community Games Finals
2011 U-17 Shot putt – Bronze Leinster Indoors. Intermediate Javelin – Silver South Leinster Schools. Intermediate Javelin – Bronze Leinster Schools.
In 2009 Laura was awarded Female Juvenile Athlete of the Year by Offaly Athletics, she also has received Athlete of the Year from Gallen CS.
James Mulligan - Ardscoil Rathangan
Intermediate Shot Putt - 2pm
IN 2010 James came 2nd in the leinster indoor shot putt, 2nd in the All Ireland shot putt. He also won the South Leinster discus and hammer in schools competition. He then went on to come 1st in the Leinster Schools hammer. These great performances at regional and provincial level were followed by James faultless performance at the All Irelands where he finished a clear winner.
In club competition James came 1st in the discus, 1st in the shot putt and 3rd in the hammer competition at provincial level. He followed this by placing finished 3rd, 2nd and 2nd in these respective events consolidating his position as Ireland best all round thrower in this age division. Later on in the year he followed this with 3rd in the community games shot putt.
So far in 2011 young Mulligan has also tasted victory in provincial and national competition winning the indoor shot putt at both levels. On Saturday he will compete in the shot putt in the Intermediate age grade (having narrowly failed to qualify in the hammer). All the more remarkable as James is also able to compete as an Intermediate again next year.
Patrick Heffernan - Moate Community School
Intermediate Boys 100m Hurdles - 3.15pm
AS a student in Moate Community School Patrick has showed tremendous levels of determination and dedication so far this season. Having qualified for the All Ireland Schools last year in this same Intermediate age bracket Partick would have seemed a sure bet for a medal this year. However he has been badly affected by injury and was laid up for almost six weeks. Despite this and only a week’s training Patrick had a great performance at the Connaught School’s competition where he finished a clear second. Both Nick Hannon and Frank Brennan who coach young Heffernan are positive that despite these recent setbacks he will perform well on the day.
Christopher Higgins - St Mary’s Edenderry
Intermediate Boys Javelin - 1pm
PROFILE not available at time of going to press.