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AAI Novice & Juvenile Uneven Ages XC 2017 (Waterford)

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Mullingar dominates again in Juvenile All-Ireland cross country

The final cross country fixture of the year was the AAI Novice and Juvenile Uneven Ages Cross Country in Waterford IT on Sunday 17th December where despite the ravages of illness that forced some key team members out, Mullingar Harriers still emerged as the dominant Club in Ireland in juvenile cross country for the third year in a row. The host Club, Waterford AC, laid out a great course in the magnificent grounds of Waterford IT, and with terrific car parking and facilities, the venue proved an ideal choice for an All-Ireland final. The course was tough and hilly, and mucky in many places, but the Mullingar athletes train in Belvedere, so hills hold little fear for them.


Leading up to Sunday, we knew 3 of our athletes were ill during the week and could not travel and compete, another 2 opted not to compete for their own reasons, but on the day another 7 didn’t turn up due to illness, and to really test us, another 6 had to stop during their races due to illness. That made a total of 18 athletes from a squad of about 70 that were ill or missing. Despite the high attrition rate, Mullingar still had 2 individual wins, Conor Liston (u/11) and Jamie Battle (u/19), another 4 finished in the top-12, 7 won medals with Leinster teams, 3 Club teams won gold and 2 County teams won gold. When added to the two Club gold and one Club silver at the even ages cross country in Abbottstown three weeks before, Mullingar Harriers is certain to retain the Kennedy Cup for best juvenile cross country Club in Ireland for the third year in a row. To do so in the face of the loss of so many athletes on the day is testament to the strength of our teams and of course to the huge amount to time and effort put in by Club coaches preparing them for competition.


Morgan Corcoran led the Mullingar team home in the girls 1,500m u/11 in an excellent 20th place, just missing a Leinster team gold medal by one place. Following in was Orla Manning, Lydia McDonnell, Jayne Charles, Rose Macken and Muireann Donohue who all ran very well on the tough hilly course but finished out of the medal places. The u/11 girls had been missing a few key athletes but no problem for the Mullingar team in the boys 1,500m u/11, which was at full strength. Disaster struck for Jamie Wallace as he fell heavily at the start but despite his young age, he knew enough to get back up without delay and do his best to get back in the race as quickly as he could. Conor Liston took the early lead and opened a sizeable gap but with two hundred metres to go the gap on the chasing group closed and he was passed. Into the home straight in second place, Conor dug deep and used his terrific speed to take the lead again in the dying stages to cross the line and take the All-Ireland title. Piling in behind him were his team mates, Luke O’Leary making up huge ground with his customary sprint finish in 7th, James Flynn in 10th, Matthew Molloy in 11th, and with four in the top twelve, it was gold for 1st Club by a huge margin. Jamie Wallace recovered brilliantly to finish very strongly, and with great support from Criostoir Ormsby, Niall Brady, Arthur Drummond, Rory McDonnell and Alex Lynch, it was gold for 1st County too. Luke, James and Matthew also won gold medals with the Leinster team in the Inter-Provincial competition.


In the girls 2,500m u/13, both Leah Geoghegan and Lucy Donnelly had to stop due to illness and with the loss of two such key members, the team faced an uphill battle to take anything from the race. Aimee Wallace gave it her customary best effort and finished just outside the top twenty, missing a Leinster team medal by just one place, and was followed home by Adele Geoghegan, Grace Byrne, Katie Boyle (Athlone IT), Robyn Bates and Aisling Lane. The team finished out of the medals, but in a very creditable 8th place. Ryan Jenkins led Mullingar home in the boys 2,500m u/13, finishing just outside the top twelve places, and with Philip McCartan on his heels, followed by Diarmuid Fagan, Ross Killalea, Tadhg Sheridan and Callum Costello packing brilliantly, and with great team support from Daire McDonald, John Ryan, Adam Brady and Adam Smyth, the boys were rewarded with double gold, 1st Club and 1st County. They won the County gold by just a single point, a very clear demonstration of why coaches always emphasize that every place counts in cross country team racing! Ryan also won a gold medal with the Leinster team.


The girls 3,500m u/15 team was led home by Amy Geoghegan, winning silver with the Leinster team, followed by Bea Drummond, Phoebe Bate, Meabh Killalea, Meghan Bates and Francesca Walshe who all battled well on a course that by now was really breaking up into long stretches of very soft mud in many places, packing well to finish in a fine 6th Club place. Aoife McGouran was forced to stop due to illness. On to the boys 3,500m u/15 where Colin Smith had a great run and finished well up, followed in by Sam Smyth, Colin McGee, Mark Langtry and Kevin Martin who gave it their best but the team finished out of the medal places. Unfortunately, Lorcan Mullen had to stop due to illness, which really affected the team score.


The Mullingar team in the girls 4,000m u/17 put the smiles back on our faces again. Caoimhe O’Brien led the team home in 11th place, and with great support from Jennifer Fidgeon, Susan Glennon, Aoife Darby, Lisa Gavin (Athlone IT), Ciara Smith and Elysia Greene, the girls finished 1st Club but missed the County bronze by just a few points. Susan also won a silver medal with the Leinster team. All our bad luck with illness was really visible in the boys 5,000m u/17 where of a team of ten, only five took to the start line but only three finished, as both Andrew Daly and John Whitelaw were too ill to finish. Eoin Quinn had a great race and finished well up, and also running well was Brian Martin and Paul McCool, but with only three finishing, no team medals were possible.


We had no team either in the girls 4,000m u/19 but that didn’t stop Andrea Brady and Laura Shaw putting in Trojan efforts nevertheless on the muddy course, finishing well up and despite the inevitable fatigue, knew they had run very well and but for the want of a third runner, would have finished well up in the Club placings. The final underage race, the boys 6,000m u/19, had us on our feet cheering for Jamie Battle. Staying with the early leaders, Jamie never put a foot wrong, negotiating the sticky mud on the corners and covering an early break that saw the leading group reduce to three. With a lap to go, Jamie surged to the front and drove on hard on the flat section and the gap he opened gave him sufficient cushion on the long uphill section, so that when he turned for the final downhill run into the finish, he had a good lead and was not going to be beaten, despite the best efforts of the man in second place chasing him hard. Jamie’s victory and All-Ireland title in his final underage race as he will turn junior next year, neatly rounded off an excellent day for the Mullingar underage teams. Jamie also led the Leinster team to gold.


We weren’t quite finished though and it was great to see Mullingar field a full team in the Novice Men 6,000m. Cormac Dalton ran an excellent race and finished a fine 12th place and has to be satisfied with his effort. Following in was Ian McCormack, followed by Michael Moran, Garry Gavin, James Keegan, Andrew Nevin, Hans de Raeymaeker and Liam McGlynn. No team medals, but our men’s team finished a very creditable 7th place.


That rounded off a memorable day for Mullingar. The parents of our younger athletes are to be commended for having the interest and taking the trouble of booking accommodation nearby the night before rather than face a very early start for the long journey on the day, which ensured that the athletes were as refreshed as possible. The fixture was only a week before Christmas, which is not nice ideal for families. Many thanks too to the parents and supporters and to the coaches for their assistance and vocal support on the day from the first race right to the last. Most will now take a well earned break over the Christmas and come back refreshed for the indoor season in the New Year but for Jamie Battle and Caoimhe O’Brien the break will be brief as they must keep in shape for the Celtic Cross Country in Antrim in January, where Jamie will compete with the Irish Junior men team and Caoimhe will compete with the AAI Development team in the u/18 race.

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