AAI National Novice & Juvenile Uneven Ages XC 2022 (4th Dec)
National Novice Men Team Title for Mullingar
The highlight of the long day of competition at the AAI National Novice and Juvenile Uneven Ages Cross Country in Cork on Sunday 4th December came in the final race, the Novice Men 6,000m. Nearly two hundred men charged from the start, the biggest field of the day, among them a strong Mullingar team, buoyed up by success at the senior cross country in Donegal two weeks previously, and clearly focussed on team success, knowing anything less than a Club team win would be a disappointment for them. Three laps of the hilly, twisting course with soft sticky mud and even standing water at the lower end of the course, really tested the mettle of the runners but the Mullingar team proved up to the challenge. Going with the leading group from the start, Jack Moran, Vinny Connolly and Euan Lagan showed they meant business, and with Ian McCormack, Andrew Nevin, James Keegan, John Whitelaw, Patrick Shaw, Robert Yorke and Richie Kelly running strongly in support, it was evident from early on that the Mullingar and Westmeath teams would feature in the medals. It was only in the final lap that gaps began to open among the leaders, but continuing to work hard all the way to the finish, a long tough uphill stretch to the line, Jack Moran led the team home with a terrific 4th place finish, followed closely by Vinny Connolly in 5th and Euan Lagan in 20th place. Focus was then on the vital fourth score and in the final half lap, Andrew Nevin edged past Ian McCormack and with a very strong finish clinched the team gold for Mullingar. Next in was Ian McCormack, James Keegan, John Whitelaw, Patrick Shaw, Robert Yorke and Richie Kelly leaving nothing behind to finish 3rd County, only three points off the silver medals, to give Mullingar plenty to celebrate on the long way home.
The day started with the 1,500m for girls u/11 where Chloe Bell was right in the mix from the very start. Racing hard over the twisting hilly course, Chloe was rewarded for her efforts with an excellent 5th place finish, winning an individual All-Ireland medal and a silver medal with the Leinster team in the Inter-Provincial competition. Penny Bohan, Amelie Kelly, Aoife Gouldsbury, Katie Bohan and Liadan Gavin raced hard and even though this young team finished out of the medals, can be satisfied with their efforts in an All-Ireland final. On to the 1,500m for boys u/11 where Gareth Glennon, Harry Flanagan, Conor Gavin, Cillian Gavin, Adam O’Donoghue and Donnacha Doyle ran well and worked really hard but finished out of the medal places, but can be proud of their efforts in an All-Ireland final against top class opposition.
Having kept up with the leading group throughout, it was no surprise to see Cillian Galvin leading the Mullingar team home in the 2,500m for boys u/13 with a fantastic 10th place finish to win an individual medal and a gold medal with the Leinster team, Unfortunately he couldn’t add a Club team medal to his medal haul despite the great efforts of Scott Cogan, Greg McDonnell, Zack O’Leary, Louis Kiernan and Ciaran Mulvany who battled hard but finished out of the team medal places. Tianna O’Leary was our sole representative in the 3,500m for girls u/15, competing on the Leinster team. Though she beat some of the girls that finished ahead of her in the u/15 Leinster cross country, she just missed winning a medal with the Leinster team but can be very proud of her valiant efforts. Proving that winning the team title in Leinster and finishing the best of the Leinster teams on the day is no guarantee of success in an All-Ireland final, Niall Brady, Luke Greene, Conor Walsh, Conor Geoghegan, Daniel Glennon and Conor Mulvany worked extremely hard in the 3,500m for boys u/15 but still came up short in the team medal stakes, such is the huge standard of competition in an All-Ireland, but that doesn’t take anything from the great collective effort they put in.
Doubling up as the trial for an Irish u/17 team to compete in Scotland in January added an extra competitive edge to the 4,000m for girls u/17. Though unable to quite match her form in the Leinsters, Grace Byrne still led the Mullingar team home and despite the strong support of Caoimhe Donohue, Ailbhe O’Farrell, Jessica Cunningham and Lydia McDonnell the girls were unlucky to finish out of the medal places, though 6th Club in a competitive All-Ireland is still a very creditable result. The 5,000m for boys u/17 was also a trial for Scotland and really racing hard from the start and giving himself every chance of success, Conor Sherwin finished in 10th place to win an individual medal but this was tinged with some disappointed with missing automatic selection on the Irish team for Scotland. Absence due to illness had taken some of the strength from the team but that didn’t prevent Pablo Lozano, David Burke and John Glennon from giving themselves every chance as they competed and raced hard all the way, but unfortunately they finished out of the medal places.
The final underage race on the programme was the 6,000m for boys u/19 where Ross Killalea dug very deep on the rapidly deteriorating course and in very close finish he crossed the line in 13th place, just outside the individual top-twelve medal places. However, Ross was a member of the Leinster team that was second, so he won a silver medal and therefore didn’t leave Cork empty handed after his last race as a juvenile athlete, as he move to the junior ranks in January.
Three Club gold and two Club silvers in Leinster meant our underage teams deserved better in Cork, but cross country running can be a very unforgiving sport and any hint of illness or feeling anything less than one hundred percent will be quickly exposed, as our underage teams discovered. However, we have to be happy with three individual top-twelve medals and three medals won with Leinster teams, and our underage athletes can collectively hold their heads high for effort on a tough course against the very best in Ireland and we know they’ll bounce back after some well needed rest and recuperation before the indoor season in the New Year.
Moving to the adult programme, over one hundred women contested the Novice Women 4,000m where the Mullingar team battled the tough sticky muck and gave every ounce of effort they could muster, but despite the best efforts of Michelle Bohan finishing well up, inside the top thirty places, and strong finishes by Aeilish McGovern, Linda Cunningham and Gemma Kelly, the Mullingar women finished out of the team medals but top marks for effort. That left us with the novice men as our last hope of team medal success and they didn’t disappoint, with a superb team effort by one and all to win the Club title and finish third County, rounding off a long day in Cork.