Leinster Novice, Junior & Juvenile Even Ages XC 2021 (23rd Oct)
Welcome return of Leinster Cross Country
After two long years waiting, Leinster cross country finally returned on Saturday 23rd October when the Leinster Novice, Junior and Juvenile Even Ages Cross Country Championships were held at a new venue, at Mountain View in Ballyhale, Co. Kilkenny. A former golf course, it proved an exceptional venue with great onsite facilities, parking and a great undulating course that was hilly enough to separate the best from the rest but not too hilly to unduly stress the weaker runners, so a very fair test for everyone. Very well done to the host club, St. Senan’s AC, who put in a lot of hard work preparing the course for the event and they came in for a lot of well deserved praise for their fine work. The weather forecast was for wind and rain, but while we had the wind, the rain only came in infrequent showers and wasn’t enough to spoil the day.
Three Mullingar underage Club teams won their races and two of them added County medals too, in addition to another two 4th place Club team finishes. Added to this medal haul were 11 individual underage medals, for finishing in the top-12 in their races. Our adult athletes weren’t to be outshone by the juveniles and the novice women finished 3rd Club and 4th County and the novice men 5th Club and 6th County in extremely competitive races.
Three underage Club team gold medals, medals for two County teams and 11 individual underage medals might seem like excellent juvenile results, but before we get too excited, at the corresponding events in 2019 and 2018, we won nearly twice as many team medals as we did this year. Dare we mention 2017 when every underage team won Club medals and it’s a long time since at least one Mullingar athlete hasn’t won an individual title at a Leinster cross country? The results from previous years should be a sufficient reality check and a wake-up call to show that we have an awful lot to do in Avondale in two weeks time if we want to retain the cup for best club in juvenile cross country in Leinster.
Getting back to this year, we were hit with a number of no shows, 17 in total. Some were due to illness or injury, which is perfectly understandable, but 9 just didn’t show up on the day, which is extremely disappointing, especially for the u/14 boys team that was missing 4 athletes. They finished 1st Club and would surely have won County medals too but for the want of a 6th runner.
The day began with non-Championship races over 1,000m for boys and girls u/10 years of age, and athletes as young as 7, 8 and 9 years of age from Clubs across Leinster competed with great enthusiasm. Aoife Gouldsbury and Maria Gouldsbury ran in the u/10 girls 1,000m race and both ran extremely well and were delighted to take part and thoroughly enjoyed the run.
After the excitement of the u/10 races, it was over to the first race of the Championships, the 2,000m for girls u/12 where Lisa O’Brien, Roisin Flynn, Aoibhe Martyn and Lucy Kilmurray battled throughout, finishing strongly, but out of the medal places. Mullingar had a big team in the 2,000m for boys u/12, where Cillian Galvin cut his teeth in his first Leinster with a fine 7th place finish, followed by Darren Corcoran, Aaron Wallace, Zack O’Leary, Greg McDonnell, James O’Connor, Jack Geoghegan, Oisin Kilmurray and Cormac McGrath packing well to finish 4th Club, just out of the medal places, and a very respectable 5th County team too. Fourth Club means Mullingar will still have a Club team in the All-Ireland finals though and with a top-12 finish place, Cillian will also be running on the Leinster team.
A big Mullingar team in the 3,000m for girls u/14 was led home by Tianna O’Leary in 9th place, and with great team support from Eleanor Kiernan, Lydia McDonnell, Muireann Reihill, Blathnaid Peters, Muireann Galvin, Sadhbh Carey, Síofra O’Reilly and Rachel Gouldsbury, the girls were very unlucky to finish out of the medals as 4th Club, but a team still qualifies for the All-Ireland finals. Seeing Matthew Molloy taking 12th place in the 3,000m for boys u/14, and Luke Greene, Conor Walsh and Niall Brady following him home in close order only a few places behind, with Conor Geoghegan in support, gave the Mullingar spectators plenty to be hopeful for and that was hope was realised when it was announced the boys finished 1st Club by a very big margin. Only for one more runner, the team would surely have won County medals too.
Another big Mullingar team took to the line in the 4,000m for girls u/16, and with Caoimhe Kilmurray storming through the finish in 7th place, followed by Adele Geoghegan in 11th, and great team support from Grace Byrne, Leah Geoghegan, Jessica Cunningham, Rachel Murphy, Caoimhe Donohue, Ellen Foran, Síofra O’Halloran and Muireann Donohue packing brilliantly, it was no surprise that the girls finished 1st Club and 1st County. Four in the top-12 and a fifth just outside, saw Mullingar and Westmeath absolutely dominate in the 4,000m u/16 boys. Conor Sherwin 2nd, Jamie Wallace 3rd, Philip McCartan 9th and Donagh Carey 11th combined to finish 1st Club by a huge margin, and with Pablo Lozano just outside the top-12 and thanks to David Burke battling all the way and providing the vital 6th score, the boys finished 2nd County, missing gold by just 2 points. We’ll surely see this team competing for National honours in a month’s time.
The 4,000m for girls u/18 and Junior Women was a combined race where the u/18 girls could win medals in both the u/18 race and as members of junior teams. We hadn’t enough for u/18 teams, but did for a Junior Westmeath team. Leading the team home in 11th place overall was Phoebe Bate (u/18), followed by Meabh Killalea (Junior), Aisling Lane (u/18) and Aine Gilhooley (Athlone IT, u/18). Phoebe finished 7th in the u/18 race, so received an individual medal. When the u/18 and Junior results were separated, the Junior women team finished a very creditable 5th County. The final underage race on the programme was another combined race, the 6,000m for boys u/18 and Junior Men, where like the corresponding women’s race, medals could be won in the u/18 race and as members of Junior teams. Unfortunately, we couldn’t field any teams on the day, so the Mullingar trio had to run as individuals. Matthew Glennon (Junior) led the Mullingar men home by with an excellent 9th place finish overall, the 8th junior man, followed by Ross Killalea (u/18) and Andrew Glennon (u/18). When the u/18 and Junior results were separated, Ross finished 7th in the u/18 race.
Moving to the adult races, there was a big field for the Novice Women 4,000m including a team of eight from Mullingar, and with supported North Westmeath AC, a Westmeath team of twelve. The Mullingar women were led home by Sinead Whitelaw in an excellent 9th place, followed by Michelle Bohan, Jenny Algar, Amy Mahony, Anna Broderick, Susan Glennon, Aisling Corcoran and Michelle O’Halloran to finish 3rd Club and with support from Treasa Gibney, Marie Masterson (NWAC), Karen Crean and Rosie Grall of North Westmeath AC, the women finished 4th County team in a close finish.
The day ended with the Novice Men 6,000m, which as usual was one of the biggest fields of the day. The Mullingar men left nothing behind them, driving through the line, and falling with exhaustion, led by James Keegan in an excellent 10th place, Ian McCormack only a few places behind and with support from Stephen Campbell, Brian Martin, John Whitelaw, Alan Crowley, Evan McCormack and Enda Seery, the team finished a very creditable 5th Club and 6th County in what is regarded as one of the most competitive races in Leinster cross country.
That rounded off a good day for Mullingar with plenty of individual and team successes and excellent running by everyone. The second round, for Senior and juvenile uneven ages will take place in Avondale, Co. Wicklow in two weeks time. The juvenile even age teams that qualified from Mountain View will go forward to the All-Ireland Finals in Santry Demesne, Dublin in four weeks time. Juvenile uneven teams for Avondale will be finalized by Club officials this week but in the meantime it is vital that everyone continues to train hard and be in the best possible condition for the next round of the Leinsters and for the All-Ireland Finals beyond, so we expect everyone to keep in full training over the coming weeks, especially in Belvedere this week-end.