A: Grange, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, Ireland | E: info@mullingarharriers.com

Leinster Senior & Juvenile Uneven Ages XC 2021 (7th Nov)


Very successful conclusion to Leinster cross country

Leinster cross country concluded on Sunday 7th November when the Leinster Senior and Juvenile Uneven Ages Cross Country Championships was held in the beautiful surroundings of Avondale Forest Park in Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow. Thankfully, while it was a bit chilly at times, the weather stayed dry for the day so the course stayed in excellent condition throughout the long 12-race programme. Athletics Wicklow is to be congratulated for putting everything in place and left no stone unturned in ensuring the course and facilities were up to the highest standards. Avondale is a hilly place, and after every race bodies were strewn around the finish area as exhausted runners gave every last effort in the final uphill stretch to the finish line, but while the course was challenging it was still fair and a great test of strength and fitness that suited the stronger athletes.

In contrast to the attendance in Kilkenny two weeks previously, nearly all the Mullingar athletes that were entered competed on the day, with only a few missing due to illness, so we had our strongest teams in most events. We had reason to be concerned after the first day that Mullingar’s dominance in  underage cross country was under challenge, and some other Clubs in Leinster are definitely snapping at our heels, but 2 Club gold, 2 Club silver and a Club bronze pushed us clear on the points table and we should retain the cup for best club in juvenile cross country in Leinster. Club team success aside, we also had a County bronze and 12 Mullingar athletes won individual medals by finishing in top-12 places, including Tianna O’Leary who powered to victory in the under 13 girls race to take the Leinster title.

Before the Championships proper, there were open races for boys and girls under 9 years of age where Penny Bohan and Katie Bohan ran in the girls race and Mel Bohan ran in the boys and they all thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We are sure to see these youngsters in the coming years racing in Championships proper.

The Championships proper began with the 1,500m for girls u/11 where Mullingar had a big team, led home by Lily Walsh in 8th place, followed by Chloe Bell in 13th, just missing an individual medal by one place, but cross country racing is also about the team and with great support from Clodagh Conlon (Athlone IT), Shaynah Mitchell, Grace Murphy, Aoife Gouldsbury, Lucy Kilmurray, Aoibhe Martyn, Amelie Kelly, Alannah Reihill and Maria Gouldsbury, the girls were unlucky to finish 4th Club, just missing the medals by  a few points in a close finish. Seeing Cillian Galvin 10th, Niklas Santin 11th and Antonio Bertolo 13th, just missing an individual medal by one place, in the 1,500m for boys u/11, we knew Mullingar was in the hunt for team medals and thanks to excellent support from Louis Kiernan, Oisin Clarke, Adam O’Connor, Aonghus O’Reilly, Cian Sheerin and Joel Kelly leaving nothing on the track, the boys finished 2nd Club and were rewarded for their efforts with team silver medals.

Taking the early lead in the 2,500m for girls u/13, the race commentator kept us all updated with the progress of Tianna O’Leary throughout and we were delighted to see her sprint up the finish straight to win by a big margin, her first Leinster title. Despite great efforts by Eleanor Kiernan, Kirstin So (Athlone IT), Emma Lagan, Blathnaid Peters, Muireann Galvin, Lisa O’Brien, Sadhbh Carey, Roisin Flynn and Rachel Gouldsbury, the girls were unlucky to finish out of the team medals in a very competitive race. On to the 2,500m for boys u/13 where Conor Walsh was in fantastic form and running very strongly throughout and keeping enough in reserve for a big sprint finish, came home in an excellent 8th place, leading the very large Mullingar team to 3rd Club, thanks to great support from Conor Geoghegan, Darren Corcoran, Scott Cogan, David Reilly, Greg McDonnell, Zack O’Leary, Oliver Lynch, James O’Connor and Aaron Conroy.

The 3,500m for girls u/15 was a tough test for Rachel Murphy, Lydia McDonnell, Muireann Reihill, Caoimhe Clarke, Muireann Donohue, Rosie O’Grady and Siofra O’Reilly and despite their best efforts, they finished out of the team medal places, but top marks to the team for effort. Jamie Wallace was always in contention from the start of the 3,500m for boys u/15 and it was only in the closing stages that the eventual winner opened a gap that Jamie couldn’t close, but fighting hard all the way he finished in an excellent 2nd place. With Donagh Carey in 13th, just missing an individual medal by one place, and strong running from Matthew Molloy, Conor Liston, Luke Greene, Niall Brady, Darragh Bennett and Barry Walsh, the boys thoroughly deserved their gold medals for 1st Club. They finished 4th County, just missing medals by a narrow margin, but 4th County means they still qualify for the All-Ireland finals.

Caoimhe Kilmurray looked strong and smooth in the 4,000m for girls u/17, keeping right up with the leaders throughout, and with a very strong finish came home in 3rd place to win an individual medal. Adele Geoghegan left nothing behind and collapsed over the line in 7th place, and with Grace Byrne not far outside the top twelve, and fantastic team support and packing from the fast finishing Jessica Cunningham, Aisling Lane, Leah Geoghegan, Caoimhe Donohue, Siofra O’Halloran, Aine Gilhooly (Athlone IT) and Ellen Foran, the girls richly deserved their medals for 1st Club and 3rd County. It’s often said in cross country racing that the team is only as good as the fourth score, and we got a great example of that in the 5,000m for boys u/17. First to finish in 8th place was Ross Killalea, ahead of Conor Sherwin just outside the top twelve place, followed by Pablo Lozano and then all eyes were on Conleth Mullen who dug deep and battled to the finish to provide the vital fourth score that saw the team finish 2nd Club, a rich reward for great effort.

Mullingar had no team in the 4,000m for girls u/19 but had excellent representation in Phoebe Bate who finished 6th, and Meabh Killalea in 9th, securing their places on the Leinster team in the All-Ireland finals. Lorcan Mullen was our sole representative in the 6,000m for boys u/19 where he put in an excellent shift and was delighted to finish in 5th place and secure his place on the Leinster team in the All-Ireland finals.

That concluded an exciting underage programme and proceedings then moved to the adult races, beginning with the 5,000m for Senior Women. Finishing well up in 14th place, the Mullingar and Westmeath teams were led home by Aine O’Reilly, followed in by Michelle Bohan, Anna Broderick, Amy Mahony, Treasa Gibney (North Westmeath AC), Aisling Corcoran, Michelle O’Halloran and Linda Cunningham all working very hard in support. The women finished a very creditable 5th Club and 5th County in an extremely competitive race. The final race of the day was the grueling 10,000m for Senior Men, a long testing race on the tough hills in Avondale but the Mullingar men were up to the task, led home by Ian McCormack, followed by Gerard Gavin, John Whitelaw (3rd u/23 man), Alan Crowley and Eoin Clarke. The team finished out of the Club medals but they were delighted for John Whitelaw on his individual bronze medal.

A Leinster title for Tianna O’Leary, another 11 top-12 finishers, 5 Club team medals, 1 Club team in 4th place, 1 County team medal and 1 County team in 4th place, means that Mullingar and Westmeath will have a big squad at the All-Ireland finals in Gowran, Co. Kilkenny in mid-December. The All-Ireland finals are a step up though and everyone that has qualified for the even ages in Santry in two weeks and for the uneven ages in Gowran two weeks after that needs to continue to apply themselves fully in training, at the Club on Tuesdays and Thursdays but especially in Belvedere at the week-ends.