National Intermediate, Masters & Juvenile “B” XC 2023 (12th Feb)
The National Intermediate, Masters and Juvenile “B” Cross Country took place in Gowran, Co. Kilkenny on Sunday 12th February where Mullingar athletes won six individual medals and Mullingar teams won six team medals. As has been the case for most of the past cross country season, top billing goes again to Vinny Connolly who took silver in the Intermediate race, leading the Mullingar team to second place and National team silver medals, in what has been a terrific year for Vinny and marked his spectacularly successful return to competitive athletics after nearly ten years away from the sport.
First race of the day was the u/11 girls 1,000m and Mullingar fielded a strong team intent on success. Racing hard all the way around the firm dry ground and first to finish for Mullingar was Amelie Kelly. With great support and close team packing by Clodagh Keane, Liadan Gavin, Maria Gouldsbury, Aoife Gouldsbury, Katie Bohan, Melody Kelly, Isabelle Smith and Robyn Kelly, the girls were delighted to finish 3rd Club and win the bronze medals. We had no team in the u/11 boys 1,000m but that didn’t prevent young Conor Gavin and Cillian Gavin from giving their best and they were delighted to be able to race in an All-Ireland final.
The next race was the u/13 girls 1,500m where the Mullingar girls were led home by the fast finishing Ruby Brennan, and with good support from Isla Brennan, Beibhinn O’Reilly, Shaynah Mitchell, Aoibhinn Smyth, Lucy Kilmurray and Mia Brennan the team was unlucky to finish out of the medals in fifth place, but this was a very creditable result in an All-Ireland final. Seeing Scott Cogan storm through to 2nd place in the u/13 boys 1,500m and with Greg McDonnell, Shane Canning, Cormac McGrath and Aonghus O’Reilly giving their all to the finish, the boys were rewarded for their efforts with silver medals as they placed 2nd Club.
Lydia McDonnell led the Mullingar team home in the u/15 girls 2,500m but despite the efforts of Emma Lagan, Muireann Reihill, Blathnaid Peters, Sadhbh Carey and Síofra O’Reilly, the team finished out of the medal places in what was a very competitive race. We got in the medal again in the u/15 boys 2,500m race where Conor Walsh raced to a fine 5th place finish and with Oisin Kehoe not far behind and supported by Conor Geoghegan, John Gilbride and Ronan Kelly, it was 2nd Club and team silver again for Mullingar.
Moving to the master races, in the 4,000m for the older master men, Sean McMullin worked hard and was very pleased to finish 3rd in his master category and win a National bronze. Paddy Boyhan also competed well but finished out of the medal places in his master category.
Mullingar had a very large squad of seventeen in the master women 4,000m and it was great to see so much maroon and white on the start line and as the race progressed they certainly made their presence felt throughout the big field of runners. Led home by Aine O’Reilly, and with Sinead Whitelaw right on her heels, closely followed by Jenny Algar and Michelle Bohan we were confident of team success for the younger master women. Next in was Maura Dervin, placing 2nd in her master category, leading the charge for our older master women. Aisling Corcoran, Aeilish McGovern, Claire Ross, Marie Louise Johnston, Linda Cunningham, Caroline Mullen, Terri Greene, Gemma Kelly, Joanna Tyrrell, Brigid McCabe (3rd in her master category), Pauline Troy (just missing an individual medal with a close 4th place in her master category) and Nuala Moran, all running so well and leaving nothing on the track, we were confident of team success for our older master women too. Our confidence was justified when the results were sorted after the race and it was announced that the team of Aine, Sinead, Jenny, Michelle, Aisling, Aeilish, Claire, Marie Louise, Linda and Gemma finished 2nd Club, and the team of Maura, Caroline, Terri, Joanna, Brigid, Pauline and Nuala finished 3rd Club.
In contrast to the master women, Mullingar had a small squad in the master men 6,000m and though we didn’t have any teams, that didn’t stop Patrick Muldoon, Liam McGlynn, James Carton, John Bannon and Aidan O’Donoghue turning in excellent performances and they can be very satisfied with their efforts.
The final race of the day, the Intermediate men 8,000m featured a strong Mullingar team bent on success. By the halfway mark, the early leader had opened a sizeable lead on the chasing group that included Vinny Connolly. Working his way carefully to the front of the chasing group, Vinny began to close the gap on the leader, and going into the final lap he made his move to the front and struck for home. The race really came alive then and Vinny kept up the pressure at the front but was slowly hauled in and was eventually passed inside the final kilometre. He kept working very hard and though he couldn’t retake the lead, his efforts saw him pull clear of third place and he rounded the final turn into the home straight in a comfortable second place, crossing the finish line to take the silver medal. Attention than turned to his team mates, who were all giving one hundred percent and with James Keegan finishing fast, closely followed by Andrew Nevin still gaining places in the home straight, and Ian McCormack providing the vital fourth score, and Kedagh Geoghegan and Brian Martin completing the team, the Mullingar men were delighted to finish 2nd Club to win National silver medals. Unfortunately John Whitelaw was unable to finish due to injury but having been a member of this team all season, he was on hand at the finish and joined in the celebrations after the race.