Year 3 for our under 11s finished as it has done each year - a sense of tremendous achievement, enormous potential and no shortage of drama.
While we left Donegal last year without medals, we knew we had areas where we could compete for medals in 2014 . And compete we did.
Before we begin – let us congratulate our under 9s and under 10s on their amazing achievements this year. The co-ordinators and coaches very much work as a team (with many of us coaching more than one age group) and we were very much a team in Tullamore, cheering each other on – and in many cases, outstanding new 6 and 7 year old talent with familiar surnames (Schukat, Slamas, Keane, Moran, Brady) were watching from the sidelines and have been joining in at training in awe of their siblings! It would be amiss of me not to acknowledge the performance of Evan Moran from the under 9s on the day as exceptional. Both Evan and the other Evan (Hallinan) produced long jumps of breathtaking magnitude – though they are following in the footsteps of club greats – from Cathriona Farrell and Ashley McDonnell to Ava Finn and our own Lukas Schukat (who has breached 4m this year). Indeed, it was with the inspirational words of the former that we headed to Tullamore...
The previous Tuesday, the club’s star international athlete Cathriona Farrell had addressed most of our qualifiers at training. Her words of wisdom were still fresh in their ears even though she was in Estonia for a major international competition! When our athletes looked around them in Tullamore, Cathriona’s words rang true: the club they represent should be in awe of nobody. On the verge of becoming Ireland’s largest juvenile club, we brought two pairs in BOTH u11 Long Jump competitions. And but for our best thrower, Oisin Keane’s recent injury, we would have had two pairs in Boys javelin also. With 8 of the 12 Connacht entries in Long Jump, we started the day with hope.
It is testimony to our girls that not one break occurred out of their 12 jumps, and only 19cm separated them, with jumps ranging from Rebekah Flynn’s 3.30m to Caoimhe Connolly’s competition PB of 3.11m might have seemed a little disappointing when compared to training – but when placed in context of head-wind, an old, lifeless board and the tension of an All-Ireland, these jumps were superb. A 7th and 8th for Emily/Rebecca and Rebekah/Caoimhe respectively represented an improvement on last year’s 9th for BOTH pairs.
The boys are veterans at Long Jump All-Irelands – and for Liam Mulveen and Lukas Schukat, this was their 3rd time competing at this level. Again, there was about 20cm difference between the 4 boys involved. Liam demonstrated the best improvement since the Connachts. Less than two days earlier, he was doing unorthodox high jumps into the Long Jump pit at training – and it clearly paid off!! Liam and his namesake Liam McDonagh were 5th with 7.44m combined – once again within touching distance of 3rd. Lukas and Niall were 7th – and this was a fantastic debut for Niall, who has showed more than a glimpse of his vast potential for both High and Long Jump this week. Without doubt, Lukas has been our best jumper this year – and he sealed this with a jump just shy of 3.80m. Interestingly, his 4m jump in training would have placed him as the joint- best distance in the country, so watch out in 2015!
In the Autumn, the middle distance promise of Emily Miskella and Rebekah Flynn resulted in Connacht schools gold (individual and team). An injury to the latter was ultimately to de-rail this talented duo's dream of All-Ireland track medals - but they can point to silver in Dangan and Sligo as well as a creditable 7th in the 600m at the highest level. Yet again, Emily dipped under 2 minutes – a sensational time that augurs well for the duo and their club/school teams to mount a serious assault on the cross country courses of Ireland in the autumn.
And so to the Javelin, where the hard work of John McDonagh, Noel Keane and Kevin Quirke paid off to provide us with our club’s first ever set of All-Ireland medals in turbo javelin – and this group’s first All-Ireland medals since Emily and Rebekah collected bronze in Cork two years ago. Regina Maduka proved the hero of the hour – as she improved her Connacht and Dangan throws by a huge 3m to take the pair total to 31.14 and bronze medal position. This is the beauty of the pair system. In Dangan, Regina and Rebecca both threw 13-14m, while in Sligo, Rebecca’s 17m (still a County record) augmented Regina’s 13. Today, it was Regina who hauled the pair over the 30m line that they fell shy of in Sligo. It was enough for a well-deserved place on the podium alongside the Chambers girls (cousins) from Westport, who were second.
Very little separated the boys pair of Liam McDonagh and Robert Urquhart from medal positions. On the day, it wasn’t to be, but 6th place in an All-Irelands is a superb achievement.
If both boys had thrown their bests on the day they can be consoled that they would be good enough for silver medals; that is testimony to them and their fine coaches. Next year, the sky is literally the limit for these boys, the two Oisins, and new boys like Michael Leahy and Cathal Hannon in Javelin and Shot Putt. A footnote here is that only one of the Under 10s in Tullamore threw further than Oisin Keane’s throw from last year and that Oisin’s throw in Dangan remains a County record, marginally ahead of Liam’s throws in Sligo and Tullamore.
Finally, it was the turn of the Boys' relay team. They were hopeful after a blistering run in Donegal last year that was 0.07 shy of bronze. However, they were the wrong side of the 1 minute mark when many other teams were under it. Despite a strong run by Robert Urquhart, Conor Hoade, Kieran O’Connor and Liam Mulveen in the heat they were edged out of the places and had to wait to see if their time helped them and their other 3rd leg runer, Lukas Schukat, to the final. There was celebration in the Craughwell area when they were called for the final and happily lined out on the track to run. The coaches urged them to seize their moment and enjoy the experience. But bizarrely, they were taken out of the inside track just before the race...it was apparently a mistake but understandably coaches, parents and the boys were very upset...pity that was the way the day ended but here’s food for thought for these boys – they hold the club’s under 10 relay record and their u10 time from last year would have earned them medals in this year’s under 10 final. Such is the luck of the draw, and in their case, they are unfortunate to be part of a particularly gifted year of sprinters and baton changers, where their nemesis, Ballinasloe are All-Ireland champions!!
It was a great day nonetheless and great that we earned a set of medals for all the hard work.
We will have a final training session on Tuesday June 24th, where we will look to the future, with further introduction to High Jump and Shot Putt. In the former, Oliwia Komav and Niall Cummins deserve special mention for breaking 1m using the forward, hurdle technique last Thursday! This was a fun session, but the appetite and aptitude for this as well as our recent 5k Challenge (where dozens of our athletes completed this daunting challenge with weeks to spare) showed us it is time to move on and focus on giving all our u11s greater choice of events and opportunities going forward.
Well done all – not just the All-Ireland qualifiers – but every one of the 60 plus children who made training from September such fun and so rewarding. Training would not have been successful without the remarkable set of coaches and helpers we had. The Galway, Connacht and All-Ireland medals we earned this year partly belong to Andrea, Lisa, Rain (our TY helpers), Suzanne, Michael and Yvonne (@Long Jump), Aisling, Loic, Miriam (@Long Distance), Joe and Sean at Sprints plus last but by no means least, John, Noel and Kevin (@ Javelin). More helpers are always welcome, but we value all the good-natured parents we are blessed with also! Look forward to seeing the same faces plus some new ones back in September... happy Summer to you all!