After the heavy rains of late, the National Cross Country course in Abbotstown provided a challenging and muddy venue for the 2019 Even Age and Senior National Cross Country Championships.  The nationals represent a culmination of the year for many - a chance to show the fitness gains made in the long weeks and months of training since the Summer, but also tricky to be right on the day.  Coming from Connacht, the standard can be a shock to the system and medals are always rare.  Fortunately on this occasion almost all of the Craughwell Athletes managed to deliver season-best performances at the right time, and it made for a record-equalling best day for the club at this level in terms of success with no less than two individual medal winners, one club team medal, contributing athletes on a Galway team medal and several breakthrough performances which guarantee the athletes participation in the Connacht Endurance squads for 2020.

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The mini-rockets!  Bronze medal winning u12 Boys!!

In the second race of the day, Craughwell AC's under 12 boys team won team Bronze with an excellent score of 205 points in a ferocious race over two challenging 1km laps.  They were led home by Stephen Joyce, stepping up in age who was 22nd, followed by Keelan Moorehead in 36th with Declan O'Connell and Stephen Ruane working well together in 73rd and 74th.  This is a phenomenal result, and great credit goes to them and their coaches, led by the inimitable Ronnie.  The u12 girl's team of Emma O'Donovan (102), Katelyn Walsh (112), Keevagh Barry (127), Ciara O'Connor (143) Amelie Bocquet and Aeveen Kelly all ran strongly in the very challenging conditions.

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U12 Girls with Ronnie - all ran brilliantly!

Mathys Bocquet finished 5th in the u14 boys race in a razor tight photo-finish to win Bronze as Craughwell's highest individual finisher of the day.  There were just 5 seconds separating the first 6 athletes.  I have to confess on the day I was convinced Mathys was 4th and a few re-watches of the AAI live stream hasn't changed my mind!  It was as close as it gets!  Mathys had Galway company in Gearoid King of Castlegar who was 10th which is a great result for the county.

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Mathys finishes in the medals for two years running!

This is the second year in a row that Mathys has medalled at the nationals - last year he finished 6th - an amazing achievement!

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Sean battling for the line against an ambush!

Sean Cotter had a fantastic run, stepping up in age to come 6th in the hotly contested u18 Boys race, one of the most challenging categories and surely a contender for Craughwell performance of the day.  Sean is no stranger to the podium at national level - he looked fresh, fast and full of running. 

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Yet another national medal for Sean!

I think my vote, and that of many others I spoke to for performance of the day also came in that race.  Kyle Moorehead has been super-solid in training for the last few months but often walks away from XC races wondering why his training form isn't translating to race position as it should. 

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Kyle running one-footed!

Yesterday the 2019 international steeplechaser shook that monkey off his back as he went out fearlessly from the start and drove through the field tirelessly with the big guns.  About 3.5k into the 6km race disaster struck on the uphill as the mud sucked his shoe off him and he was left with one spike for the remainder of the slippery course.  Amazingly, Kyle didn't let that deter him and he only lost a few positions over the last 2.5k.  I have no doubt that the shoe cost Kyle about 20-30 seconds over the course so there is no telling where he might have ended up had is stayed on.  Regardless, it was a fantastic run from Kyle!  When looking for pics of the event, one of the AAI photographers had captured this artistic shot of a shoe hanging from a tree - yes, it's Kyles :D!!

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Kyle's Spike is probably still decorating this tree in Abbotstown

Three Craughwell AC Athletes contested the Junior men's race. William Fitzgerald took his place as one of the top prospects in the country with a superb 17th place finishing position with Patrick Noonan in 58th of the 130 finishers.  This was a phenomenal performance for William in particular, to finish second Galway Junior on the day.  William and Patrick both scored in the Galway team which took national Bronze medals.  Ben Ryan is building back to running fitness and also ran in the race and acquitted himself very well.  

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Kyle and William after the race

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William powers home to a 17th place finish and Galway County Bronze!

One note of hindsight!  Afterwards we were informed that u18s could be entered as Juniors - had we thought of that we would have been 4th Junior team behind Ennis and very close to medalling as a team with the combined performances of Sean, William, Kyle and Patrick.  Doh!! Next year!!  It is FANTASTIC to see Galway Juniors medalling at the Nationals.  A phenomenal Galway result worth mentioning in the race was Thomas McStay of GCH's brilliant Bronze - great to see!  This current crop of Galway Juniors are all super-sound, supportive of each other and have an excellent attitude to the sport - I'm really optimistic about the future of Galway distance running!

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Patrick wins Galway County Bronze

In the u16 boys race, Ross McGuinness ran a phenomenally quick race 4000m to finish 32nd and first Connacht man home.  Ross managed to sustain a superb 3:28/km for the distance over atrocious muck.  Anthony Boyle, running his second ever cross country recovered well from a quick start to finish 97th in the very strong field.

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Ross and Anthony show great form!

Emily Miskella continued to improve as she finished 38th home and 2nd Connacht girl in the u16 girls race, which had a massive field - Killary sorted for next year!.  

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Emily delighted with her top-40 finish!

Emilie's clubmate and training partner Emma Boyle also had an excellent run in the u18 girls race to finish 47th and 3rd Connacht woman - a fantastic performance for Emma and marked step up from her last outing.

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Emma enjoying a well-deserved post-race Coffee

Caron Ryan is not a huge fan of the Abbotstown course but had a solid run among the u23 women to finish 10th overall - Caron is only 20 and has another two years in this category and still feels that she has more to prove on the Abbotstown course - I have no doubt that she will enjoy the feeling of banishing those Abbotstown demons next year!.  

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Caron showing great form

In the Senior men's race over 10km, I (Mark Davis) was first home for Craughwell in 97th place followed by Jack Miskella who came 16th u23 in the same race.  For anyone that might finish high up in their local road races or win the odd park run, the event is an eye opener and a good reality-check!!  To put in perspective, pretty much anyone in the top 140 would be a potential 5k series winner in Galway!  I actually think the standard has risen in my time involved in the sport and I feel this is the case in many age groups - it's great to see!

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10k XC is fun and all, but Jack and Mark happy that's over!!

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Mark 3rd from left with the Irish M45 team

Mark Davis made his international debut at the weekend when representing Ireland in the British & Irish Masters Cross Country held in Aintree on Saturday. It was a fantastic achievement for Mark to be selected to represent our country and just reward for years of dedication to the sport. An impressive performance saw Mark place 9th overall and in the process help the Irish team to silver medals behind England and ahead of the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland teams. Results are here.

Also in action at the weekend, Caron Ryan put in a terrific first leg in the annual Universities Road Relays held in Maynooth to help her Trinity College to team gold in this prestigious event in a time of 34:10, just 12 seconds ahead of DCU in 34:22. The women’s race is a 4-leg relay over 1-2-2-1 miles, while the men compete in a 5-leg relay over 1-2-3-2-1 miles.

In the men’s event, Jack Miskella also had a fine performance when running the first leg of the relay for his NUIG team who went on to win the bronze medal – the first time in the 33-year history of the event that NUIG have medalled. Results are on the very impressive IUAA website which is an excellent resource for anyone with an interest in athletics. Check out also the legendary John O'Connor's 77edenhill website for photos of the road relays including the ones below.

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Caron pictured 3rd from right with her Trinity College teammates

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Jack 2nd from right on the start line for the men's road relay

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Mark racing to victory in the Headford 8k 2008 (photo nicked from Athenry AC website)

Best of luck to coach extraordinaire and cross country specialist Mark Davis who represents Ireland this Saturday in the British & Irish Masters Cross Country Championships on the fabled grounds of Aintree racecourse. There’s clearly something in the water in Cahercrin that helps its residents make the grade for Aintree or Cheltenham!

To my knowledge, Mark becomes the first coach from the club to be selected to represent Ireland – others have made it in the past, but prior to their coaching careers including Diarmuid Quill (high jump), Mark Gillen (1500m) and Noel Harvey (10k and xcountry).

Mark's contribution to the club is immense. One of the founding members of the senior section of the club back in 2005, Mark helped drive the senior circuit training sessions in the hall for many years - these predated fit4life and became the seed for the club’s very successful fit4life group in later years when AAI launched that initiative. And in parallel with all of that, Mark has been one of the key coaches in the juvenile club, helping many to great achievements particularly in middle distance and cross country.

One would wonder where Mark finds the time to do his own training, but find it he does and like a vintage wine, Mark keeps on getting better with age! He is on the cusp now of breaking personal bests in a range of distances that he set when 10 years younger – amazing stuff!

To be selected to represent Ireland is a massive achievement and honour for Mark. To have Mark in our club is a massive honour and privilege for the rest of us! Best of luck at the weekend Mark!

Marvellous Autumn Sunshine and cool fresh breezes bathed two of the finest cross country courses in Ireland - Abbotstown in Dublin and Bushfield in Loughrea as Craughwell AC sent teams out to battle on either side of the Country.

Autumn Open Success

The Autumn Open held at the National Cross Country Course in Abbotstown is one of the premier Cross Country events in the Irish Calendar, second only to the National XC.  It is an unusual event in that the top Juniors, Seniors and Masters athletes in Ireland are all launched off together in a massive and frenetic start.  The Juniors running 6k (4 laps) and the Seniors/Masters covering 7.5k (5 laps).  Abbotstown was in good shape, aside from the hill up the back which was muddy and almost unending, dragging up about 400m in total I'd guess.  In each event, a top 6 position put you in strong stead for international selection. As a whole, Craughwell enjoyed our best ever day at the event on Sunday!

Craughwell had 6 athletes in total entered - Jack Miskella (Senior), Paul Joyce (Senior), Mark Davis (Masters), Kyle Moorehead (Jun), William Fitzgerald (Jun) and Sinead Gaffney. 

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In the Junior 6km event, both of the lads had fantastic runs - the popular and talented William Fitzgerald who is just 17 cruised through the field, attacking the hill on each round and maintaining a strong pace throughout to finish a wonderful 15th position overall among the very elite under 20s in Ireland. This is the best ever Craughwell Finish in this event, and a fantastic breakthrough run for a smashing and talented athlete.  If William keeps this steady level of improvement, he can challenge for honours at this event in the future, I have no doubt.  Next home for Craughwell in another breakthrough run was 16-year old Kyle Moorehead in a superb 33rd place.  Kyle ran a big PB for his 5k of 17.30 on a muddy hilly cross country course, which gives you an idea of his pace. 

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Spot the Craughwellites!  Mark, Kyle and Paul are in here somewhere

In the Senior/Masters 7.5k event, I achieved one of my goals for the year (lifetime?) by claiming 4th and a guaranteed spot on the Irish M45 team for the British and Irish Masters in England next month.  The warm-up races in Castlegar and Tuam where I suffered in the second half served me well and my strategy was to take it a bit easy for the first two of the five laps, especially up the hills.  A glance at the watch 500m into the albeit downhill start showed 3:04 per km so I put the brakes on a bit and settled into things, hoping that patience would see people come back to me.  One nice feature of this race is that the masters guys have their age category on their backs so it was easier to see who you were up against... unfortunately my eyesight is not the best so sometimes I chased a lad down to dissapointedly see that he was an M35!.  Anyhow as things went on, people did come back and happily for me, the hard work of the last 3 months paid off, job done, really delighted! :).

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Jack charging ahead!

In the Senior event, Jack Miskella had a super run, taking exactly the opposite strategy of mine.  He headed out hard and hoped that pride would bring him home!  It did bring him home but the last lap was a character test I'd say!  He finished with a fine 38th position overall in the Seniors.  Paul Joyce had one of those days by his high standards, but ran bravely to finish in a very respectable 42nd position.  A lot more to come from Paul.. watch this space!

The event also incorporated an "Experience" event which was similar to a road race, and Sinead Gaffney ran the higher standard version as a good hard training run.  Sinead performed brilliantly to finish 4th in the race of over 300 participants!  Fantastic stuff Sinead - rumour has it this track specialist might actually be starting to get the cross country bug!

Meanwhile... in Bushfield!

Bushfield was at its glorious best as the very best athletes in the County competed in the Even Ages Championships.  (I wasn't able to make today's event and am typing this report before the official results are out, so I might have some corrections to make - apologies if so - I'll correct when I get them, also - if you have pics of anyone not below, please send on!!)

The first race of the day was the under 10 Girls where a fantastic team led home by a brilliant run from Remy Aylmer included Anna Kelly, Avril Reidy, Aisling Lavan, Jenna Brady, Aoileann O'Connor, Ciara Havil, Laura Kelly, Ciara Niland, Faye Whelan, Sophie Meehan, Lily May Grealish and Allie Brady.  They all combined wonderfully to take a marvellous Silver medal.  You go girls!!

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Cross Country is Serious Stuff!!

The under 10 boys matched the girls with a team Silver and added a wonderful individual Gold medal to things from Alan Hallinan!  People in attendance reported Alan's run as one of the performances of the day.  Congrats to him and his huge crew of teammates:  Alan Warde, Eoghan Geraghty, Luke Connaughton, Donal Coyle, Oisin O'Donovan, Dara Kavanagh, Oisin Molloy, Killian Burke, Eoghan Morrissey, Charlie Daniels, Michael Baylon, Daithi Lawless, Noah Brady, Rhys Whelan, Joshua Whiriskey, Darragh Higgins, Zach Keane, Oisin Fallon, Daniel Harty, Darragh O'Donnell, Sean Niland and James Niland!

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The under 12 Girls won a fabulous GOLD with the super team of Keevagh Barry, Katelyn Walsh, Jessica Walsh, Emma O Donovan, Eabha Molloy, Ciara o Conor, Aeeven Kelly, Megan Smith and Claudia Coyle.  Keevagh, Katelyn and Emma all scored in the top 10 of a very strong field!

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Again, the under 12 Boy's team matched their female counterparts with a fantastic performance.  They were led home by Declan O'Connell in a brilliant 2nd position, followed by Stepen Ruane in 3rd and Keelan Moorehead in 4th. Cian Brady was in the top 10 and Jack Farrell was not far behind him!

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With the u14 Girls, Craughwell didn't have a team, but Holly O'Boyle ran excellently to finish well up the strong field in 7th position.  

In the u14 boys race, Mathys Bocquet put on one of his trademark displays of dominant front running to take GOLD by literally a country mile.  He was really not troubled from start to finish in the race, and all the early signs are positive for a smashing season from him.  Fionn Higgins and Sean Liston also ran strongly in the race.

Sadly, with girls athletics the numbers tend to drop off after Junior cert (especially in Connacht for some reason, something we need to work on!) so they combined the u16 and the u18 races into one 4000m event.  Combining them worked well as by all accounts the girl's u16 race was one of the most exciting races of the day for the spectators!  The field soon split up as a leading group of four took out the pace in a chess match to see who could claim top position.  Emily Miskella (u16) and Emma Boyle (u18) were well placed in that top group of four but as they moved into the final lap the pace increased once more and Emily and another u16 athlete broke away from the group to make it a straight shootout to the line with 300m to go.  However, Emily is a smart racer and had saved plenty in the tank - as they rounded the corner she eased into the lead to claim the GOLD in a solid display of tactical racing, completing a Galway double for her with both the u16 and u17 titles.  Emily's performance was enough to lead her u16 teammates of Clodagh O'Meara, Leonore Church, Siofra Davis and Allanah Grogan to a memorable GOLD, all of whom ran brilliantly on the day.  

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Under 16 County Champions 2019!!  Doubling up!!

 

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Em and Em! The u16 and u18 County XC Champions 2019!

The next race up was the u16 Boys Race where Ross McGuinness was hotly tipped to reclaim his crown from last year.  Ross went to the front but was joined by another fine athlete from GCH new to the scene, and as the 4500m race came to a finish, Ross got pipped in the home straight in a good battle that can only help him as the season progresses.  

Emma Boyle had a superb first outing in a good while to claim a smashing GOLD in the u18 girls in her first run for the club, hopefully the first of many successes for the popular athlete!

Luke Burke was the sole Craughwell Athlete, stepping up in the u18 Boys race and Luke performed strongly, winning Bronze in the u18 race.

In the men's Intermediate race, David Evans had a super run, picking up hugely from his Tuam performance - as he says himself he is "still learning!" - aren't we all!!  The women's intermediate race had one entrant - fellow endurance coach Lisa Thomas donned the spikes for the first time since her childhood and did herself proud in the event.  She went out too hard (don't we all!) but recovered strongly and has a base to build on!

Craughwell had a great day out at the Streets of Galway 2019, with several people claiming PBs and several prizes.  The morning was hideous but by the time the race started it had eased to welcome drizzle and the muggy heat had faded, making for ideal running conditions.  In the team competition, there were several strong outfits in play including Ennis Track (regular winners), an impressive Castlegar crew, Loughrea led by Cathal O'Reilly, South Galway AC, GCH as always strong, Sportsworld and others.  Craughwell had a healthy mix of old and young and were not too far off the team prize at the end, pushing a top-class Ennis team very close.  Still - 2nd men's team was a savage result in this field - in fact 20% of the top 25 runners in the were from Craughwell and we took 3 prizes!

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First home for Craughwell was Jamie Fallon who ran a very smart race to finish in 26.24, falling back at 5km to cool off before a smart push to the line.  Jamie is early in his build-up, and looking forward to the cross country!  He just pipped the hugely talented Kevin Mooney on the line in a finish so tight that the timing initially got them the wrong way around in the results!  Kevin is coming back from a break and is building really nicely, he missed Dublin marathon due to a cycling injury, but has plenty to look forward to - not least his wedding (Congrats Kevin and Orla on that!). 

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Next home for Craughwell was Mark Davis (1st o45) in 26.56 closely followed by William Fitzgerald (2nd Junior) in 26:58.  It was a great run from William who felt super-comfortable (unlike me!) and given time, there's no telling how good he will be!  Jack Miskella was 5th for Craughwell - after a year of focusing on (and taking club records at!) 800m and 1500m, 8k was probably a shock to the system, but Jack had a brilliant run to smash 28 minutes with a 27:47. 

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Everywhere you looked there was green and white, so we're from quite a fit village!  Brian Matthews beat his time from last year with less training,  Stephen Carty, Gavin Cooney, Brendan Treacy, Mark Campbell, Ollie Niland, Colm McAllen (pb), Reena Deely, Margaret Murphy, Laura Porter, Sharon Gilligan, Irene Fallon, Gerry Treacy, Brenda Casey, Aoife Mullane, Geraldine Fallon, Siobhan Gohery, Julie Gallagher and Marita Carolan all were listed in the results, but there were plenty others running that weren't listed against the club and I couldn't be bothered scrolling through the names to see the ones I recognize!!  One notable one is the distance coach, Lisa Thomas who had a great run herself in addition to coaching the 2nd Junior!  Well done to all, and to GCH on an impeccably organized event.

As usual, John O'Connor has the definitive set of pictures on his website (album 1album 2album 3).

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Friday the 13th. .