Michael wins gold, Fiona bronze and mens team dominate!
The county senior XC was on in Carrignadrohid again last Sunday. It was a very warm and calm October day with the ground in perfect condition for running. The course lap changed quite dramatically from past years, this time the course organisers decided to make it hilly...and they did!
The mens race was an interesting tactical battle with a large contingent of Leevale singlets leading the way for the first few laps. Micheal and Paul were sitting in the bunch watching and waiting. The three time champ Tim was at the back of the group testing out the body after a few months of easy running after a hamstring injury with Franko running his first County Senior race also in the mix. Kevin, Donal, Fergus, Chris and Denis were further back having their own battles!
As the race progressed the leading group whittled down to three with Gavin O'Rourke of Leevale taking on the pace. He was stalked by Michael and Paul who were just behind him watching and waiting. Frank and Tim were in the chasing group with Leevale duo John Shine and Conor McCauley. Nathan O'Leary was coming strong just behind so over half way through the race the top 8 positions were held by East Cork and Leevale. It was primed for another classic dust up for the team title.
A unique feature of the Carrignadrohid course over the years is the 1500m laps for the 10k. Here it was 1 small lap and 6 big laps. So for tired minds there is a lot of counting. Leevale lost the 2019 team title to North Cork due to this and lightning struck twice again last Sunday. Gavin O'Rourke pushed hard on the 5th 1500m lap, most thought it was a long run from home to break Mike and Paul but when they passed the turn off for the finish funnel and were directed for "one last lap" that unfortunately was the end of his race. It didn't effect the East Cork lads at all both were there to win and were still very comfortable and cruising at this stage. For the record Mike is twice the age of Paul so it was set up for a great classic last lap of youth v experience. The previous 6 weeks Mike has been training in Iten, Kenya and he showed that he didn't just pick up a nice bronzing tan over there but some fitness too! Over the final 1000m Mike put a spurt in that showed he was a class apart on the day and in the end won with 20 seconds to spare and joined Liam, Donnacha and Tim as County Senior XC champions.
With the battle for 1st and 2nd taken care of just behind them Tim was steaming through the field and finished a comfortable 3rd. Frank had a great battle with the Leevale lads to finish 5th over all and sowed up the team title for the club, one we have not won since 2017. Kevin was next home in 19th, Donal 25th , Fergus 27th, Chris 33rd and Denis 44th. Paul and Frank also were 1st and 2nd U23's.
This was Denis' 40th running of the County Senior XC championships. He has been on the scoring winning team twice. Rumour has it this could be his final running of the event and if this is true it was a fitting finish to such a great servant of Cork athletics by receiving a loud round of applause as he crossed the finish line from a large group of East Cork athletes and also many other clubs. To put it in perspective this was Franks first County Senior XC, for him to emulate Denis the earliest he could match this tally is in 2062!
John Spelman ran in the combined U18 and Junior Mens race and was 16th overall.
Spoiler - the womens team took the bronze team medal behind Leevale and St Finbarrs.
Fiona had a storming race to finish 3rd overall. Sinead O'Connor always looked a big favourite to win but Leevales newest memebers, transferred in from Tipperarey last month, were looking to make it a clean sweep of the podium. The race set of with Sinead and Fiona Everard (Bandon AC) taking a lead with a large chasing pack including Fiona. The womens race was 6k so four hilly 1500m laps. Fiona sat at the back of the group knowing the hills would play to her advantage and as the race went on and people were dropping back and dropping out, the group whittled down to a battle with Martina Kiely, Michelle Kenny and Shona O'Brien. With just over 1500m to go Fiona (who did count the laps right) made her move and went hard up the long hill and down into the final lap pushing strongly to open a gap and break those eager to get their hands on the last remaining individual medal. Her half marathon strength showed as none of the group behind could close the gap and Fiona powered on to extend her lead and take 3rd overall.
Annelise had a good run to beat training partner Eadaoin with Avril and Christine also having a great battle just behind them. In the end the ladies team score was 57 points to take the bronze team medals. Well done all.
Thanks to Ray and John too for taking some great photos of the action.