National Intermediate XC Champions - Sunday Feb 11th 2018:
Congrats to the Intermediate Mens team on winning Gold in the National XC in Clairnbridge, Galway at the weekend.
This is the first National XC title the club has won so well done to all involved. For such a small club the support was exceptional, with many travelling the 3+ hours on very bad roads to get there.
There was an air of cautious optimism as our Intermediate men’s team made their way to Clarinbridge yesterday. Underfoot conditions were sticky to say the least and a biting wind contributed to what was a slog of a race in every sense of the word. A course for mud larks. Athletics Ireland’s race preview had two Dublin teams Donore and DSD as the ones to beat with no mention of East Cork as contenders. The club has a rich history in the event with James McCarthy winning individual honours in 2007 and the club taking 2nd in the team event three times previous in 1991, 2004 and most recently in Cow Park, Meath in 2014.
Eoin Taggart of Clonliffe led out the 80 strong field with Michael Harty tucking in behind. Both athletes having enjoyed a recent stint of Kenyan altitude training. Kevin O Brien settled into a group of three hovering just outsides the top 10 with Brian Harty setting down a marker with a strong start just outside the top 20. Next came Shane Harrington in brand new shorts, Frank Hayes, Kevin O Leary, Diarmuid Collins and Nick Donoghue packing well through the first lap all inside the top 35. The decisive move was made on the second lap with Harty opening a sizeable gap at the top of the field. A move which would eventually see him win by a considerable margin of 40 seconds from Kevin Moore. Seven weeks training on the hard dusty Kenyan highlands the perfect preparation for the sticky ankle deep lowlands of Clarinbridge.
Back to the team event and with no sign of the Dublin teams, Celbridge and An Riocht were identified as the main competition. Team calculations throughout the race were hindered by scoring members of Celbridge and Riocht not wearing conforming club singlets. After 5km the East Cork were ahead of Celbridge by only 2 points. An Riocht were further adrift with eventual bronze medallists North Sligo AC hovering in contention.
Consistent throughout, Kevin shrugged off the challenge of a Riocht athlete in the penultimate straight to take 11th. Heading into the last lap with a slim margin a strong finish was required from the remaining two scorers on the team. Having paced himself well from the off, Nick finished with a flurry to take 20th , passing four in the last few hundred metres. An outstanding performance after a lengthy sideline through injury. With a point to prove or a bee in his bonnet, whichever way you look at it Brian Harty was a man on a mission. An excellent performance saw him take a well deserved 23rd place and seal the win for the club, mission accomplished. In a highly unorthodox moment, coach and athlete embraced in jubilation at the finish, another first for the club. Although both are now claiming they slipped and fell into each others arms, quite plausible given the underfoot conditions. Trading places with his teammates over the last lap, Kevin O Leary held on to take 29th, an admirable performance after a personal best outing in Dungarvan the week before. Another solid run from Frank saw him take 31st with Shane only a few seconds behind in a decent 33rdplace. A late call up to the squad, Diarmaid finished well in 42nd. The club took the honours with 55 points ahead of Celbridge AC’s 64 with North Sligo pipping An Riocht by a point to take 3rd. This is the first national cross country team win for the club. Cork finished 2nd in the county standings to Kildare.
The first athlete up for the club was Phil McGrath, donning spikes for the first time in 20 years. Phil set the tone for the rest of the club with a valiant effort over the 4km course to take individual bronze and county team gold in the M65 category, just missing out on silver by the smallest of margins. In the women’s Intermediate event, Eadaoin O Neill clawed her way around the 5km circuit to finish in a very respectable 27th. Untested in these conditions, Lorna Santry found the going tough but stuck it out to finish a commendable 40th. In the M35-M55 7km race the club had 4 competitors. Sean McGrath toed the line with just over two weeks of running in the past two months. Testament to his never say die attitude and refusal to perform consistent with his current fitness, he broke away from the chasing group in the dying stages of the race to take individual bronze and county team gold. Arguably the performance of the day. Pat O Connor managed a decent 29th in the M40 with club stalwarts Eric Meade and Denis McCarthy finishing 24th and 25th in the M50 and M50 categories respectively.