What a turnout for the club in Clonoulty on Sunday when the first of the road championships took place. 32 athletes took to the track around the GAA club for the running of the County Road Relay Championships, surely a record for the club. Four ladies and four men’s teams were in action which shows the current atmosphere within the club with junior and senior athletes combining to produce one of the best results for the club with seven of the eight teams bringing home county championship medals. The ladies have been very much the success story of the club over the past couple of years but our men proved that with the right attitude and steely determination they can also reach the top. They duly delivered on Sunday with a terrific performance to win the event outright to match the success of the ladies who had done likewise only a few minutes before hand.
Seven teams took part in the ladies event with Orla Healy, Sara Healy Niamh Ryan and Catherine Dunne leading the way for the club over the first 800mts. Orla, Sara and Niamh surged clear more or less half way through this leg and held it all the way with Orla surging ahead over the final metres to pass the lead to sister Lorraine. Niamh came through next to pass to Sharon Kiely with Sarah passing to Brigid Gleeson while Catherine passed to Sharon Cantwell for her 1,500mts leg. By this stage Lorraine had extended the lead and on finishing her two laps she passed to Louise Fogarty who commenced her 800mts leg well clear of the field. Brigid Gleeson made up great ground on her leg to pass to Ber Spillane for her 800mts with Sharon Kiely just yards behind passing to Edel Delaney and Sharon Cantwell passing on to Sinead McLoughlin. The final leg of the event saw the athletes run 3,000mts – over four laps of the track- and with Louise passing to Angela Fogarty well clear, barring any misfortune there was no doubt as to whom the winners would be. There was a great battle going on for the minor placings with little or nothing between any of the remaining teams but credit to the girls on the final legs for putting in a great effort over the 3k. Ber passed to Susan Fogarty, Edel to Kate Harrison and Sinead to Caroline Dunne and they finished in that order with Susan crossing the line in fourth place, Kate in fifth and Caroline in 7th. The girls therefore retained the title held for the first time last year with the team in fourth winning the “B” division, the girls in fifth winning the silver medals in the “B” division and the girls in 7th just edged out for the bronze medals in the “B” division to finish fourth.
The girls had laid down the markers for the men and throughout their event they certainly proved their worth with equally great performances from all 16 athletes. With 9 men’s teams in action Richard Daly, Paddy Doyle, Bill Hogan and Nathan Bowe commenced the 800mts legs. Youth was a big factor here but great credit to Nathan who over the final yards opened up a lead to pass to his father Patrick, Richard passed to Stephen Flanagan with Paddy passing to Ray Power and Bill to Brendan Delaney. All these athletes were on the 1,500mts leg. Fine running by Stephen saw him draw clear on this leg but towards the final metres he was overhauled to pass to Jody Sweeney in second place. Meantime Patrick had passed to Eamonn Troy, Brendan to Noel Maher and Ray to TJ Gleeson who were all running their own personal battles. Heading out on the final 3k leg Jody passed to Liam Kelly who caught the leading athlete and both ran side by side for much of the remaining three laps. On the hilly part of the course, on the final lap, Liam made his break for home and with great strength and speed on this section he drew clear, maintaining his drive for home to draw well clear to cross the line in first place and claim overall victory for the club. While this was unfolding the other three athletes on the final leg Brian Carroll, Kevin Dunne and Mark King were pushing through the barriers on their 3k leg with Brian coming through for 6th, Kevin for 8th and Mark for 9th.
Despite winning the event overall the club are seeded in Division 2 and thus were winners of the Division 2A title. As we had more than one team competing the other three were seeded in Division 2B and we had a clean sweep of prizes here with all three winning the gold, silver and bronze team medals.
What a return for the athletes and the club in this the first day of road championships. With the novice down for decision on 19th February on home soil we will enter this event with a renewed feeling of confidence. Every athlete who competed on Sunday should be very proud of themselves as they served up a great spectacle of running. While they made up the vast majority of club members in Clonoulty we must thank all the supporters who came to see the athletes perform on the day. Their support most certainly helped to create a great day for the club.