Our fantasy cross country bus pulled into the national sports centre in Abbotstown this weekend...
Ben Walshe stepped off and proceeded to run right over most of the opposition in a truly astonishing performance for a young athlete who was second in his counties, fourth in his munsters and now third in the U12 All Ireland cross country championships and top Munster man. Ben's great running ability has been apparent since he started running with the club but as an endurance runner, the distances have been a little short for him. He is probably a little tired of hearing "stick with it and your day will come". Well today was that day and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He showed his intentions right from the start, getting out well he was in the top 10 for the first half of the 2000m race. On the second of the 1k laps he showed his endurance prowess moving up and past some pre race favorites arriving in 5th with 200m left. He just kept on going and in an amazing sprint finish moved into third position with 50m left for his best finish in a national championship to date. Ben's now legendary smile was only eclipsed by his parents Ronan & Brid's own smiles although I think there were a few tears of joy also not least from his coach who may have let slip his own perceived hard man image.
We had some high hopes also for our U14 boys team of Cian Hodgins, Tom Walshe , Seán Hayes, Luke Purcell and Micheál Moylan as they went into this race as Munster champions. The starters gun went off and Cian went down and in an instant our individual medal hope was gone. What sport give's you , sport taketh away. Tom Walshe got a great start and eventually finished 20th which was a fine performance out of age. He will be looking for a top 10 finish in his own age group in Waterford. Seán, Luke and Micheál all ran solidly in their first All Ireland cross country championships to help bring the team home in a very creditable 5th position.
At this stage Cian's epic run was only getting under way as having started in last place due to the fall he proceeded to show us why he will be one of the favorites going into his own age U13 All Ireland's in a couple of weeks. He carved his way through the field and eventually finished in 22nd position, passing 134 athletes along the way. Tom & Cian were part of the Munster team who finished third in the provisional team championship.
The good ship cross country moves to Waterford on the 17th Dec for the uneven ages All Ireland's.
Can't wait!, now who is going to bring the tissues the next day?
Cork county athletics board paid almost one million euro for a field near Kinsale during the boom times . It may sound a lot for an impoverished sport such as Athletics but today as a Nenagh Olympic supporter if you paid that for the entrance fee for the Munster cross country relays you would feel it was money well spent.
We have battled for a few years now to try and recreate the high level of running needed for consistent success at this level and beyond and it feels like we may just be getting there.
Our U14 boys are the embodiment of this new found confidence. A rival coach from Thurles said after today's race that he loves the way our boys go about their business in a quietly confident and humble manner. These boys have a very unassuming nature and take nothing for granted so going into today's race they knew that nothing less than 100% would be good enough on this extremely testing course. We were lead off on the first leg by our sultan of speed Tom Walshe. Toms runs his races in a swashbuckleing manner in total contrast to his quiet , unassuming personality. Show him a start line and he transforms into a colossus of the track. On an uphill start he started conservatively but then let rip and quickly opened a gap handing over to Cian Hodgins with a 25m gap. Cian is the king of cool in these situations. The reigning Munster U13 champ stretched the lead to 40m and handed over to Seán Hayes. Seán ran his best race to date despite a slight knee injury and handed over to Luke Purcell on the last leg with the 40m lead intact. Luke has upped his game this year in training and ran a very gutsy race and despite coming under attack from a very strong Bantry team he brought it home a clear winner. This is this teams second Munster title in three weeks and they now look forward to both All Irelands.
Our U10 team unlike our U14 cross country specialists are all track specialists but all put up a fantastic performance to finish 6th of 11 teams. This team of Ruairí Walshe , Michael Ryan and the Tucker brothers Aodhán & Eanna can now look forward to the indoor season with a lot of confidence.
Our U16 boys were our last competitors of the day and despite being U16 this is the first time that these four young men have ran together as a team. Great to see Josh Egan back after a lot of injury niggles . Running a very clever race he sat in second for 400m and then opened up a 20m lead in the last 100m. Ted Collins tore into the very difficult second leg in which the last 250 m was uphill and extremely mucky . He stretched the lead to 40m before handing over to Joe Cunningham on the third leg. Joe , running a year out of age is an all Ireland rowing champion with the Castleconnell club. He ran very solidly and gave the baton to Andre Barros with a 25m lead. Andre is a sprinter who emigrated to Ireland from Brazil with his mum Remata & dad Ailton and is unlikely to have come across these type of sporting conditions before. Despite this Andre ran very strongly and only got caught in the last 50m of this 500m course
to claim the silver medal.