All Ireland champions !!!!!!
It sure has a lovely ring to it . As a coach in Athletics you’re dream has got to be the ultimate, an Olympic title
or else your selling your athletes short. If you set your aims too low there is a good chance you will achieve them. Where would that leave us now post race , waking up as All Ireland school champions , 12 / 13 yrs of age with their dream accomplished . Could they still find the motivation and drive to train five days a week, to keep up
the intensity needed. Well we have absolutely no worries on that score because our dreams rely on celestial navigation these boys would probably have slept in their running gear hardly able to sleep in anticipation of getting out for a steady 40 min recovery run on Sunday morning. I love being a coach.
I told Gary Scully who is a science teacher in the CBS around this time last year that he had a sunami of talent heading his way within the new crop of first years. Since then Gary himself has formed a bond with these boys as he doesn’t just teach, he inspires and the first years love him. We need more Mr Scully’s in our schools. So I as their coach and Gary as their teacher have had a wonderful journey in our athletic meandering’s over the last few months cumulating in this All Ireland win.
We turned up in Waterford for the 2500m race and as munster champions we had expected a little mention in the pre race promotion. The number one rule in sport is respect and with little or none coming from either our national association or main rivals for the team title the Leinster champions, St Kieran’s of Kilkenny we felt that we could use it to our advantage. The tough sticky conditions meant a little cautious start for the Nenagh boys with the Kilkenny school a good fifteen points clear after the first of two laps. But the 500m longer second lap was always going to be where the title was decided. Tipperary are no strangers to epic comebacks and so it was to be again when these proud Tipp men dug deep and all of the scoring four Cian Hodgins, Tom Walshe , Luke Purcell & Seán Hayes made ground passing opponents until they had turned a fifteen point deficit into a four point win. The most ironic thing was our third scorer Luke Purcell who’s dad Donal hails from Mooncoin in Kilkenny and Luke passed nine opponents on the final hill to put the final nail in the Kilkenny coffin. It just goes to show that we can take a raw Kilkenny gem stone and polish it into a proper Tipperary diamond .
Cian went from eight to fourth in the last 800m. Tom also making four places to finish 9th. Seán also made a couple of places to finish 38th. With leaders like Cian & Tom success is inevitable as they inspire their teammates around them. It’s taken five years for them to become an overnight success but they have grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
The four other members of our squad Philip McIntyre , Aiden O’Dwyer , Eoin Moloney & Jamie Moloney also ran exceptionally well and in our quest to win all four school age groups in the coming years we will need all eight boys motivated.
The St Marys team went into the All Ireland schools cross country champs as last year’s All Ireland minor team champions. With this in mind they were determined to put up a good show and this they did in spades. The CBS are headed by the twin spearhead of Cian & Tom and the convent ladies have their own twin spearhead literally in the form of the Cunneen twins from Dolla. Niamh & Ellen are not runners in the conventional sense but are very fine natural athletes all the same. Very few people have come from a team sport into the ultra tough world of cross country running and made an impact. It’s not as if they need to find something new to excel at as they already do that at Gaelic & soccer so fair play to them for finding the desire and motivation within themselves to do cross country for their school.
Niamh & Ellen along with Nenagh Olympic’s track star Ailbhe O’Neill knew it was going to be tough and so it turned out to be. The twins settled into 15 & 16 position with Ailbhe around 38th position. As they got into the last third of the race the Cunneen’s had made some headway climbing to 11th and 13th and up the final hill they were getting stronger eventually Niamh finished 9th and Ellen 12th. With Ailbhe backing them up strongly with a very strong finish in 34th for an excellent silver medal position in the team competition. Hopefully for next year we can get the Cunneens to do some more athletics for the only thing between them and a top 3 finish is some more experience and the confidence that comes from running specific training. We might even tempt them on to the track in the summer over 3000m where Ailbhe excels over the shorter 800/1500m distances.
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