Heavy snow started to fall in Derry just before the start of the girls U12 race at the Woodie’s DIY Inter County and All Ireland juvenile cross country championships. It was heavy at times, while underfoot conditions posed no problems for athletes.
There were some excellent performances at the well organised Woodie’s DIY Cross Country Championships today at Gransha Park in Derry.
The first three in the junior and senior races were able to secure their automatic selection for next month’s European Cross Country Championships in Portugal.
The star of the Junior Women’s race was Ciara Mageean of Antrim who won convincingly in 14:07 from Emma Mitchell of Banbridge AC and Laura Behan of KCK AC of Waterford. Dublin won the team event with 31 points from Wicklow and Laois with 58 and 67 respectively.
The snow made no difference to Mageean who ran in similar conditions in Stormont previously. She was in control of the race from early on and won in a canter.
In the women’s senior race, Fionnuala Britton of Wicklow looked superb in winning by over 30 seconds in 27.44 over the 8000m course from Elizabeth Lee of Cork and Siobhan O’Doherty of Borrisokane AC. Britton proved her deceptive strength again yesterday when she decimated the field to win the coveted title by some margin.
This was the type of performance that we have come to expect from the 26 year old Wickow star and the victory was very similar to that she won when winning the National individual title over the Queen’s University course in March 2008.
On that occasion Britton again won by a street , having previously finished a brilliant 14th in the World Championships in Mombasa and prior to that won a silver medal in the Under 23 event at the European Championhips.
Britton looks again set to challenge for a medal in the European’s in Portugal in two weeks time, and yesterday’s winning margin of 80 seconds over Lizzy Lee of Cork suggests that the former DCU student is coming right back to her very best form that saw her qualify for the final of the Steeplechase at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka.
Britton has never been a runner to stand on ceremony and yesterday she stormed into the lead from the gun, never giving her opponents much of an opportunity of the gold medal. “It was hard running on my own but I’m always happy to win” said the naturally modest Britton.
Lee, and third place finisher, Siobhan Doherty of Tipperary earned automatic places on the Irish team for the Europeans, with Eva Hutchinson of Dublin a good fourth.
Sara Treacy of Meath was the first U23 home in 8th place in 29.36, from Becky Woods and Byrony Treston, both of Dublin, who will also be very pleased with their runs and their selection for the Euro Cross. The county event was won by Dublin with 26 points from Meath with 81 and Cork with 83.
The junior men’s race was one of the most competitive races of the day. Victory went to Shane Quinn of Waterford, son of Irish Steeplechase record holder Brendan Quinn, in 18.39 from Emmet Jennings of Dublin and John Travers of Dublin, who will all have guaranteed their places for selection for the U23 Euro Cross team next month. Dublin took the county title with 84 points from Cork with 151.
Travers tried to set the pace early on but couldn’t shake Quinn. Going out the last lap Quinn was clear though and went on to win, with Jennings outsprinting Travers to the line. Travers was ill in the days leading up to the race and only ran to ensure his European selection.
Towards the end of the race Quinn began to feel the pain and admitted afterwards that “I thought the last 200m would never end“.
The senior men’s race was impressively won by Joe Sweeney of Dublin in 30.07 from Mark Christie of Mullingar Harriers and Brendan O’Neil of Dublin. O’Neill was the first U23 athlete from John Coghlan of Dublin and Michael Mulhare of Laois. Dublin took the Inter County prize from Cork and Donegal. The legendary Seamus Power celebrated his 40th birthday on the very day of the race and he did so by showing all his old ability to finish seventh, despite carrying an injury, and could well make the team for the Euro Cross.
Sweeney made his move from the leading pack early on the second lap and from there to the finish he eased further and further ahead. “I needed a good blow-out before the Europeans” he said after the race.
Behind him there was an interesting duel for the minor medals with Mark Christie outsprinting Brendan O’Neill towards the end.
Sweeney made a welcome to the track with a fine second place finish behind Alistair Cragg in the 5,000m at the Woodie’s Senior championships in July after almost three years on the sidelines as a result of being anaemic.
The first three in the men’s and women’s junior, Under 23 and Senior races were automatically selected for the European Cross Country next month in Portugal. The remaining three athletes for each event will be named on Tuesday by Athletics Ireland’s selection committee.
Overall it was a great afternoon’s athletics, with excellent local and national organisation, with many of the competitors and spectators overcoming challenging travelling conditions to make it to the friendly northwest.