The Aviva Irish Schools’ Cross Country Championships takes place in the University of Ulster, Jordanstown this Saturday, 9th of March. This annual fixture is the culmination of six weeks of competition for the country’s best young schools’ athletes. They have progressed from their regional qualifiers, and through their provincial championships to reach the prestigious Aviva All Ireland Schools Championships.
Sean Tobin (High School Clonmel) has been in tremendous form over the country and will start as the favourite to win the senior boys’ title. Tobin finished second in last year’s championships and with this being his final year as a schools’ athlete he will aim to go out on a high. Tobin showed excellent form recently when he romped to victory at the National Inter Club Cross Country Championships in Tullamore on February 24th. On that occasion Hugh Armstrong (Gortner Abbey Crossmolina) surprised many by finishing second behind Tobin and is a likely challenger for the title on Saturday.
Aaron Hanlon (St Mary’s Drogheda) was an impressive winner of the Leinster Schools title and if he can replicate that form in Jordanstown he will be one to watch. Ian Guiden (St Aidan’s CBS), Cillin O’Maonaigh (Colaiste Eoin) and Maxwell Wamsley Pled (Royal School Armagh) all had good runs at provincial level and are likely to be in the mix for podium positions.
Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (Colaiste Iosagain) will start as the outstanding favourite to win the senior girls’ title. Siofra has an unprecedented winning record at schools level and will surely continue this winning streak on Saturday. Clar Nic Carthaigh also of Colaiste Iosagain is the defending champion and along with Linda Conroy (Mercy Kilbeggin) will battle it out for a place on the podium. Yasmin Wilson (Ballyclare HS) was an impressive winner of the Ulster title and will aim to translate this form to national level. Jessica Coyne (Crescent Comprehensive Limerick) and Orna Murray (Ursuline Waterford) are another two athletes rounding into top shape and are likely to be in the mix on Saturday.
Paddy Robb (St Malachy’s Belfast AC) stormed to victory in the Inter Boys race at the Ulster Schools’ Championships, coming home 27 seconds clear of second place athlete Shane McGowan (St Columb’s Derry). Pierre Murchan (St Declan’s CBS) has been in great form all season over the country and will be confident of making a big impression in the battle for the Inter Boys’ title. Kevin Mulcaire (St Flannan’s Ennis) is another athlete rounding into top shape and is one to watch over the 5,000m distance.
Sarah Fitzpatrick (Our Lady Terenure) won the Inter Club title on February 24th and will start as the slight favourite to take the inter girl’s title. On that occasion in Tullamore she battled it out with Isabelle Odlum (Rathdown School) in a thrilling sprint finish and both athletes will renew rivalry on Saturday. Aisling Quinn (Ursuline Waterford) and Clodagh O’Reilly (Loreto College Cavan) both performed brilliantly at regional level and are likely challengers for a podium position.
Siofra O’Flaherty (St Leo’s Carlow) is an emerging talent in the junior category and she has swept all before her on the cross country circuit this winter. Flaherty was the impressive winner of the minor girl’s race last year and she will aim to add the junior title on Saturday to her growing reputation. Watch out for the likes of Fearghal Curtin (Midleton CBS), Cormac Dalton (St Joseph’s Rochfortbridge) and Christy Conlon (Rathmore Grammar School) as they battle it out for the junior boys’ title.
There will be great battles in the team events where all the young athletes will be running for their schools and team-medals.
The action gets underway on Saturday at 12 noon with the minor girl’s race and concludes with the senior boy’s race at 14.40.
There will be event hoodies for sale on the day for €25!