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Clongowes to host exciting schools’ battles

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Clongowes to host exciting schools’ battles

The Irish Life Health All Ireland Schools Cross Country Championships take place in the picturesque surroundings of Clongowes Wood College with some exciting team and individual battles in store this Saturday (March 9).

The senior boys’ team title looks like the most challenging prize to win with Belvedere College, St Kieran’s Kilkenny, St Colman’s Newry and St Malachy’s in the hunt.

Individually, defending senior champions Sarah Healy (Holy Child Killiney) and Efrem Gidey (Le Cheile SS Tyrrelstown) are down to return.

The course should be faster than last year’s hilly course in Carriganore with Clongowes’ flat environs. The weather will be the only factor slowing the athletes down. You can see the course map and timetable HERE 

The first race of the day will be the minor girls’ 2,000m with the leading teams such as Friends’ School Lisburn, Castleknock CC, Seamount College Kinvara and Colaiste Mhuire Ennis. It is three athletes to score in the girls’ races.

Anyone can spring a surprise in the younger age groups with experience and enjoyment gained at this age certainly more important than medals.

In the minor boys’ 2,500m leading teams include Colaiste Mhuire Mullingar, Midleton CBS and Sullivan Upper, Holywood. For the boys it is four to score to medal in the team competition.

Sophie Quinn was the minor girls’ winner in 2018 and she will be looking to lead her school Mount Sackville to the team title in the junior girls 2,500m. They go in as Leinster champions with Pobalscoil na Trionoide, Down HS Downpatrick, led by Ulster champion Catherine Martin, and Strathearn Belfast among the team contenders.

St Malachy’s have a number of strong teams and they will be looking to have an impact in the junior boys’ 3,500m where Nenagh CBS and St Kieran’s College Kilkenny will be among the teams fighting for podium spots.

Bethany Nixon will be aiming to lead Banbridge Academy to the team title in the intermediate girls’ 3,500m which will see some strong individual and team contenders. Niamh O’Mahony (Presentation Tralee), second last year, will be among the individual contenders along with Roisin O’Reilly (Loreto Wexford), Cara Laverty (Thornhil College, Derry) and Amelia Kane (Strathearn Belfast). Loreto Kilkenny and Pobalscoil na Trionoide should also be in the team mix. Expect some other individuals to step up from their provincial performances.

The intermediate boys’ 5,000m promises to offer an intriguing individual and team race. Dean Casey has strong individual aspirations backed up by a St Flannan’s College, Ennis team that has strength and depth.

St Malachy’s will prove a tough nut to crack with Fiontann Campbell leading their ranks. Dylan McBride (Grosvenor Grammar) should be among the individual contenders along with Scott Fagan (Luttrelstown CC) and defending champion Michael Morgan (Summerhill College Sligo). St Aidan’s Whitehall will pack well as a team while there should be a number of other individuals who can rise to the occasion such as Sean Donoghue (St Declan’s Cabra).  

There will be no looking past defending champion Sarah Healy (Holy Child Killiney) in the senior girls’ 2,500m where Mount Anville, St Angela’s Waterford and Down HS, Downpatrick will be in contention for the team title.

Laura Nicholson (Bandon Grammar) will be among the individual contenders with Rebecca Wallace (Wallace HS, Lisburn) and Saoirse O’Brien (SH Westport). Amy Rose Farrell will lead Mount Anville’s team challenge with Tara Ramswamy heading St Angela’s challenge and Hannah Gilliland will steer a strong Down HS team.

Belvedere College will be stepping up from their intermediate success and look to top the team pile in the senior boys’ 6,000m where Efrem Gidey returns as defending champion. Gidey has been highly impressive the last few months and was a comfortable winner of the Leinster title.  

Daniel Stone leads Belvede’s challenge with Conall McLean, St Malachy’s, Micheal McCaul, St Colman’s Newry, and Shay McEvoy, St Kieran’s Kilkenny, the lead runners for the other competitive teams. Each team has two particularly strong runners so this will invariably see the third and fourth scorers playing pivotal roles to separate the teams at the finish. Keelan Kilrehill (Colaiste na Iascaigh) and Tommy Connolly (CBC Cork) should mount strong individual challenges with Frank O’Brien heading Midleton CBS.  

The athletes have passed through their districts/zones and provinces to reach this point. It will be intriguing to see who has the strength to pass the final test in Clane.

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