Eagle ladies capture AAI County Senior XC Championship Individual and team titles. Eagle have captured its first ever Individual and team County Senior XC Championship titles. Rhona Lynch took individual gold and the team of Rhona, Niamh Roe, Gail Mullaney and Jane McGrath took the team gold.
Eagle AC - Cork Ladies Senior Champions 2008
Liam Doherty (coach), Jane McGrath, Gail Mullaney, Niamh Roe & Rhona Lynch
Eagle claimed its first ever Cork Senior Cross Country title yesterday, with the Club’s ladies team taking gold. There was a double celebration when Rhona Lynch came home in first place to take the Ladies individual title, another first for Eagle.
The event, hosted by Carrig na bhFear AC, took place in Watergrasshill yesterday, Dec 13th. Weather was good and sunny for the event but it was still bitterly cold on the windswept open course. Going underfoot was good – easy for me to say, watching from the sidelines – but the strong breeze on the uphill stretches made the going harder over the course, which was largely a long uphill drag with a matching downhill section.
The 5k Ladies Senior XC comprised three laps, a 1k lap followed by two 2k laps. Eagle had targeted this event several months ago and the squad had prepared meticulously under coach Liam Doherty, and it was hoped to field a very large and strong team, however plans started unravelling over the past month, beginning with an injury to Ann Marie Healy and culminating with several enforced absences.
On the day, Eagle had only three athletes, Rhona Lynch, Niamh Roe and Gail Mullaney. However, Ironman Jane McGrath, who had intended cycling to Watergrasshill, but punctured en route, saved the day, arriving just 5 minutes or so before the start, thus completing the team.
The race began predictably, with reigning champion Carmel Crowley (Bandon) going to the front, followed by several times winner, Louise Cavanagh (Bandon), with Michelle Scott-Murphy (Carrig na bhFear), Niamh & Rhona in close pursuit over the uphill section. Rhona quickly closed the gap and went to the front on the first big lap and was never in trouble afterwards, though Louise gave chase after the leading two of Rhona and Michelle during the third lap but never made any serious inroads into their respective leads. Carmel Crowley took fourth place, ahead of Eagle’s Niamh Roe in 5th place, just 6 seconds behind. Niamh had been suffering with ‘flu’ during the week, following her 6th place finish in last week’s National Novice Xc in Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan last Sunday. Eagle’s third placer, in 9th place, was Gail Mullaney, making a welcome return to the racing scene. Gail had her own battle with Bandon’s Priscilla O’Sullivan but had nearly a minute to spare at the finish. Meantime Jane worked away steadily and looked comfortable throughout, coming home in 11th place.
It was also great to see, among the spectator's, St Finbarr's Michael Dunne supporting his team. Michael has been "in the wars" recently and is getting back.
Eagle won the event with 26 points, while Bandon were second, with 17 points from three scorers. However if only three scorers were considered for Eagle, it would have made no difference as Eagle’s score came to 15, two ahead of Bandon. It was noted afterwards though that a change of just one place might have given Bandon the title, had only three counted. It illustrates the criticality of having a full team.
There was an open draw for all competitors later and Jane also won a bottle of wine to go with her Senior Gold medal!
St Finbarr’s had been expected to make a strong showing and were considered to be the main opposition, however several things, including several illnesses with the ‘winter vomiting virus’, meant that Alice Venables was the Barr’s only competitor.
Cork AAI Mens County Senior XC Championship
This year, the Club was always struggling to field a team in this event but we had a good effort at it, only to be thwarted in the last few minutes. Earlier in the week it became apparent that we would have 5 runners in the field, however John Desmond strained a hamstring at the track on Thursday and had to withdraw. That left us with a bare bones team of 4. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a road accident on route to the race that delayed several competitors, including Gary Relihan, who arrived just a few short minutes after the start. It clearly wasn’t going to be our day.
A strong field of 40 took part and Leevale’s Mark Hanrahan led from the outset and was never challenged throughout the race. Togher’s Italian born Mauro Lafinchi was a clear second and, from early on, was unchallenged for that position. It was a different story for the bronze medal; East Cork’s James McCarthy was the main contender from early on but he was pressed by several, including Carrig na bhFear’s Colin Merritt and East Cork clubmate, Sean McGrath, with Milstreet’s Desmond Casey also in early contention. However it was McCarthy who tired over the closing laps, when McGrath was getting into his running, eventually taking the bronze.
Further back, unfortunately running for honour only, Eagle’s trio of Dave Muldowney, Pat Murphy & Pat Power strove away steadily. Dave, who has made tremendous progress over the past two to three years, ran strongly throughout and took several scalps in the process. Pat Murphy also had a good run, coming close to taking several good scalps, before the other members of the group pressed on in the late stages. Pat Power, competing in his first cross-country season, maintained his good form, but was unfortunate to fall slightly adrift of Pat Murphy’s group during the second lap and had to work hard to keep in touch, nevertheless took a few scalps of his own.
East Cork supremo, Liam O’Brien was working the tallies from the outset and expected a strong challenge from all quarters, especially as Leevale had two runners towards the front. East Cork’s strength in depth quickly told and Liam said, with two laps to go; “East Cork have it won, but the Barr’s have a battle with Togher” and so it turned out, though the Barr’s main contenders for third place were Leevale, with Togher comfortably taking the silver medals.
East Cork, with nine runners in the field, had declared two teams beforehand, with their 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th placed runners forming the ‘A’ team. However the County Board decided to take the first four on each team, irrespective of declaration, as a club’s ‘A’ team, with the next four as their ‘B’ team.
This meant that St Finbarrs and Leevale, even though they hadn’t declared a ‘B’ team, took the silver and bronze respectively in the Senior ‘B’ grade. A further quirk was that Leevale’s final runner took a wrong turn and didn’t complete the full course, overtaking several runners in the process. This meant that only full 5 teams finished the race. Taking the three runners from each club who had completed the full course, Eagle finished with 94 points, versus Leevale ‘B’s 95 – a moral bronze.