Tuesday 25 June 2019

Drogheda masters on top of the world


While some athletes hope to win provincial and national medals, others, such as Drogheda & District AC's Mary Leech and Mark O'Shea, dare to dream big and to compete for medals on the world stage - and last weekend they did just that at the World Masters Indoor Track Championships in Torun, Poland.

Competing against some of the best Masters athletes the sport has to offer is no easy task as many of these athletes have had sparkling international careers and their will to win hasn't lessened as their careers progressed.

First up, running in the M45 3,000m was Mark O'Shea, who was really up against it with two classy Spaniards working well together as they forced the early pace.

O'Shea, who's a master tactician when it comes to championship racing, didn't panic and settled in about sixth position for the opening laps and stayed off the early pace.

With just two laps left of this tight track and the leading athletes away and clear, O'Shea had worked his way up to third and was working hard to hold on to the precious medal place.

Keeping a cool head he made his move with barely 100m to go and opened up a small but decisive gap to take the bronze medal in an eye-opening time of 8:56:35.

Just when supporters of the Drogheda & District club thought it couldn't get any better, Mary Leech walked onto the track for her W40 3,000m - and something very special was about to happen.

Leech, slight in stature but huge in heart, is always guaranteed to give of her best and the atmosphere was electric as she toed the start line to the roar of the large crowd of Irish supporters.

Right from the gun, Leech set out her stall by taking up a commanding position in the leading pack, staying out of trouble while staying just off the early pace.

These championship races are never won in the first few laps, but if you lose concentration for just a split second the gap can open and the race can be lost. However, Leech kept alert and with three laps remaining she had moved into third place and the race was on in earnest.

The leading athlete, Zoe Doyle from Great Britain, had a clear four-second lead and wasn't going to be caught, but Leech got down to business and relentlessly closed the gap on the Spaniard Maria De Toro Saiz with just over a lap remaining.

To the roar of a deafening Irish crowd, Leech unleashed a devastating turn of speed to overtake her opponent and made a gutsy run for the line, finishing in silver medal position in 10:30:56.

Leech will run in the 1500m next weekend and on this form will be in with a chance of more success.

Also competing in the M55 3,000m was Pat O'Grady who had a packed field of quality athletes to contend with. Nevertheless, he dug deep when the going got tough and produced a sparkling run to finish ninth in 9:54:18, his fastest time over this distance in the last three years. He'll be running on the cross-country team which competes over 8km in the coming days.

Closer to home, at last Saturday's BHAA 10K road race at the K Club in Straffan, Ciara O'Reilly lit up the roads when she produced a magnificent performance to cover the undulating course in 39:57. To say that this represents quality running would be an understatement, as every club runner worth their salt wants to go sub-40 over that distance.

Also running was Roisin Donnelly who ran a useful 43:16, while Nuala Reilly clocked 44:56.

Shane Russell was the club's first man across the line in 49th place overall in 35:14 and there's more to come from him as the season progresses, while Thomas Farrelly was D&D's second finisher in 40:28. Gerry Mullins continued his comeback when finished in 46:09.

Taking on the challenge of the weekly Oldbridge Parkrun last weekend were Padraig McCabe and Knut Nielsen.

McCabe was D&D's first finisher in seventh spot in 20:26, while Nielsen was 11th in 21:05, both men running new PB times for this challenging 5K course.

For the ladies, Edel Smith was 47th in 25:05 - a new PB time - followed by Michele McCullough and Audrey Corcoran.

At the mid-week ALSAA Winter League, Gerard Fay ran the 3,000m in 13:19, while Christy Duffy finished in 14:05.

Siobhan Redmond ran the St Oliver's 5K in Dundalk in 25:30.

Drogheda Independent