Saturday 17 August 2019

Carthy, Forde in flying form

County Senior Road Race Championships

Clodagh Kelly (Croghan, second), Jackie Carthy (Kilmore, first), and Nicola Murphy (United Striders, third)
Clodagh Kelly (Croghan, second), Jackie Carthy (Kilmore, first), and Nicola Murphy (United Striders, third)

The Mr Oil county Senior road race championships took place in Murrintown and were hosted by Wexford Marathon Club.

On a horrible, wet evening for running, there was still strong turn-outs from Wexford's club athletes. The races were staged on a testing loop that featured a tough 1.3 km. climb.

This climb was punishing, and any athletes who got their tactics wrong here were in trouble. The women's race was 5k, while the men took on 10k, an extra loop of the course.

The women's race was up first at 7.30 p.m. Some of the pre-race favourites - Fiona Kehoe (Kilmore), Ciara Wilson (D.M.P.) and Catherine Roche (Slaney Olympic) - were all absent from the field for various reasons.

This left the race very wide open, with Jackie Carthy from Kilmore a strong favourite, although Croghan's Clodagh Kelly, who won the county Novice title in Rathgarogue and the county Intermediate title in Ballymurn, was also expected to be in the mix for medals.

It was anticipated that the team category would be very close and once again very open, as favourites Kilmore and D.M.P. were not in the position to field teams. Croghan, United Striders and S.B.R. were expected to be the strongest contenders.

The race started off at quite a healthy pace, with Carthy and Kelly neck and neck as they attacked the hill.

The likes of Nicola Murphy (United Striders), Lillian Lawless (S.B.R.), Ciara Bowe (S.B.R.) and Aoife O'Callaghan (Croghan) were all battling hard behind, knowing that in order to medal in the team competition they would have to place high.

As the race unfolded, Carthy gradually began to pull away from Kelly, although the Croghan woman put in a valiant effort, never giving up.

As Carthy headed into the finishing straight, there was a clear gap between her and Kelly, and she was crowned the Mr Oil county Senior women's road race champion for 2019, in an impressive time of 18:23.

Forty seconds after, Kelly crossed the line, as ever with her trademark smile on her face, knowing that she has had some debut year on the county road race scene. Her time of 19:03 was very impressive on a tough course.

Without doubt, Kelly has a lot of potential and if she can continue to progress, she could be a force to be reckoned with on the cross-country courses in the season to come.

The battle for bronze was a bit closer. In only her second race for the club, Nicola Murphy of United Striders managed to fend off the challenge of S.B.R. duo Lillian Lawless and Ciara Bowe. Murphy completed the course in a swift 20:16.

As mentioned earlier, the battle for the team medals was going to be extremely close. Croghan managed to take home the gold medal, with Clodagh Kelly being joined by Aoife O'Callaghan (sixth), Mary Kennedy (ninth) and Niamh O Donnabháin (13th), to give them a total of 30 points.

United Striders won the silver medals in dramatic fashion ahead of S.B.R. on countback, with the Striders women having the highest last scorer. Both teams finished on 36 points.

The United Striders team was made up of the bronze medal winner Nicola Murphy, Beth O'Connor (seventh), Sonya Byrne (twelfth) and Caitríona McLoughlin (14th).

The S.B.R. team comprised Lawless (fourth), Bowe (fifth), Belinda Kehoe (eleventh), and Deirdre O'Malley (16th).

The men's 10k race got under way immediately after the conclusion of the women's race. Some of the main contenders were Ger Forde (Slaney Olympic), Niall Sheil (St. Killian's), Aedan Rodgers (United Striders), and Enda Cloake (Slaney Olympic).

The pre-race favourites for the team title were arguably United Striders. They have dominated the team category this year and inevitably have a lot of strength and depth in their ranks.

Slaney Olympic also had quite a strong team as well as S.B.R., who were also hoping to figure in the medals.

From the off in the race, it was clear that there was only going to be one winner. Ger Forde of Slaney Olympic asserted his dominance over the field and by the time they reached the halfway mark he was already well clear.

Niall Sheil was also beginning to pull away from Enda Cloake at the 5k mark as they re-emerged into the village. Aedan Rodgers, who was in the middle of his Leaving Cert., decided to take a more conservative approach to the first half of the race and found himself back in the field a little bit in about seventh place.

Clubmates Paul Doran and Brendan Lyng were flying the flag for United Striders at the midway point.

As the race progressed, Forde's lead continued to grow. He was quite literally untouchable and had a massive win, clocking a very fast and impressive time of 31:19 for the course.

This was also considerably quicker than the time Forde ran in April to finish eleventh in the national 10k championships of 31:54. It is clear that Forde is in superb form, having also finished eighth in the national 5k championships in a time of 15:14 last month.

Coming in strongly next was Niall Sheil. Despite being nearly two minutes behind Forde, Sheil was content to come in second in a time of 33:16.

The battle for third was more interesting. As the race progressed, Aedan Rodgers began to gradually pick up his place and pick off plenty of runners who were ahead of him at halfway.

As they entered the last kilometre, Rodgers was getting closer and closer to Enda Cloake who was doing his best to push on and win a medal, having ran a 2:45 marathon less than a week before.

Unfortunately for Rodgers and to Cloake's delight, Rodgers just couldn't bridge the gap. Cloake finished in a time of 33:43, with Rodgers finishing less than ten seconds behind in 33:51.

The team race was also very close in the men's competition. Once again countback was required to separate the gold medal winners from the silver medal winners.

By having the highest placing fourth finisher, the United Striders men from New Ross claimed victory just ahead of Slaney Olympic, with both teams scoring 24 points.

On the winning team, Aedan Rodgers (fourth) was joined by Paul Doran (fifth), Brendan Lyng (seventh), and Joe Lillis (eighth).

The Slaney Olympic team was made up of Forde (first), Cloake (third), newcomer David Mahon (sixth), and Dara Cloake (14th), who recently made the switch from S.B.R. to Slaney.

There was also drama in the battle for the bronze medal, with only a point separating the S.B.R. team from the United Striders 'B' team. S.B.R. managed to win the bronze medal but only just.

They scored 61 points. Their team comprised Paul Gibbons (eleventh), Myles Gibbons (twelfth), Niall O'Connor (17th), and Denis Moynihan (21st).

What a dramatic evening in Murrintown in miserable conditions! This race brought an end to a very exciting series of Mr Oil county road race championships which began all the way back in February.

In each race there has been plenty of excitement and drama. Special thanks must be given to our county Senior Secretaries from S.B.R., namely Paul Gibbons and Louise Kehoe, for the fantastic job they have done throughout.

Also special thanks to the other members of S.B.R. who have helped with every race.

Thanks to all our officials for their assistance.

Finally, a special mention to the clubs who hosted this year's road races - United Striders, Slaney Olympic, Kilmore and Wexford Marathon Club - each of whom did a fantastic job

The next Senior action in 2019 will be the Mr Oil county Senior track and field championships in Enniscorthy Sports Hub.

Day one is on Wednesday, July 10, with day two taking place on Wednesday, July 31.

We look forward to seeing a big crowd of Seniors participating on the track on both days.

Gorey Guardian