DESPITE the mighty English challenge, Caoimhe Harrington from Bantry and Paddy Maher of Dunshaughlin Community College made it a golden double for Ireland at the annual SIAB Schools International Cross-Country in Bolton.
On a freezing and miserable day, the junior girls were first up and from the start of the 3.5km race, Harrington took her place at the front, unfazed by the sea of English vests surrounding her. Approaching the finishing line, there was the inevitable sprint and Harrington made it by a whisker from England's Josie Czura. So close were the girls that they were given the same time. Jodie McCann of Rathdown, who finished a close second behind Harrington at the Aviva Irish Schools Championships, ran a great race to finish 11th, with the team finishing just behind Scotland in third place.
Harrington's victory meant that the stage was set for a day of upsets and, in the junior boys' 4.5km race, Paddy Maher of Dunshaughlin CC and James Maguire from St Benildus provided the big one.
Maher, the Irish schools junior champion, pushed the pace from the start, ably supported by Maguire, who was never far off the pace and briefly led the race. Emerging from the wooded area of the course, the green vests of Ireland were in first and second places, to the stunned disbelief of the English supporters.
English champion Matthew Willis was doing his best to hold on to the flying Irish and, heading out on the final lap, Maguire took a tumble, leaving Maher and Willis to battle it out up front.
Then – near disaster! With sleet and hail making the conditions treacherous, Maher also stumbled just as Willis made a surge to the front. The young Meath man's chances of victory were in the balance, but he quickly regained his footing and sprinted home for victory.
Behind him, the brave Maguire held on to finish third after a truly epic race. In the team competition, England, with all six of their runners in the top 11, took the team gold with Ireland just 15 points behind in second place.
England domination was nowhere more obvious than in the inter-girls' 4.5km, where the girls in white took the first eighth places. In the gruelling conditions, Isabel Carron of Skerries CC did well to finish 12th, with the team third.
Irish spirits were again raised when Kevin Mulcaire of St Flannan's Ennis put in a typically classy display in the inter-boy's 5.5km. Ben Dijkstra of England led for much of the race, but Mulcaire held on for second, not only winning individual silver, but leading the Irish to team second place behind the English.
SIAB Schools International C-C, Bolton, England.
Girls – Junior 3.5km: 1 C Harrington (CP Bheanntrai) 13 mins 22 secs, 2 J Czura (Eng) 13 mins 22 secs, 3 M Deadman (Eng) 32.31. Other Irish: 1 J McCann (Rathdown), 14 A McBroom (Loreto Coleraine), 17 N Duffy (St Peter's Dunboyne), 20 H Blake (East Glendalough) 25 L Nicholson (Bandon GS), 32 L Ward (Pres Carlow). Teams: 1 England (2,34,678) 30, 2 Scotland 80, 3 Ireland 88, 4 Wales 131.
Inter 4.5km: 1 H Knowles-Jones (Eng) 16:05, 2 S Sinha (Eng) 16.47, 3 R Johnson (Eng) 51. Irish:12 I Carron (Skerries CC) 17.42, 14 E O'Broien (Dominican Wicklow) 17.58, 16 A Bate Loreto Mullingar) 18.03, 18 C O'Reilly (Loreto Cavan) 18.06, 21 R Pierce (Skerries CC) 18.22, 22 F Everard (Maria Immaculata) 18.24, 27 EFitzpatrick ( OL Terenure) 18.48, 29 A McSheffrey (Limavady Grammar) 18.58. Teams: 1 England (1,2,3,4,5,6,) 21, 2 Scotland 94, 3 Ireland 103, 4 Wales 126.
Boys – Junior 3.5km: 1 P Maher (Dunshaughlin CC) 15.24, 2 M Willis (Eng) 15.27, 3 J Maguire (St Benildus) 15.38. Other Irish: 12 A Doherty (Rice College Westport) 16.09, 14 C Brolly (Omagh CBS) 16.13, 16 A McGlynn (Garmscoil Lifford) 16.19, 19 N Harvey (Pres Carlow) 19.27, 22 J Jordan (Dunshaughlin CC) 19.37, 27 P Fegan (St Colman's Newry) 19.58, Teams: 1 England (2,4,6,7,10,11) 40, 2 Ireland 65, 3 Scotland 82, 4 Wales 134.
Inter 5.5km 1 B Dijkstra (Eng) 16.23, 2 K Mulcaire (St Flannan's Ennis) 16.34, 3 M Mahamed (Eng) 16.42. Other Irish: 9 P Lynch (St Kieran's Kilkenny) 17.15, 10 S Hughes (Col Mhuire Mullingar) 17.17, 11 S Edgar (Friends Lisburn) 17.19, 13 F Curtin (Midleton CBS) 17.27, 16 C Conlon (Rathmore Grammar Belfast) 17.35, 17 B Keane ( St Declan's Kilmacthomas) 17.44, 19 C Doyle (St Aidan's CBS) 17.54. Teams: 1 England (1,3,4,5,6,7) 26, 2 Ireland 61, 3 Scotland 119, 4 Wales 144.