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All-Ireland Schools finals

Performance of the day went to rising West Waterford race walker Kate Veale (St Augustine's Dungarvan), whose 12:40.09 3,000m victory knocked over a minute off Ann Loughnane's 2003 schools record (13.51).

This looks a particularly good omen as Loughnane (younger sister of 2009 World Championships silver medallist, Olive) is a former silver medallist at the World Youths and Veale (fourth at the Youth Olympics last summer) is headed to that same U-18 event, in France, this summer.

SHOCK of the day came in the senior boy's 1500m where Shane Quinn was expected to crown his schools career with another victory but was left in the wake of Sligo Grammar's Tommy Casey and was outsprinted for silver by Andrew Monaghan of Colman's, Newry.

Casey was the defending champion but, with Quinn injured last year, he had never beaten the Waterford star in his schools career so was particularly chuffed. He's headed to Oklahoma State now on a scholarship and his day was crowned when their medals were presented by none other than Ireland's three-time world indoor 1500m champion Marcus O'Sullivan.

TOMMY CASEY'S father, Michael, and his grandfather, Tommy, were both former Irish international race-walkers, while Quinn is the son of Irish steeplechase record-holder, Brendan.

Quinn is also headed to America next year, going to Providence College on a scholarship, and he and Casey are already firm friends.

Young Quinn may have had to settle for a rare bronze on his schools swansong but there was consolation for the Waterford family as his younger sister Aisling, looking like another chip off the family running block, won the junior girls' metric mile.

MARCUS O'Sullivan is now the head athletics coach at the legendary Villanova University and he was clearly impressed by the two outstanding distance performances of the day.

First came diminutive Colaiste Iosagain star Siofra Cleirigh-Buttner who was 200 metres ahead of the whole field at the bell and won the intermediate girls' 1500m (in 4:29:83) by a 27-second margin.

But for once the tiny DSD powerhouse was overshadowed by Ruari Finnegan (St Eunan's), one of a rising wave of Letterkenny middle-distance teen tyros, impressively coached by Teresa McDaid.

A year ago, he had to settle for silver while Adam Ingram set a new inter 1500m record (3:57.44). But Finnegan returned to decimate that record with a fabulously stylish 3:55.22 to mark him out also as one for the future.

EILEEN O'Keeffe may, sadly, have announced her retirement recently but watch out for two new rising female hammer throwers.

Cara Kennedy (Waterford CIT), a product of the brilliant Ferrybank club, extended the old senior hammer record (52.91m) to 55.31m.

The old record belonged to Rachel Akers -- whose sister Claire has also starred at schools level -- and their sister Alice (of Scarrif CS) kept up the family tradition by breaking the junior hammer record by over two metres with her 49.02m throw and, for good measure, later also won a gold in javelin.

NOT for the first time, a pile of youngsters proved they've certainly inherited their family genes, not least the Lawlors from Carlow.

Marcus did his first 100/200m sprint double in the intermediate grade and his younger sister Grace won the bronze medal in junior girls' 100m.

No surprise, really, as their mum (and coach) is former international Patricia Amond, who herself won the Irish schools sprint double in 1980 and, as recently as 2000, was a European champion in both 100m and 200m in her Masters age group.

AMY O'Donoghue, a niece of Ireland's two-time world indoor 3,000m champion Frank O'Mara, won an 800m/1500m intermediate double last year and did exactly the same this season in her first year up in the senior ranks.

A NEW name catching the eye from the same Limerick school (Villiers) as O'Donoghue was Roisin Harrison.

Harrison emerged victorious in the junior girls' 100/200m double and it comes as no surprise with her parents, Hayley and Drew Harrison, being two of Ireland's top sprint coaches.

SALLY Maughan is another regular podium finisher in schools athletics and was up on it again this year.

The Castlebar athlete took silver in senior long jump but actually leapt the same distance (5.86m) as winner Joanna Mills (Ballyclare), only to lose out on a countback.

Mills cleared it with her very first jump while Maughan achieved that distance in the second round.

SOMEONE with no famous Irish track lineage and very little coaching, yet, was young Joseph Ojewumi.

He moved to Ireland from Nigeria four years ago and he only joined an athletics club (Tallaght AC) in the past month. Yet his raw sprint talent brought home two medals to Deansrath Community School in Clondalkin. He caused a big stir by winning the junior 100m, shocking the fancied Zak Irwin from Connacht, but the Sligo Grammar flier reversed the order when they met in the 200m final.

Leinster and Ireland star Cian Healy was a regular double throws champion at Irish schools and his alma mater Belvedere College were on the podium yet again, retaining the prestigious Presidents Cup for best boys' senior team.

But Belvo's domination of senior throws has been disturbed in recent years by Wexford CBS' Marco Pons, who had a most unusual twist to his new senior discus record (54.17m). The old mark of 53.60m was set, 28 years ago, by Frank O'Brien (Dungarvan CBS) and his brother Michael is Marco's coach.

DAVID Harper (Rice College, Westport) caused another of the day's big shocks with his brilliant tactical run to win the intermediate 800m.

He narrowly failed to get the qualifying standard for this year's European Youth Olympics (EYOF) but the two boys who had to settle for the minor medals -- Karl Griffin (Abbey VS) and Daire Farrell (Carrick VS) -- had both achieved it and are now waiting to see who gets the one available place.

A GREAT addition to the Aviva Schools programme in recent years have been the 'paced' Irish Milers' Club guest races. They feature ex-schools champions and this year included two of the highest calibre.

The women's 800m was won by world junior silver medallist Ciara Mageean in 2:05.08 and former European Junior 1500m gold medallist, Meath's Colin Costello won the men's 800m in 1:50.52.

Cliona Foley

Irish Independent