Dooney holds off Tobin to secure shock title triumph
After 30 minutes of hard, fast and tactically astute running, Kevin Dooney had a simple synopsis of his achievement: "These are the days you dream of."
The 25-year-old Raheny athlete upset the odds - and race favourite Seán Tobin - to take the senior men's title at yesterday's Irish Life Health National Cross Country Championships in Abbotstown.
From the start, Tobin churned out a swift pace, and only his Clonmel team-mate Kevin Maunsell and Dooney were up to the task. But as Dooney followed Tobin through the softest part of the course, he made a mental note of something that later proved key.
"He didn't look comfortable so I said, 'wait a few laps - if you're going to break him anywhere it's going to be there'," said Dooney.
"When that moment came I hit him hard and it was a matter of piling it on then."
Heading into the last lap, Dooney had a 40-metre advantage, and though Tobin unleashed a furious kick at the finish, it wasn't enough. Dooney claimed his first senior cross country title in 30:07, four seconds clear of Tobin, with Maunsell taking bronze.
Raheny won the team title for the third year in a row, with Dooney backed up by an outstanding run from Brian Fay, the U-23 winner, in fourth, and Rio Olympian Mick Clohisey in fifth.
In the women's races, class was the key ingredient, something both Sarah Healy and Ciara Mageean had in abundance.
In what was Mageean's first race of the season, the 1500m specialist exhibited her colossal calibre in the senior race, making the most of the absence of former champions Fionnuala McCormack (who recently gave birth) and Shona Heaslip (who was injured) to claim her first senior cross country title.
Mageean tied up close to home - an understandable occurrence over 8000m - but hit the line in 28:02, three seconds clear of Ann Marie McGlynn and six ahead of Fionnuala Ross. Leevale, led by Michelle Finn in fourth, claimed the team title.
"It's big," said Mageean. "I never thought I'd be up there in the senior cross. Everybody tells me I'm a track specialist but I cut my teeth over the cross. This is a testament to the work I've put in this winter."
Mageean is now relishing her return to the European Cross Country in Tilburg on December 9, though there's no doubting the best Irish medal chance there will be in the U-20 women's race.
Sarah Healy, still only 17, routed her opposition to take that title yesterday by 18 seconds, only putting them to the sword halfway through the 4000m race.
"It wasn't easy," Healy said. "This is my first race of the season so I wasn't sure what was going to happen."
In the U-20 men's race, Darragh McElhinney was an impressive winner, powering away from his rivals on the penultimate lap.
"I was hurting when I decided to go and I just had to keep grinding it out," he said. "The last 500 metres, it was good there was no one near me."