Banner flying high with marathon double gold
You didn't have to go all the way to Croke Park yesterday to see wonderful performances from Clare teams as there was a string of excellent medal-winning efforts from Banner County groups at the HSE National Community Games Festival in Athlone IT.
The U-16 marathon events, always a blue riband at this competition, both went to Clare runners as Sean Collins (Ennis) and Caoimhe Harvey (Kilkee) took the overall honours.
The team medals also went the way of the Clare sides as Elaine Shannon, Sharon Egan and Grainne Kelly followed Harvey home in excellent times, while Stephen Maher, Eoin Looney and Micheal Clancy all contributed to a Clare victory over Meath and Tipperary in the boys' event.
This wasn't the first time that these young athletes had combined to bring glory to their county as Clancy, Looney and Collins added this Community Games success to National Cross-Country medals that they won at U-13 level three years ago.
Kevin Mulcaire was another impressive winner in Clare colours as he surged home in the U-16 1500m, even finding the time to take a Clare flag from a supporter and raise it high as he crossed the line.
Mulcaire finished 20 metres ahead of John Fitzsimons and Oisin O Gibne, with Fitzsimons narrowly edging a fierce battle for the silver medal.
Perhaps the most impressive performer of the day in the girls' section was Elizabeth Morland of Cushinstown AC, who recorded a personal best of 1.71m in the U-16 high jump, comfortably securing gold ahead of Emma Hennessy and Lauren Kennelly.
Morland has now made her mark in several disciplines as she won a National Youths Championship title last year in the long jump, while she also represented Ireland at the European Youth Olympics Festival at Utrecht in the 100m hurdles last month, recording a personal best in that event of 13.77 seconds.
A young sprinter from Portarlington made the headlines in the U-8 60m when John Ikpotokin became one of a very select group to retain his title at this event.
He did so in hugely impressive fashion, surging home past Samuel Olaoye, who narrowly failed in a valiant bid to bring yet another gold medal back to the St John's club in Ennis.
In the corresponding girls' event, Amie Nolan became one of three Carlow winners on the day, in the process ensuring that she went home not just with a gold medal, but also with the bragging rights in the Nolan household.
Sisters Tara and Laura also travelled to the midlands venue and performed admirably in the U-12 100m and the U-14 shot putt respectively, but on this occasion they were outshone by Amie, who was greeted at the finish line by parents Jackie and Kieran, for whom this was their sixth consecutive Community Games excursion with their daughters.
Sam O'Neill was another big winner for the south-east as he collected the U-14 80m hurdles gold, while twin brother Luke came agonisingly close to matching his achievement, instead picking up a silver in the 100m race.
This was the sixth Community Games competition in succession where the O'Neill twins took part and they really lit up their other event when they broke a 26-year-old relay record in the 4x100m final, winning comfortably over yet another medal-winning group from the St John's club in Ennis.