We travelled down to Rathdrum today in good spirits carrying fond memories of our last visit there in 2014. That year represented the renaissance of our womens cross country squad when our team led by Niamh Donnelly 1st, won the Leinster Novice Cross Country Championships with 20 points. Supporting Niamh that day were Aislinn 4th, Claire (Brennan) 7th, Sinead 8th and Aoife Ni 14th. We also won the Leinster Intermediate title that year with a similar squad.
As usual this championship was superbly hosted by Leinster Athletics and Athletics Wicklow. Avondale Forest Park, despite some overnight vandalism to the course set up, was in immaculate condition. The grass had a nice texture with little mud and the temperature mild for this time of the year. Coming to Wicklow flat courses are not expected but its fair to say that the hills were many and savagely long. There were approximately six tough inclines on each lap.
Cliona decided to go hard from the outset and quickly built up a substantial lead. Aislinn, Eimear and Aoife Ni ran as a pack early on with Sinead following closely behind. Aoife D ran conservatively on the first lap with the intention of running through the field as best possible.
The longer the race went on the further Cliona extended her lead and finished an easy winner in 15.03. Sinead finding the hills to her liking gained places all the way around and running strongly finished 3rd and in the medals, closely followed home in 4th by Aislinn who had her best run for some time. Aoife Ni had having missed out on our pre-Christmas silverware haul had her heart set on a team medal and so it was to be. Running to her strengths she closed out in 6th place, again her best performance in some time. Eimear having an out of character off day finished in 8th and Aoife D continuing her improvement with a 20th place finish. We took the team prize with an extremely low score of 14 points.
This was our tenth cross country championship in a row and we remain unbeaten over the country since January 2022. This is athletic history and certainly the performance of this group of athletes was never done before.
Its very pleasing to note that the combined years of membership of our scoring quartet today amounts to almost 80 years. Cliona, Sinead, Aislinn and Aoife commenced their careers in St Dominic’s Cabra & Celtic DCH under the supervision of Mary and progressed through the ranks to senior status, unbelievable.
In two weeks’ time we will represent our country at the European Clubs Cross Country Championship in Spain and the week after that we will defend the National Intermediate title in Gowran Park, Wexford.
We will not wish to lose this title but to take our unbeaten run to 11 titles at the end of this cross country season.