Its hard to believe that its exactly 40 years since we first competed in this championship which were held in the medieval town of Viterbo, located approx 60 miles north of Rome. In 1983, only the second iteration of the event, we were represented by Deirdre Nagle, Louise McGrillen, Greta Hickey, Ailish Smyth and Siobhan Treacy. At that stage our club had a powerful womens squad and much to the surprise of the other clubs we finished in 2nd place to the local and heavily sponsored team “Fiat SubLazio Formia”.
This began a run of fantastic performances which yielded 2ndplace again in 1984, winning in 1985 and 1986 with a string of high places until our last appearance there in 1992, where Frances Murphy, Catherine Smyth, Louise Cavanagh, Margaret Sweeney and Ailish Smyth flew our flag. Despite valiant efforts we didn’t win the national championships again for 30 years.
The event has undergone significant change since we last competed and today only four runners per team run, with only three to score. Two clubs per country are invited, each of which may invite a guest even up to Olympic championship standard to represent them. Hardly conducive for club building. Having said that the event was extremely well organised by the local club, accommodation was excellent and the food top notch. Fantastic live streaming was provided largely using mobile drone technology. Oropesa is effectively a summer holiday resort which was effectively a ghost town at this time of the year.
If Irish cross country is denoted by mud, hills, wind and rain, Spanish cross country is famous for tight twisting and turning courses on arid land and sand with artificial jumps on each lap. Imagine a course designed in a seaside park only 50m wide and perhaps 1500m long, bounded in by the sea. This was the Balearic section of the clear blue Mediterranean, no Kavanaghesque snot green sea.
Our team comprising of Cliona 32nd, Edel 40th, Avril 51st and Faye 66th(Aoife Carr competing for her Scottish Club took 61stplace) acquitted themselves well and finished in 12th position.Places were hard to come by and had to be fought hard for. The experience will stand us in good stead in the years to come. Our team and supporters demonstrated the club spirit which we are now renowned for.
We flew home through a beautiful evening sky, crimson setting sun to port and grapefruit rising moon to starboard. Then we were diverted to Belfast, dogged by drone issues at Dublin Airport and that’s a story for another day. How I hate drones.