By Dermot Nagle
On my walk this morning, Monday November 21st, I called in to say hello to Ursula Noctor at her final resting place in Castleknock. Ursula was a quintessential DCH member, totally dedicated to our sport, especially cross country and road running. Ursula was a member of our great team which won so much both domestically and in Europe and was a high performer in her own right. We lost Ursula to illness in April 1993 at age 28, just as our great era of 16 national senior titlesin a row was coming to an end and I felt it appropriate to visit her graveside today as a new era began. No doubt but that she would have been involved in our quest yesterday had she survived her illness.
We drove to Donegal seeking a medal having lost out by a single point for 3rd last year. The squad had strengthened since then but the nucleus of previous years remained. Having overnighted in Letterkenny on Saturday we completed the journey to Rosapenna on Sunday morning with overnight rain persisting for most of the short drive. Rosapenna, on Sheephaven Bay is an idyllic setting with the links golf course providing a wonderful dry venue, with excellent underfoot conditions notwithstanding the recent rain. Despite the absence of mud this was a testing but fair course with plenty of undulation mixed with fast running sections.
We had ten runners in the senior womens section knowing it would take in the region of 75/80 points to win a team medal and obviously less than that to win the championships. From the off Lauren positioned herself in the large leading group with Faye, Jodie, Cliona and Edel well placed in the first 25. Running to a plan Alison, Avril, Claire, Niamh and Aislinn made more conservative starts with a view to running through the field as the race progressed.
The further the race went the better our athletes looked, and to the surprise of the large crowd Lauren maintained her high position and covering all the break was now in the leading group of eight. Jodie, Edel and Cliona consolidated their places in and around the top twenty but Faye having an unusual off day could not sustain the pace. Alison, Avril, Niamh, Claire and Aislinn were making steady progress,picking off athletes as the laps went by. Alarm bells began to sound on the last two laps because whereas we expected UCD to be our main opposition, Letterkenny AC with some inspired running were racing neck and neck with us on the points table. Going into the last lap Lauren gained a vital place and running 7th held off all comers to finish in that position, which left her as 6th senior woman and in line for possible selection for the European Championships in December. With magnificent packing Cliona, Edel and Jodie finished 18th, 19th and 20th(5th under 23) respectively and the wait began. UCD had 1st, 10th and 11th waiting for their 4thscorer. Letterkenny had 4th, 13th and 21st waiting for their 4thwhile we sat on 64 points. Then the good news, DCH winners by one point. Excellent finishing positions from Alison, Avril, Niamh, Claire, Faye and Aislinn completed our performance for the day.
We were in a small tent sheltering from a short downpour when we heard the result and I guess the celebrations could have been heard in Reykjavik, broadly speaking the next parish due north.
However there was little time to dwell because Pierre was on next and similarly to Lauren he positioned himself superbly and appeared to be running comfortable in the leading group. Attacks came and went which were reeled in quickly with Pierre remaining in the vanguard. Over the last few laps athletes began to fall off the leading group until it was down to seven runners. With approx 1000mts remaining threeathletes made the long run for home and gaps began to open. Pierre running with great purpose held his position and closed in 6th overall, and being 3rd senior man secured automatic selection for the European Cross Country Championships in Turin.
A great day in the history of the club and we have to acknowledge a great run by Cliodhna Ryan in the girls under 18 race which went before the senior programme. Cliodhna finished 18th and secured a medal running for the Dublin County team which finished 2nd. We looking forward to welcoming her into the senior ranks within a few years.
The four hour journey home was all the shorter following our victory, spirits were high, our aim was achieved winning our first nationals since 1992. Word of Nadia’s great run in Italy, and Fiona’s and Ailish’s performances in America began filtering through, and planning began for the European Clubs Cross Country Championships in February 2023 in Spain. Valencia here we come.
We now have won five of the nine championships available to us this cross country season, with four more to go.
So far so good.