Race Report By Phil Kilgannon
Photos by Eoin O’Brien. Full album: Click here
Stan’ up an’ fight until you hear de bell,
Stan’ toe to toe, trade blow fer blow,
Keep punchin’ till you make yer punches tell,
Show dat crowd watcher know!
Until you hear dat bell, dat final bell,
Stan’ up an’ fight like hell!” (Munster rugby chant)
Axel…The news was just breaking as we limbered up for the Open Autumn Cross Country staged in the grounds of the Abbottstown complex in Blanchardstown. Our stretches halted as we absorbed the bombshell and gasped a collective F*%! Being only a jackeen, this was nonetheless astonishing. Hearing of such a legendary athlete and man, only a handful of years older than myself abruptly taken away was completely incongruous.
I imagine Anthony embodied these terrace chants as much as any man in red over the years. To have a led a band of warriors such as O’Connell, O’Gara, Wallace et al. to the holy grail of the European Cup in 2006, he will simply be a hero forever in the south and especially south west. He, like his father before him and the likes of Wood, Galway, Claw and Bull forged a formidable bond with each other and their people, that was often inpenetrable to overawed opponents. This identity and culture has been the envy of any club in any code for many years. Going on to be head coach at such a young age was also an honour reserved for a special character. 5 All Ireland League titles for Shannon also displays his legacy on a local level and the ties that bind.
From no.8 Anthony led his teams forward spiritually and literally, driving the scrum and barelling over gain lines time and time again. Displaying far more insight than just sheer brawn, his reading of the game has been frequently mentioned in tributes this week. We athletes could learn much from Axel, to box clever and bide our time as much as trading blow for blow.
Ar dheis De go raibh a ainm.
Meanwhile the trivial matter of racing was commencing back at Abbottstown. The inspirational Carol Lynch opened proceedings with a rousing 4th place in the O 65 race. Carol has been competing resolutely ever since I’ve been at the club and long before I imagine. Long may she continue.
Noreen Brouder fearlessly entered the ladies 6k, which was 3 laps of a mostly flat circuit, which was however quite sodden in places. These races serve as the qualifiers for the home nations masters international XC in November.. Noreen was to the manner born, finishing 33rd (6th in her category) in a race containing the cream of the crop of Irish female runners.
And so onto the fellas. A scatter of Sportsworld bucks emerged from the woodwork of the sprawling forest that surrounded the course. We had to do 8k, 4 laps of the aforementioned but increasingly muckened soil. Apparently the ladies is just 6k, to allow for the extra time for photo shoots afterwards.
Leading the way was Special K, who blazed a trail up front as always, leaving some noteable scalps trailing in his wake. Karol has been running at a high level now for a couple of years, starting to fulfill the great potential that we all knew was there. He finished an impressive 37th, which would in theory be close to qualifying for next year’s Irish Masters team, such is the benchmark to do so.
Race Reporter Phil
I was a considerable 31 places back, rolling gradually threw the pack like an old capri pursuing a fleet of corvettes, waiting for them to blow a gasket, which some can and inevitably will do. After another Godforsaken summer of trying to unravel my rubix cube of injuries, this was progress.
Next home was C Mac. Conor, the reigning Most Improved Athlete and aran jumper model of the year has had a steady improvement over this time. Breaking an hour for 10 miles and hitting mid 16’s for 5k show a real breakthrough. He had a fine race on Sunday, judging the pace astutely and getting inside the top 100, which is fine running in company such as this. He’s been a great help in training for me of late and this is just the tip of the iceberg for Conor; the running that is, not so much the jumpers.
A great training mate was next home, the mighty Damian Kelly. Not long back from a family holiday, Super Dad ran a customary solid race. Especially suited to the cross country and anything involving hills, Damian is always a banker to score competitively for the team and will be invaluable over the winter.
On reflection I think Sadanand will know he left a better performance behind on Sunday. On the back of an impressive marathon stateside, Sadanand has an invaluable platform for the country season ahead. 5 miles may seem comfortable on the back of completing 26 , but as we all learn it’s a different animal to road running; more akin to marathoning in fact. A more conservative run could have eaked out up to a minute over the 8k may, rather than front loading the pace. A top 100 placing wouldn’t have been far away.
Nonchalant Karl Chatteron was looking for a nice bit of training ahead of the Leinsters. I wasn’t quite sure if he was delusional or super confident approaching this race as such. Karl took today in his affable stride however, coming in just after Sadanand. A solid piece of training indeed. In fairness Karl is another who has come on in spades and who I struggled to stay with in the national 10k. Hopefully he can multi-task the training and wedding planning. Karl is currently spear heading the fellas whats app think tank, so there should be plenty of cutting edge revelations in the pipeline.
Finally came a ballsy run from Mark Heffernan, embracing one of the toughest races around. Mark placed 167th and will be surprised by nothing after this little beauty.
There was mighty support around the course; especially Mike O’Grady, who’s kept me on the road. Eoiny seemed to be everywhere on the course. He’s hoped to bring the dog along for a trot, but Dolly respectfully declined to get out of the car and remained in the passenger seat. Apparently she cocked an eye brow at the suggestion. Will came straight from TK Max, suitably attired for the agricultural terrain. Sporting a look he proudly told me was Ploughing Championship Chic he also circumnavigated the course. The ever present Paul Duffy and Emily of course gave great shouts and Gareth and Kevin. Finally Paddy also, who it was great to see.
It was great to get back on this stage and compete again against old friends and new opponents. One week at a time though. As we saw at the weekend, sometimes tomorrow never comes and all we have is now.
And so, when you hit the last lap next time and hear that final bell, do what Axel did:
Stan up and fight like hell.
1 Margaret GLAVEY 00:18:44
4 Carol LYNCH 00:21:34 Sportsworld A.C.
1 Fionnuala MCCORMACK 00:20:30 Kilcoole A.C.
33 Noreen BROUDER 00:23:48 Sportsworld A.C.
1 Mark CHRISTIE 00:24:59 Mullingar Harriers A.C.
37 Karol CRONIN 00:27:22 Sportsworld A.C.
68 Phil KILGANNON 00:28:49 Sportsworld A.C.
97 Conor MCCARTHY 00:29:38 Sportsworld A.C.
117 Damian KELLY 00:30:30 Sportsworld A.C.
126 Sadanand MAGEE 00:30:53 Sportsworld A.C.
131 Karl CHATTERTON 00:31:03 Sportsworld A.C.
167 Mark HEFFERNAN 00:37:05 Sportsworld A.C.