Irish National Cross Country Championships

The Irish National Cross Country Championships

National Sports Campus’s Cross Country Track, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15

Sunday 25th  of November.

By Diarmuid Ó Súilleabháin

The specially designed and maintained Cross Country Track was developed in consultation with Athletics Ireland to provide Ireland’s first dedicated permanent cross country track for both training and competition purposes. Sited on the grounds of the old Abbotstown House and Demesne it is only recently completed and is a great athletics amenity.

The course was designed in accordance with the IAAF’s publication Competition Rules 2014-2015 Section IX (I’ve read this so you don’t have to) which specifies such things as;

-The course must be designed on an open or woodland area, covered as far as possible with grass, with natural obstacles which can be used by the course designer to build a challenging and interesting race course,

– Apart from the start and finish areas, the course should be 5-6 metres wide, including the obstacle areas, and

– Apart from the start and finish areas, the course must not contain any other long straight. A ‘natural’, undulating course with smooth curves and short straights, is the most suitable.

Despite the La Santa Exodus (I’m not jealous at all, not even of constant stream of picture messages of sunsets and smiling faces.) and a few injuries, we managed to field a team in the ladies and mens senior races. The start and finish straights are sited adjacent to Abbotstown House which creates a natural assembly place and informal centre to the event. This is where we meet Paul Duffy handing out numbers. We have a bit of craic with Phil about that famous photograph of him that went viral after the Leinster Senior Cross Country.

(Above: Viral image of Phil Kilgannon)

The junior races are underway and the is great excitement and noise about. A quick look around and we can see that the barriers on the finishing straight are packed.  The weather is cool but dry. The ground is in great condition.

(The above image was kindly supplied by Adrian Lanigan)

The senior and junior races take place on the 2,000 metre hour glass shaped loop. This allows for people to move between the two sides of the course which adds to the drama of the event as the loud crowd seems to be following you around. It’s a great watch as if you find the right bit of ground you can see several parts of the course with people emerging and disappearing behind hills and trees, and you can hear big roars from far off on the course, and then another loud chorus somewhere else.

(Above: Map of the National Cross Country Track)

The ladies race is up first and the girls shoot out along the downhill start straight at a ferocious pace. Both the senior races are stacked deep. I do my warm up as close to the ladies race as I can to watch. They must run 4 big laps. The speed of them is very impressive with our ladies running in a group working together. I make my way to the finish line to watch a great sprint finish for the title. Letterkenny’s Annmarie McGlynn goes deep into the well and fights all the way to the end by can’t out sprint County Down’s Ciara Mageean.

(Above: Photography of the ladies senior race. Note the rolling landscape)

I watch another few crossing the line, but I tear myself away after a time to make way to the start line to the start corral. In the start pen I realise that there are a huge number of Olympians and Dublin Marathon winners doing their strides with us. This could be a humbling experience. We are called to the line. Lucy calls to us and takes our photo as she says she is happy to see we are entering our first team in this event in years.

(Above: Toeing the line of the mens senior race)

The race starts and the leaders take the race out at an improbable speed. I wind into a comfortably uncomfortable pace and wait till I get a lap done before deciding what to do next. I can see ahead that Wesley is running very well. The course is great to run, it challenging but varied enough that you don’t get bored. We have to run 5 laps and in the second half of my 3rd lap I’m passed by Kevin Dooney and Paul Tobin who are dueling it out on each shoulders and the crowd is going wild shouting and cheering. Their pace is phenomenal. Raheny’s Dooney eventually holds off Clonmel’s Tobin on the final straight.

(Here i am looking a lot better than I feel)

I finish out the race. Baet out. What an event. I’d love to do it again, but if I do, I’d like to be a good bit fitter. Being designed with cross country in mind it is definitely as nice a grass surface as you will run on. We have a few warm words with the ladies team, and then do a warm down together and have a nice chat. Then we grab a welcome cup of tea and hit the road.

(Above: Our gents team, note just how totally unworred Phil is about his immersion)

The Nations Cross Country Track will host the European Cross Country Championships in December of 2020. That’s one event for the calendar.

Ladies (9th Place Team)

49th     Noreen Brouder                            31:40

51st      Helen Brouder                                31:45

63rd      Kate Kelly                                         32:23

68th     Ruth Kelly                                         32:29

75th     Ciara Brady                                      32:49

83rd     Mary Finn                                    33:25

Mens (18th Placed Team)

88th     Karol Cronin                           34:34

118th   Phil Kilgannon                            36:25

153rd   Wesley Harrison                       39:08

157th   Derek Saville                               40:26

160th   Diarmuid Ó Súilleabháin             42:03