It’s Saturday 15th January, the date for the Leinster Masters XC in Dunboyne.  The Cow Field in Dunboyne has been mentioned from time to time during long Sunday runs so I’m a little nervous about what lies ahead as I’ve never been there before.  The course is 4K rather than the usual 3K so an extra effort will be required to get over the finish line.  However, I’m telling myself that the most important goal in cross country is to support the team and finish no matter how tough the course is – race times are a bonus.

I pick up Eileen Rowland having been guided accurately to her home by google maps.  We head off and find ourselves being directed by Google maps to Dunboyne via Lucan?  As I drive through Lucan village Eileen is amused by the scenic route – I’m not in a position to comment as I’m completely lost.  However, we’ve loads of time to make a few errors as we left at 10.45am.  When we arrive in Dunboyne we can see the train station which is the designated parking spot but cannot find the entrance.  Our first attempt was to go down a road with tarmacadam on the left and right hand side and grass in the middle……clearly that wasn’t correct so we did a quick U turn and eventually found the correct entrance.

The Cow Field is a short walk from the station so we simply follow the crowd.  There’s a good buzz and a bit of banter with the other walkers as we make our way to the course.  As we enter we see a sign “Entrance Fee €5”.  The lady selling the tickets looks at us and says ‘I suppose you are running?” There’s a big laugh……why in the name of god would we be in a field in the country side unless we were running!

Eileen and myself walk the course and to my surprise it’s grand…..a few sections with long grass but otherwise the ground is relatively solid and the spikes will do their job and prevent runners from slipping.  We met up with the other Sportworlders who are gathering behind the Tullamore Harriers tent.  Emily is in great form and hands out the race numbers and safety pins.  She sends us off to do a warm up – her instructions are….”if you’re not sweating at the start line you haven’t done a proper warm up!!

We make our way to the start line for the 12.50 start time.  Teams are separated by corrals so Sportsworld picks one in the middle of the line…. it’s a good spot…..there’s a minute silence in memory of Aisling Murphy which is a very poignant moment….then the gun sounds and we’re off.

Maybe it’s just me but every time I’m in a race, any pre race plan is quickly forgotten and I just do what I can.  I never have time to check my watch and I simply listen for the beeps from my Garmin indicating the distance completed.  The extra 1k was really tough but at least the course is just 2 laps of the course.

Sportsworld has another great day with the F35+ team winning the silver medal.  There were fantastic personal performances from Noreen Brouder who came 3rd in the overall race and was the first sportsworlder to cross the line.  She was followed closely by Maria Jones, Aoife Brady O’Leary, Maura Ginty, Jean Wilson , Louise Jackman, Kimberley Kennedy and Martina Nolan-Jones.

Anne Sweeney leads the women’s 50+ team home with a fantastic run followed by myself and Val Lacey Power.

Eileen Rowland and Aileen Melody represented the 60+ group in style.  Eileen missed out on a bronze medal by 1 second….bad luck….Eileen has since identified the runner that pipped her at the finish line….I expect that will never happen again!!

There was a great buzz at the finish line and the usual feeling of utopia that one gets once a race is over kicked in.  As we changed behind the tent (no privacy!) I was smiling to myself – cross country is one of those sports that hasn’t benefit from modern comforts…..over 30 years ago when I ran cross country for my school we changed in similar conditions…..its as “raw” as ever.

As we changed Noreen Brouder was happy to give autographs to anybody who asked….Maria Jones was blushing because we heard her name over the loud speaker on a number of occasions during the race…..Aoife Brady O’Leary was denying rumours of a transfer request to leave Sportsworld to join Raheny Shamrock A.C. …..Maura Ginty had studied the form and competition and was answering any questions asked….Jean Wilson was giving me orthodontic tips and advising me to hang in as the 2.5 year inconvenience would be worth it….Louise Jackson was juggling babysitting with clothes changing and kept singing a version of the Jackson 5 song “Anne Marie I want you back”….(seemingly men have to do a pre-race warm up also!)….Anne Sweeney was waving her ‘bubble gum pink socks’ and telling everybody where they could be bought…..

Kimberley Kennedy had her head in her phone admiring the successful implementation of her race strategy of taking it easy for the first 2K and then pressing the boost button for the last 2K….Martina Nolan-Jones was looking forward to “the better part of her day” that commenced as soon as the race was over…Val Lacey-Power was no where to be seen….she was busy buying a hot chocolate drink that she had promised herself (she brought her own marsh mallows just in case that tradition didn’t exist in Dunboyne)….Eileen Rowland was highlighting the benefits of trek running shoes over spikes…..Aileen Melody was fulfilling her duty as Club Secretary by taking notes of the proceedings… least this motley crew had paid their subs so she didn’t have to tap our shoulder to give us a gentle reminder to pay up…..Emily was beaming from ear to ear as her girls hadn’t let her down !

After the race was over it was onto cheer leading duties….Maria Finnegan couldn’t be found to ask her for her pom poms so we just shouted louder….


And then it was home time…..we headed back to the car park and packed the car…..I sat in first and let Eileen finish her packing….I was in a hurry to get back to make my 4.30pm blow dry appointment so started the car and left in breakneck speed…..Mick Clohisey was in front of us so while I couldn’t beat him on the race course, I was certainly confident that I could give him a good challenge on the N3….. however red lights started flashing and there was a loud beeping sound….I stopped…..the passenger and drivers door were closed so no issue there…..I stepped outside and walked to the back of the car…..Look at what I found…..

And where were Eileen’s shoes?…….FORD….Found on Road Dead……!!

A big cheer also for the girls running in the Intermediate race. Katie Nugent ran a great race and was the first home followed by Deirdre O’Connell, Aoife Carroll, Sinead Staunton (who ran together for much of the race) and Majella Hayden.

I’ve no insight into their post race antics…….


Men’s Race Report by Paul O Beirne

This race was run with the tragic backdrop and national outpouring of emotion to the murder of Ashling Murphy, while she went for a run in Tullamore, and so it was fitting that a minute silence was observed prior to the commencement of the race –  Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.

After a few years of a gap I was delighted to rejoin the club in the New Year, and straight into the deep end of cross country season I was thrown.I am a military person and we have a phrase “Fail to prepare – prepare to fail”, so unlike the previous weeks race in St Anne’s Park, I made sure to turn up with enough time to do a warm up and put on my spikes!
I was delighted when the ever experienced Michael Cunningham asked me to join him for a recce of the course (less so when he doorstepped me for this race report!), and he pointed out the best parts of the course to recover and maybe take a few places. 
I was happy to see that unlike the picture of this course from a previous race, shared on the WhatsApp group (resembling No Mans Land in the Somme), the dry weather had resulted in firm ground – this would be fast.
Having gone out too quick last week, I settled into this race on lap 1.  I held steady for the middle lap and the encouragement from the Sportsworld supporters was fantastic. Towards the end of the last lap I pushed on, passed a couple of people and even managed a sprint finish.
The race was won by some guy called Mick Clohisey, who at times resembled a gazelle with long hair and sun glasses. Karol Cronin was first home for Sportsworld in a fantastic 6th place with Gareth Murran not long behind him. I was delighted to score for the team and along with Gavin Finlay and the rest of the team, we were placed 3rd with 87 points.
Congratulations to Bruce Campbell who was 3rd home in the over 50 category, and well done to the ladies on their continued success.
So its onwards and upwards (perhaps more accurately downwards) to Cork we go, for the All Irelands on the 13th of February, and a few weeks hard training between now and then!