At the weekend 8 Sportsworld members made the trek to Ballybofey, Co Donegal for the National Half Marathon and returned with one medal. Leaving on Saturday lunch time, we opted to use Letterkenny as a holding base and arrived there before 17.00. We rented 2 newly built celtic tiger style houses in the town centre in what proved to be much better, cheaper and comfortable than B&B’s or hotels as we had our own space. After receiving the keys from the landlady (to whom we assured that we weren’t a stag party, much the opposite in fact), one of the first things to be done was to get some shopping for food and supplies so we strolled down town. In the local mall we came across a Super Valu that was there 2 years ago but had somehow been replaced, and a rival sports chain store called Sports World; showing that there are alternatives to Ireland’s best sports shop. Then when we found a Dunnes Stores, there was much debate and disagreement as to what we should buy for the houses and what would be a sinful waste of money from the kitty we’d all chipped into. After unpacking we went downtown for dinner and to see the boys in green score a very lucky world cup qualifier win over Cyprus.

On Sunday morning we drove to a drizzly & dreary Ballybofey (the home of one of Ireland’s all time greatest distance running clubs Finn Valley AC), and after a warm up jog on their cinder track we jogged to the start line and away we went. The race consisted of predominantly northern club runners and people from the north west, however a fair share of people came from Dublin and from much further afield. Although the course contained a few hills here & there, it was a fair one with fresh tarmac and was well stewarded and organised.

Leading us home was a magnificent Paul O Connell who despite the difficult conditions came home in 70:58 mins and a place tenth. Our performance of the day was given by a magnificent Paul Duffy who finished in the top 25 and far beyond what anyone would have expected of him. The scoring trio for our senior mens team was completed by Ed who put in a fine display and ended up only 15 seconds shy of an M40 bronze.

Next down the list were Sligo’s finest export since Mary Cullen – Trevor; and Mikey, meaning that we’d 3 lads within 30 seconds of each other. The latter ran a marvellous pb, while the former was hoping for a little better but was stiff and tired from having spent the previous day gardening in the north west when not used to manual labour. Packie started reasonably well going through 5m in 29:52 and 10m in 61:27 but struggled with hip trouble and was happy to finish it. Lucy put in a stunning performance to win the F40 category and finished 4th female overall. The red & white turnout was completed by Liam McFadden just outside the hour and a half. From one of Ireland’s most northerly peninsulas, the former gaelic footballer reached 10m in a decent 64 mins but like Packie struggled after that. Liam used his local knowledge and contacts to make the weekend much easier on all of us so we are very grateful for this in the club.

Our only team entered (senior mens) finished a decent 5th out of 8 in 222 mins. Interestingly our senior men in 2007 (Eanna, Phil & Packie) ran the same time on the same course which was good enough for team silver, indicating a more competitive race this year and a rise in the standards of road running, despite being told the opposite by so called experts from the past.

At the sharp ends of the field, it ended up an all Belfast contest and the pair was together for much of the race. The senior men’s race was won by former national 10,000m champion Joe McAllister in a marvellous 65:51, beating the many times national inter club and inter counties XC champion Gary Murray. The latter (Donegal man) used to compete for the host club but in his debut half marathon found the distance a little too long and lost by 45 seconds. Clonliffe’s senior men were unfortunate to be denied a team silver because their 3rd scorer forgot his club singlet (now let that be a lesson to any of us!), and so were disqualified from the team competition. Strangely however the offending athlete was given his earned individual M35 bronze medal when surely the same rules should have applied again.

The magnificent Catriona Jennings made a worthwhile journey from our neighbouring club Rathfarnham WSAF to take the ladies title in 79:12. Catherine Conway (a beginner from Mayo AC) was second in 80:31 but is definitely going to be a name for the future.

On a negative note it was disappointing that we couldn’t field a senior girls team given that we are traditionally known as a girls club and that so many train with us. National senior medals could have been won here (for girls who are already out of novice & intermediate) much easier than at the senior cross country events. Also it must have been hard on Lucy being the only girl on the trip away.

Having a few drinks in the clubhouse during the medal presentation we witnessed the Kilkenny hurlers win 4 in a row, and we stopped in Monaghan for dinner that evening. We would like to say many thanks to Liam, Mikey & Trevor for supplying the motor power and our club coach Emily for fuelling it. It was a moderately successful but thoroughly enjoyable team bonding weekend away.

Full Results

Race report by