We had 6 full teams at the National Intermediate and Masters Cross Country on Sunday in Gorwan Co.Kilkenny. It marks the end of the championship cross country season. We have 2 race reports covering 2 of the races but congratulations to Aoife Carrol, Karol Cronin and Trevor Sweeney who got National team medals in their races.

Ladies Masters Race Report by Maria Jones

The second weekend in February has always been a date highlighted in my calendar- my coming of age. However, in recent years I’ve traded in my high heels, glad rags + dance floor antics for a pair of spikes,a red+white singlet and a few mucky fields. They say you get more sense with age, not so in my case it seems.
After the Leinster’s in Avondale three weeks ago, Michael sends a text, “Do you want to do the race report?” I kindly declined saying “I promise I’ll do it if we win Nationals”. Michael’s not a man to forget easily and I’m not one to break a promise so here we go….
Sunday morning rolled round, all roads led to Gowran, Co.Kilkenny. I made the journey from Tipp along with my Mam (who’s made this her annual Sportsworld outing since 2018) and my little sister Martha, who were both coming along to show their support for the Sportsworld crew.

We arrived in Gowran before half 12, lots of time to get a long warm up in before the 2pm start. Noreen was just parked two cars down, so we grabbed our bags and headed into the field where the action had already begun with the juvenile races. We met up with Aoife and found the rest of the Sportsworlder’s who had just arrived by bus. We threw our bags down and headed off on a recce of the course. We were glad to see lots of green grass, having been blessed with good weather in recent weeks, there were very little soft patches and lots of flat ground, a fast race was definitely on the cards today. Warm up done, a zillion strides later, and a few pep talks from the boss lady and we were on the start line ready to go. Nerves were bursting through, expectations were high, we wanted that team gold medal, now it was showtime.
Last year we we finished with bronze medals, just 2 points behind silver, and there was a strong feeling among us that we left those silver medals behind on the day so it’s fair to say we all had our eyes strongly fixed on one colour this year. But you never know what can happen on race day.

The gun fired and we were off, two laps of two 1km fields making up the 4km race. After a very quick start myself and Noreen settled in nicely in around 7th+8th place, leading the second pack into field number two ready to climb the steady drag up to the top before making our way across the top and back down, out to the first field and repeat again. To be honest the race went by in a blur, you just try to stay focused, concentrate on the job in hand, don’t let the mind wonder too far, try to ignore the pain and just keep going. The support around the course was great, people popping up everywhere giving us a shout. I kept reminding myself of Emily’s words “stick,stick,stick,don’t let anyone get away”, and before I knew it I was battling to the finish line.
I finished in 9th place, closely followed by Aoife in 16th (fresh off her 10mile club record the previous Sunday of 1hour 19sec) showing the range this girl has, Noreen came in 19th, having spent some time on the ground getting sick 2.5km into the race, most people would end their race there, but as Noreen looked up from the ground and saw Aoife fly by she thought of only one thing, her teammates and our hopes for gold, up she got and fought to the finish line, showing her true class to still finish is the top 20 after that pit stop, ridiculous.

Latest addition to this team Nikki battled in in 31st place. Nikki goes about her business quietly with no fuss and has been a scorer in each race this season. Maura Ginty was next in, unfortunately Ginty picked up a foot niggle a few weeks ago sidelining her from key sessions, she may not have a gold medal around her neck but this lady is very much the heart of our team,and without her enthusiasm, attitude and team mentality I don’t believe we would be the team we are. Every team needs a Ginty!! Lorna Quinn,having spent the week in bed after a bout of food poisoning (I warned her that Michael’s cooking was a risky business) ran her heart out as she always does with a smile on her face, coming in just behind Maura, the teamm was rounded up with Martina who always gives her all and ran a great race.

Each girl left their heart out on the fields of Gowran. The finish line showed red+white singlets floored on the ground, and vomiting over the barriers, what more can you ask from from a bunch of girls. Cross country is a funny aul game, its a sport like no order and its impossible to predict how one will perform on race day. So many factors have to go in your favour and each member of the team, for you to have a chance at that gold medal. Its not just the first four over the line, its the depth of the team that pushes everyone forward and makes up the squad. Number 7 is just as important as the first home and we are very lucky to have a great bunch of girls working together. We finished with a total of 75 points, a huge 29 points clear of second team Mullingar. We did it. NATIONAL CLUB CHAMPIONS!!! WOOHOOO!!!

Sportsworld have only won this coveted title three times in the clubs history. First back in 1999, again in 2006 and last title 7 years ago back in 20016 when Ruth Kelly, Noreen Brouder,Mary Finn and Lucy D’arcy brought home the honours.

Great running also by our over 50s team who worked hard through the race and finished in 4th position in the club rankings.

Lucy D’Arcy straight from running the show at the finish line,there since the early hours, did her usual superwoman change of outfit and stood on the start line in her beloved red+white. (Just to note Lucy was on the Gold team that won the club title both in 2006+2016). Anna Delaney was next in, having recently come of age for this category making all Vals dreams come through that they had this speedy addition to their team. Val herself was next across the line, having battled dodgy hamstrings over the past few months knowing she wasn’t as fit as she wanted but no way would she miss this race showing her team spirit+pure love for Sportsworld. Maria Bradley finished next always a strong contender on this team,having spent her youth chasing Sonia around the fields of her beloved Cork, next in Anne Sweeney also coming off a long lay off through injury couldn’t escape Emily’s clutches doing her best for her team with minimal training, Aileen Melody finished off this squad with another solid performance.
Well done ladies.
Lucy made the Dublin O50 team who won gold. While myself and Aoife were scorers on the O35 Dublin team who also won gold.

Special shout out to the one and only Emily, she’s the glue that brings it all together, shes one of a kind, and we are so lucky to have her. Celebrating with her, all together at the finish line when word came through of our win is what it’s all about, all the hard work, tough sessions, mind numbing cross training, sacrifices made, the ups+the downs, the injuries, and the disappointments along the way, all long forgotten- Moments like these make it all worthwhile. Well done everyone. Now time to hide the spikes for another 10months and get back to the easy life on the roads. Until next time!

Men’s Master Race Report by Paul Dunne

The last time I ran a Cross Country race was back 2017 in the Dublin Masters. I was looking forward to racing XC again and not looking at my watch every couple of kilometres. It was also only my second race since joining Sportsworld and first post DCM. My Sunday morning started with an early rise to make breakfast for my 4 year old son, Alfie and best friend. A cup of coffee for the wife as I dashed out the door for the day, made sure I left everyone in the house happy. I arrive at the bus and instantly felt the excitement of the group and great comradery. I was quick to assume that Trevor is usually the one running late from the banter on the bus. He was, but it was worth the wait as he as one of the lucky ones bring home a medal. The journey to Kilkenny flew by and had great chats.

When we arrived at the venue I was taken back by how big the event was. From the gate where spectators had to pay to get in, to the enormity and scale of the venue. This was the real deal. I was expecting a few muddy laps around a farmer’s field with a couple of marshals thrown in. This was a different animal altogether than what I had in my head.

When my race (National Master) was called to start we made a call to all start on the right of the start-line. I can remember walking through the gate at the start and seeing one lone figure on the left of the start-line. At first glance I saw an older gentleman and thought he was just staying out of trouble, then I took a second glance and noticed it was none other than Tommy Hughes, who holds the world record for a marathon at 59 years old with a time of 2.27.52. This was going to be a stacked race if Tommy was in it.

The race started with a bang of the gun and we were off. The man in front of me was running barefoot in a Cross Country race. I was really thinking now that there were some really tough guys in this race. Under Myles advice I tried not to go off too fast. On the first wee hill a group of Sportsworld guys past me. I decided to try stay with them. That didn’t last for long. I think three more men past me and I manged to take two back before the end. The support of the course from the Sportsworld coaches and team was brilliant and drove me on not to drop more places. By far not my greatest race but I loved it. I love racing and being part of the Sportsworld team made it even more special. I’m already looking forward to doing this next year and to taking part in the graded race meets / road relays in the summer. I’ve a bit/lot of work to do to get to a place where I am happy with my fitness but doing it with Sportworld seems like it’s going to be fun.

Full race results can be found here.