Beautiful and picturesque Castlelyons situated in the valley of the River Bride in Co Cork was the location for the 2022 Masters and Intermediate National Championships. This was an eagerly anticipated event after last years race was cancelled due to Covid.

The intro here is written by myself (spectator) Gareth Murran whilst we have a detailed first-hand report from Maria Jones who ran in the M35 race, finishing an impressive 12th.

From early morning all manner of vehicles could be seen making their way to the small hamlet, just north of the main city stronghold in the people’s republic.

Photo of Thomas Kinsella

Even the more seasoned club Masters runners have a love-hate affair with the Nationals because it usually involves months of hardship running up and down hills in Phoenix Park. Emily loves turning up the heat every week, till you think you can’t take it anymore.

Just when you think you are home and dry and the training is done, you realise that you have to get on a bus for 4 hours, stop in 3 Apple Greens (Not even a Plaza) on the way to a muddy field in Cork of all places.

The Catle

On long bus journeys, you might have to ask several people before you get someone interested in talking with you—that’s okay. Be okay with rejection, or seek it out. It’s all just practice, after all.

Keep track of what sports are played during which seasons—such as football, soccer, GAA, and golf—so you are on top of the current action. The Olympics are always a good option if they are taking place as everyone is sure to be buzzing about them. If your conversation partner supports a rival team, focus on trash-talking their favourites. The Cork-Tipperary rivalry is a good place to start and makes for lasting friendships.

After getting off the bus at these events the very first thing you’ll notice will be the big muddy field, looming thunderstorms and hills that make Carrantuohill look like a walk around your 2K local. As Milton Erickson wisely observed though, when you are in a garden you can appreciate the flowers or just focus on the weeds!

If you measure success by effort and doing your best, then it is always in your hands to succeed, and succeed we did on Sunday! We had many reasons to be proud of ourselves before the racing even got started in Castlelyons. Teams in every race, a good mix of old and new gullible runners, a great mix of guys and dolls, realistic medal hopes and great club support on the party bus.

XC is a flame you must hold close to your skin, to see how much pain you can stand before running to the water. The muddier the course the sooner those brows will be singed off. My rules of XC would be 1. Life is not fair. 2. The goalposts move. 3. There are no guarantees.

At Nationals the kids run first. Now they don’t weigh too much so the course stays in pretty good condition but the race preceding the Master’s Women is the Under 19 Men and this is where things start taking a muddy turn. To a degree the U19 and Masters lads get to destroy the course, leaving the Intermediates to do battle in the mud as dusk sets in, and everone wants to beat the traffic home. I’ll take your encouragement but wipe your feet at my door.

Masters Women 

First up was the Master’s Women. The evergreen Noreen Brouder led out the Sportsworld challenge. Not far behind was Maria Jones who has been cross-training her way to XC success all year. The quality team included our finest runner in recent years Aoife O’Leary and running trivia obsessed Maura Ginty.

The women had to do two of the larger yellow laps with a field of 141. The course was relatively ok for the most part with just a few muddy patches. As battle go, this was the most exciting race of the day. With 4 runners so high up in the field the excitement was overwhelming at times. As the second lap was drawing to a close Noreen and Maria were both looking super strong and not far behind Maura and Aoife were pushing each other on.

Adding to the day was the return of Lucy Darcy and fine runs from Kimberley, Marie, Valerie and Aileen. This race was the highlight of the day with the team taking 3rd and our top 2 getting silver medals with Dublin. Noreen also scored second place in her age category, take a bow. My vote for athlete of the year.

Olympian Lizzie Lee enjoyed a titanic battle with her Leevale clubmate Sinead O’Connor. Lee would go on to take the narrow victory, adding yet another team title to Leevale’s collection in the process. Barbara Cleary of Donore Harriers was in contention throughout and would run on to claim a well-deserved 3 places finish overall.



Gross Time




6 Noreen BROUDER 00:14:40 292 F40 Sportsworld A.C.
12 Maria JONES 00:15:11 247 F35 Sportsworld A.C.
32 Aoife O’LEARY 00:16:29 246 F35 Sportsworld A.C.
34 Maura GINTY 00:16:29 291 F40 Sportsworld A.C.
91 Lucy DARCY 00:18:23 341 F50 Sportsworld A.C.
93 Kimberley KENNEDY 00:18:38 293 F40 Sportsworld A.C.
117 Marie BRADLEY 00:19:54 343 F50 Sportsworld A.C.
122 Valerie LACEY-POWER 00:20:09 344 F50 Sportsworld A.C.
135 Aileen MELODY 00:22:40 374 F60 Sportsworld A.C.


Insert Maria Jones 
Last race of the XC season, time to go out with a bang. The bus travelling from Bushy, picked me, the bould Elaine Kennedy and my mother dearest up in the Premier County en-route to Cork.

Time was ticking away waaaay too fast and we eventually pulled up in Castlelyons at 1.10 PM. A slightly panic-stricken Noreen and I scrambled for our bags and went tearing down the road in search of the field in which we would soon be running laps. Straight to the portaloos where we bumped into Ginty+Aoife, abandoned our bags randomly by a blue tent and off on our warmup and course inspection.

I was expecting the worst with all the forecasted rain the previous days but was pleasantly surprised with plenty of green grass in sight and a pretty flat course without too many bends and turns. (I can’t help using Clarrenbridge as the benchmark for all XC courses since 2018 so nothing can ever seem as bad as that).

Midway through our warm-up as we repeatedly said how lucky we were with the nice weather,  the heavens opened, soaking us to the bone. Drenched to the skin we made our way back to our bags and located the Sportsworld tent, now standing tall close to the start line.

Numbers pinned, spikes on, strides did and toe to the line, we were ready to go. The gun sounded and we were off, everyone sprinting for a position. The race settled and we found our rhythm as we set off on 2big laps, the 4000m that lay ahead.

To be honest, the race passed in a blur for me, I just stuck my head down, tried to keep a good position and run my race. When the going started to get tough on lap 2 and you wonder have you got another gear, I heard Myles shout out that I needed to move up now, Noreen was battling for 3rd position, and I had to get ahead of the few girls in my sight if we had any hope of a team prize. This was all the motivation I needed to start picking off a few more people in the hopes of that team medal that we so badly wanted. One last push and I managed to get past 3 more girls in the muddy home straight. I could do no more.

Noreen had battled hard upfront, mixing it with some of the big guns on the women’s racing scene around the country. She showed her class throughout finishing in a magnificent 6th place. I followed in in 12th position.

Now the countback was on to see where we stood in the team rankings. We tried to count the scorers from rival teams as they were crossing the finish line. Meanwhile, Aoife and Maura were working hard together to enter the home straight. Aoife running on an almost empty tank of iron showed her mental strength, pure grit and determination to get around the course. Most people in her position would never even of toed the line, but her team dedication and sheer class shone through coming home in 32nd place just ahead of team captain Maura Ginty in 34th. Ginty ran her socks off as she always does in the red+white, giving everything for her love of the club and her desire for team success. She has been paramount in keeping us motivated and reminding us how great it is to be part of a Sportsworld team, making the long journey from her beloved Mayo to the hills on the Munich Lap for the past few weekends to ensure she was in top form.

Kimberly Kennedy finishing off her first cross country season with the club, put in another great display coming home as the 5th over 35s scorer in 93rd place. Two places ahead of her were Lucy, who ran a blinder, leading the over 50s home. One minute I saw her dressed in her working gear running the show for my run results, the next thing she’s sporting the club singlet ready to attack the course, what a woman.

Hot on her heels and with two dodgy knees was Marie Bradley putting in a great performance in her home county to finish 2nd scorer on the over 50s team.

Val Power was next in giving it her all as she always does,  followed by Aileen Melody delighted cross country was done for another year, to complete the team.

We all headed back to the sports world tent, happy with our efforts but not too hopeful that a team prize was on the cards. As we were getting changed, dissecting our performances and what we could have done better, a text came through to Aoifes phone. WE GOT BRONZE!!!! Woohoo, screams+shouts and jumping around the tent like a scene from Semple Stadium on Munster final day. Job did, happy days!

We then had the pleasure of watching the rest of our clubmates race, as the course got muckier and muckier, all putting in great performances.

What I enjoyed about this cross country season is the team morale and comradery. That feeling of fighting for each other, and being part of more than just your result is very special. It’s been an honour to be part of such a great and encouraging group of ladies.

Shout out to Ann, Jean, Louise and a few others who were with us along the way to nationals but unfortunately were forced to drop out last minute due to injury or sickness. And poor Gareth who was on the sidelines cheering on unable to race after an unfortunate fall the day before while sightseeing in my beloved Tipperary.

Despite their missing members, the over 50s team placed 7th overall. Noreen also got individual silver for her age category.  And both Noreen and I secured a place on the Dublin team which finished 2nd.

Tent dissembled, brownies eaten (thanks Michael) and back to the bus, we headed. Val produced a pack of rubbish bags for all our mucky shoes and we headed on the journey home. We had a pitstop for some grub and well earn refreshments just outside Fermoy. Thanks to Marie Bradley for organising.

Finally back to Dublin just before 10, a long day but just enough time for a few sneaky drinks in Bradys where Gavin entertained us with talk of beetroot shots, caffeine loading, and cycling under the influence, ill say no more!

Special thanks to Emily, (ever enthusiastic, encouraging and our most important ladies team member), Paul and Myles for all the training, encouragement and support.

Until next year……

A great reort but don’t put down that morning coffee just yet, Next up were the Master’s men. Karol was the man to watch in the M40 category and Bruce Campell has been in flying form the past few months.

Some people in this photo are not Masters men before Michael gets hate mail.

Masters Men 

As Maria mentioned the course was starting to look a bit soft but still very runnable, as myriads of Masters men charged out from the off. In XC you need to get a decent spot at the start and then steady the ship. If you overcook things in the first 500M the rest of the race will be painful. If you go too slow you can have 200 people to pass.

The men had 7K to run, which involved 3 large laps and one small. As the runners went by for the first time Karol was sitting in a great position near the top of the field. Everyone else in the red and white were sitting nicely and running well.

As the runners came around again two lads from East Cork had split the field wide open and the runners were very strung out. The speed of the breakaway resembled a track race, it was hugely impressive to observe. Running close to 3-minute kilometres on a relatively muddy course is no mean feat. The casual observer could see that this was a race of attrition. Each time the runners went past the increased effort was showing.

On the last lap Karol was holding on to a top 20 position, Paul was having another fantastic race, with Gavin having a strong  run in the mud and not far behind. The team in 8th included Michael Cunningham who finished in 89th position overall. Bruce in the M50 had finished in between Michael and Gavin, another top-class run. Also havings good runs were Kevin, Anthony, Joe And Adam. Adam has improved a huge amount is a great addition to the team. Hope he wears his trademark cravat to the club night out in March.

Deserving of particular mention were Liam Lenehan and Paul O’Beirne who have both had excellent performances in Leinsters and Nationals.

The men’s division looked ultra-competitive on paper but Tim O’Donoghue (East Cork A.C.) didn’t read the script, powering away to take the men’s title in what was a seriously deep field. O’Donoghue finished over 20 seconds ahead of the ever consistent Sergiu Ciobanu (Clonliffe Harriers AC) who is sure to have felt his exploits at the ECCC Cross Country in Portugal last weekend.



Gross Time




20 Karoldavid CRONIN 00:23:36 597 M40 Sportsworld A.C.
46 Paul O’BEIRNE 00:24:49 539 M35 Sportsworld A.C.
57 Gavin FINLAY 00:25:25 599 M40 Sportsworld A.C.
71 Bruce CAMPBELL 00:25:49 682 M50 Sportsworld A.C.
89 Michael CUNNINGHAM 00:26:13 600 M40 Sportsworld A.C.
109 Kevin CURRAN 00:27:04 540 M35 Sportsworld A.C.
144 Liam LENEHAN 00:28:37 749 M60 Sportsworld A.C.
147 Anthony GILLEN 00:28:39 713 M55 Sportsworld A.C.
157 Joe BYRNE 00:29:17 714 M55 Sportsworld A.C.
158 Adam FURLONG 00:29:23 556 M40 Sportsworld A.C.


Intermediate Women

In the penultimate race, we had the Intermediate women. The smallest of our fields on the day but including heavy hitters such as Deirdre O’Connell, Katie Nugent and Elaine Kennedy, all running really well of late.

This race went out fast. Lauren Tinkler, who was part of the Irish U23 team at the European Cross Country Championships last December, showed all of her big race experience to take and hold the lead for the entire race, gun to tape.

The surprise package for me in this 5K race was Aoife Carroll. Aoife ran a well-paced race and showed great potential as a relative novice. Similarly, Deirdre and Fiona had good well paced runs and worked through the field. Katie and Elaine did well to work together, both picking up places on a fast last lap. EK impressively ran an XC race, finishing 5th just the weekend before but was too modest to write a race report. Th team finished 6th overall, a good day.

Insert Aoife Carroll 

February 13 th , the final race of the cross-country season and boy were we in for a treat (……NOT!!). Some thirty odd runners arrived to Bushy Park dressed in the Sportworld’s red and white. We then mounted the unintentionally matching red bus and set our sights on Castlelyons. The bus journey down was perhaps quieter than one would expect with everyone was trying to settle any nerves for the upcoming “battle” ahead.

We arrived in Castlelyons and I must admit, I regretted not bringing my wellies. The mud was up to our ankles as soon as we entered the gate and if the walkway was anything to go by, it was going to be a very slippery race. Nevertheless, we proudly pitched our Sportsworld marquee and got to warming up. The buzz at Castlelyons was something else, the nerves and excitement could be felt all around. Some of the best athletes from around the country had travelled down to compete, even Olympian Paul O’Donovan made an appearance despite there not being an oar in sight.

The Ladies Intermediate 5000m race was the second last race of the day and so the ground was nicely trampled for us. It was a daunting sight to see the mud puddles that lay ahead as we lined up on the start line. There were five ladies representing Sportsworld for the race. It was a spectacular race, with every step being carefully placed so as to not lose a spike in the troughs of mud. The race was gruelling, however, the Sportsworld women battled hard with Aoife Carroll bringing the team over the finish line with a time of 21:51. Soon followed Elaine Kennedy at 22:05, Katie Nugent at 22:09, Deirdre O’Connell at 22:17 and Fiona Cafferty at 23:21. Everyone put their all into the race and so massive congratulations is in order. A special shout out to Fiona for a great performance for
her first ever XC race.

A special thanks to everyone who came down and all the other runners who stood at the side-lines to cheer us on. The comradery and support was just fantastic and made the pain of cross country all worthwhile!!



Gross Time




40 Aoife CARROLL 00:21:51 74 Sportsworld A.C.
45 Elaine KENNEDY 00:22:05 78 Sportsworld A.C.
47 Katie NUGENT 00:22:09 75 Sportsworld A.C.
50 Deirdre O’CONNELL 00:22:17 92 Sportsworld A.C.
54 Fiona CAFFERTY 00:23:21 87 Sportsworld A.C.


Intermediate Men 

Lastly, it was the Intermediate men. I’ve taken out the ages so as not to expose any Masters age runners. They love the extra mud and few kilometres, who wouldn’t!

These lads had it tough. By the time the race had started, the course was a mud bath and I was feeling lonely at the end of the course. What if I forget someone’s name and had to shout ‘Come On Sportsworld’ for 8K (4 laps)? Luckily Paul had made an executive decision to stick everyone with the name Conor into the Intermediates.

The most impressive men’s XC runner of the season has been Conor Keating. Conor runs up and down the straight roads of Thurles daily. It’s paying off as he has had a hugely impressive run and was flying from the start on Sunday. Hot on his heels was the talented Timothy and Messrs Cavanagh and McCarthy.

All of the lads had their battles throughout the race. They are each progressing and improving fitness by pushing hard in each race. Cheers to Conor Cavanagh who asked how I was doing on his last lap, whilst I roared ‘cmon buoy’ in my faux East Cork accent. As the only red and white runner under 30, he’s set to challenge some club records in years to come. A great hope!

As the race progressed a smaller field than the Masters meant that the race was very strung out after just a lap. Brian, John and Karl were keeping close order on each other and helped one another to complete the tough 8K course.

Evan Fitzgerald (Clonmel A.C.) produced a brilliant display to take the men’s intermediate title. The Clonmel athlete was afforded the luxury of enjoying his winning performance on the run-in, having built up an over 20-second lead over rivals Jamie Fallon (Craghwell A.C.) and Eoin Smyth (Tara A.C.) who claimed silver and bronze respectively.

Leevale took the club honours, led home by Gavin O’Rourke in 4th. The Cork club also called upon the services of Tokyo 2020 gold medalist, Paul O’Donovan, who crossed the line in 34th. Our lads finished 8th.



Gross Time




42 Conor KEATING 00:29:53 176 Sportsworld A.C.
49 Timothy MORAHAN 00:30:51 180 Sportsworld A.C.
56 Conor CAVANAGH 00:31:18 177 Sportsworld A.C.
58 Conor MCCARTHY 00:31:26 205 Sportsworld A.C.
69 Brian CONWAY 00:32:42 179 Sportsworld A.C.
70 John MCGEOWN 00:33:03 206 Sportsworld A.C.
76 Karl SHEVLIN 00:34:25 175 Sportsworld A.C.


I had great craic watching the races and catching up with some old friends. Despite not making the party bus I hear a great time was had by all with birthday cake, beer and deep heat freely passed about . Thanks to Marie Bradley for sorting the grub and Emily for the transport.

For me, the cross country season is represented fully in the cover photo of the race report. When there are hills, thick mud, and driving rain to run through, you can’t hide away from any weaknesses you may have. It is the purest form of running, there is no glamour, no PB times to get, oh, and no toilet roll!


The saturday morning cognitive dissonance put aside for another year, it’s time to set some new goals. A few indoor track races, maybe the national 10K or the road relays? With the grand auld stretch taking hold, the cold wet nights are coming to an end. Ah, Sure It’ll Be Grand in the end.

Thanks for all of the support and advice this year from Emil, Paul and Myles.