Athletics in Laois is in a great place at the moment and this result further proves that.
Navan Racecourse was the venue for the final cross-country event of 2018 on Saturday where the Laois Ladies brought down the curtain on a great year as they were crowned convincing winners of the All-Ireland Novice Cross Country.
When it comes to team cross country events, it’s always important to have someone finishing the first 10, even better if the team has an individual medal winner – this helps to keep a low points total.
Over 150 of the top Cross Country runners lined up on the start line of a tough 4000m course. Conditions were wet and windy and there was a long hill facing into the wind – no place for the faint-hearted.
From the gun, the Laois Ladies showed they were intent on gold. UK based Eilish O’Grady St Michael’s led out the race for the first kilometre, with Cheryl Nolan and Avril Deegan in the leading group, just a few paces behind.
Eilish had suffered with a tummy bug for the last few days, and the flight over that morning from Exeter was taking it’s toll. By the halfway point, Cheryl (St. Abbans) and Avril (Ballyroan Abbeyleix) had moved into the lead, and a gap was opening up.
Eilish was still running well, and Sorcha Moloney (Ballyroan Abbeyleix) had moved up into the first 10. On the last lap, Cheryl pulled away and drove hard to the finish.
Her exhaustion showed with a stumble just short of the line – that’s what is meant by ‘leaving it all out there’ in the race.
Avril finished 2nd, Eilish never gave up to finish 7th, and Sorcha just behind her in 9th. Four athletes in the first 10, two athletes in the first three – Laois were champions and all that was in doubt now was the winning margin.
Breda McDonald (Ballyroan Abbeyleix), Ailish Brennan (St Abbans), Lucy Deegan (St Abbans) and Sinead Kelly (St Abbans) all ran powerfully, to finish well up the placings.
Laois won with 19 points, Westmeath second with 56 and Kilkenny third with 77 points.
In the Novice Mens, Laois had a few late withdrawals due to injury and work commitments.
However the team of Harry Lupton, Sean Geoghan, David Mulhare, John Fenlon, Tom Lupton, Tom Dunne and John Kirwan but still finished a creditable fifth out of 15 counties and over 250 athletes.
In the juvenile races Cian McDonald, William Kelly and Adam Holden were on the Leinster team in the U-19 category, and Faye McEvoy was on the Leinster U-15 Girls team.