Lombard Makes Irish Team for Malmo

Underfoot conditions were surprisingly good, in spite of some torrential rain over the past week, for the National Inter County Cross Country Championships, held at St. Augustines College, Dungarvan today.  The senior race saw some familiar faces at the head of the field shortly after the start, with Seamus Power from Clare, his training partner Peter Matthews from Dublin, and Garreth Turnbull from Belfast, breaking away from the rest at an early stage of the race.  Shortly before the halfway mark Matthews surged into the lead and proceeded to hold it with some authority for the next 800 metres.  As it transpired, however, Seamus Power was only biding his time and once he put his foot on the accelerator, his sixth consecutive title was never in doubt.  Skimming over the mud, he extended his lead over the last 1,500 metres and eventually had 17 seconds to spare over Turnbull when finishing in a time of 30 minutes, 35 seconds.  “All six of my wins in this race have been different, but this one was probably the toughest of them all,” he said.  Behind the first three a chasing group of six included three Cork runners, Fiachra and Cathal Lombard from Leevale, and former Leevale runner Ken Nason, with Nason running surprisingly well, considering he never liked the Dungarvan course as a youngster!  Going out on the last lap Fiachra got himself away from the group, with Cathal falling back.  That left Ken clinging to John Ferrin from Belfast and Noel Berkeley from Dublin in a three man group.  As the final lap progressed Berkeley couldn’t stay with them, and Nason simply stalked Ferrin, sprinting past him without response with 200m to go to take fifth, just behind Fiachra.  Cathal Lombard was 8th, a disappointing run for him. Filling the remainder of the Cork spots were Garreth Barry 23rd, Eric Meade 36th, and Leevale’s Bryan Keane 43rd, to give Cork second place in the team contest.  Next came George Murray 51st, Martin Drake 52nd, and John Kearney 64th.  (See Team Photo).  Cillian O’Tuama and Damian Collins missed the race.  The first five have been named on the Irish team for the European cross country championships to be held in Malmo, Sweden on 10th December.  Considering the low mileage that Nason is doing, his place on the team is commendable, and might have something to do with the fact that he is back in Cork, with a great training group in Leevale.  NCAA’s winner Keith Kelly decided not to run after feeling a twinge in his leg, but was later selected for Malmo in the sixth spot left to the discretion of the selectors.  (Full Results).The junior men’s race had the biggest field of the day, with combined under 18 and under 19 competitions being held together.  Mikey Herlihy returned from Loyola College in Chicago, but was obviously jet-lagged and never featured in the race, finishing 12th.  Leevale’s James Grufferty could possibly have gone off too fast, and dropped back to finish 22nd, a good result considering this was his first national cross country race.  Ian Donovan was just behind in 27th place, with Robert Baer 50th and Jason Nicholl 52nd.  Other Cork placings were; Fergus Meade 26th, Niall Duncan 33rd, Brian McMahon 37th, Richard Sewell 62nd, and Darren Broe 67th.  Cork were the second team.  The under 18 placings saw James Grufferty in 11th, Ian 16th, Robert 40th, Jason 42nd, and Kevin Shine 71st, giving Leevale third place in the inter-club competition.  Alan Foolkes missed the race with a chest infection.  Claire Gibbons was Leevale’s only representative in the womens race, finishing 26th, and obviously benefiting from working with Ken Nason at River’s Edge Fitness Centre.  Other Cork placings saw Margaret Mary Meade in fifth (although Freda Davoren was fourth, but still claims she is from Kerry!), Colette O’Riordan 20th, Joan Hough 21st, Angela Shine 29th, Brid Ni Chonaill 30th, Blaithin Hannon 32nd, and Mary Sweeney 35th.  Sean Casey lost a number of places on the last lap of the under 16 race, eventually finishing 18th, with Alan Sexton 70th. Irish boxing champion Damian Dunlea arrived in Dungarvan just minutes before the start of his under 14 race, much to the consternation of Coach Shine.  However, he ran a great race to finish fifth.  Keith Lenihan was 24th, Richard O’Connor 49th, and John Shine 60th, leaving the Leevale team in fourth place. (Photo: Under-14 Team, from L-to-R: John Shine, Richard O’Connor, Keith Linehan, Damian Dunlea).  All in all a good day for the Leevale runners.