Athenry athlete claims two Connacht cross country titles

The recent Connacht Cross Country Championships produced a host of sterling performances from Galway athletes.

Shannon Lee of Athenry, Arlene Earls of Loughrea, Craughwell’s Liam Moran and Jamie Spellman, and Michelle Maher and Chris McGrath of Galway City Harriers were gold medal winners at the recent championships run over two weekends.

Shannon Lee of Athenry ran to the only Galway individual victory on the day for even ages which was held at the historic Belleek Castle. Lee produced a dominating performance in the u-14 event, running away from the field to blow away her opponents.

She then recorded a second Connacht title last weekend at the odd ages, leading her club to team gold in the process with a fine 37 points in the u-15 event. Her teammates of Grace Cahill (5th ) and Niamh and Eimear Keane (15th, 16th ) completed the golden quartet.

Arlene Earls of Loughrea AC, who took bronze in the u-14 race, dominated the u-13 event, leading from start to finish to record a famous victory, and cement a historic day for Loughrea AC. Galway City Harrier Aoife Sheehy won bronze, leading GCH to silver medal in the team category.

In an exciting u-12 race GCH’s Laoise Geraghty held on for silver ahead of Finola Kelly of Athenry AC. The boys’ race saw a fast-improving Brandon Lee of Athenry AC take silver, while Patrick Noonan of Craughwell AC was second Galway athlete in fifth place. The Galway City Harriers A team of Rian Oates, Kristan Flaherty, Riain Kelly and and Jonahton McGrath did enough to win the team prize.

The Craughwell u-14 boys team, the defending Irish champions, put down another marker by winning in 20 points ahead of Westport (50 ) and North Sligo (70 ). The were led home by James Cahalane in second followed by Liam Moran in fourth, Oisin Lyons (6 ) and Matthew Barrett (8 ).

GCH athlete Maebh Brannigan produced a strong second place individual finish in the u-16 event with Ciara Greene of Craughwell finishing fifth in the same race.

Craughwell’s Jamie Spellman battled hard with North Sligo runner Cian McBride for the win, but fell on the last lap, losing by just a couple of metres. However he helped Craughwell to gold in the team prize.

Ballinasloe’s team of Veronica, Kate and Michelle Burke, along with clubmate Sarah Daly took gold in the junior team event.

Craughwell were just pipped for victory time by a single point from rivals Sligo AC in the u-18 boys’ race. First Galway man home was Paul Joyce of Craughwell AC in third place, just ahead of Galway champion and clubmate Conor Gillen. Third Galway man was GCH’s Keith Fallon and the fourth Galwegian over the line was Keelan Ryan in seventh. Craughwell easily won the junior race, with Paul Fitzpatrick in seventh completing the quartet.

In senior event Irene Gorman delivered a solid run to win silver, while Fintan Hyland also finished in second place, followed home by Cian Corcoran in fourth.

On Sunday the cross country concluded in St Mary’s College Galway with Loughrea’s Chloe Casey delivering a gutsy performance, working her way through the field from fifth to take silver in the u-11 event, while Phelim McCann of Craughwell AC took bronze.

Craughwell AC’s all-conquering u-15 boys’ team took home another gold. Liam Moran stepped up in age to win the race outright. Placed in the leading group of runners after 1000m, which included Craughwell’s James Cahalane, Oisin Doyle, Matthew Barrett and GCH’s Oisin Faherty, Moran made a big break around the 1200m mark to put 20 or 30m between him and the chasing pack. James Cahalane gave chase to take the individual bronze.

Galway City Harriers took individual bronze in the u-17 race with a fine performance by Maebh Brannigan, while Ballinasloe & District won the team event with a strong quartet of Veronica Burke (6th ), Annie Tynan-Daly (7th ), Michelle Burke (8th ) and Michelle Jennings (13th ).

Craughwell AC dominated the u-17 boys’ race, with four athletes in the top six and six in the top 12. Jamie Spellman stepped up in age to win the title, breaking away from the pack during the first of the four laps, while clubmate Conor Gillen delivered a barnstorming final home sprint which brought him within 10m of Spellman. Damian O’Boyle (5th ) and Matthew Moran (6th ) completed the winning quartet.

Michelle Maher of Galway City Harriers won the club’s first individual gold of the day with a superb victory in the u-19 girl’s race, her second Connacht gold in as many weeks. Katie Burke of Ballinasloe & District AC won bonze in the same event.

Craughwell AC’s Neil Greaney had a fine run to win individual bronze in the u-19 event, while Aileen McNamara of Athenry AC won silver in the women’s intermediate race.

The men’s race was dominated by Galway City Harriers, with Chris McGrath taking gold, followed by clubmates Richard Farnan and Brian O’Connor and Gearoid Hynes.

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