Last Saturday in AIT indoor arena in Athlone, three young Clare athletes and one from Waterford represented Ireland at Intermediate level in the annual international schools multi-events competition. They were Tony Odobote of Rice College, Ennis (Ennis Track Club) who was also the team captain, brothers Joseph & Darragh Miniter from Ennistymon CBS (St Mary’s AC Kilrush) and Shane Monagle of Tramore CBS.
This was the first time in the history of the event that all four places on the Irish team were taken by Munster athletes, hard-earned from finishing in the first four places in the All Ireland competition two weeks before. It is also the first time that Clare has had three athletes on the team. The competition in Athlone was between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and and there were two age groups; junior (U16) and intermediate (O16) with a boys and girls team for each countrymen both categories.
Each of the athletes has earned themselves reputations over the years as top of their own respective events. Tony is a well known sprinter and hurdler, Joseph is a triple and long jumper and Darragh is a shot putt and discus thrower. Each of them have won numerous All Ireland titles and have already represented Ireland.
The challenge of multi or combined events is to compete in each of five events in the case of indoor competitions and trying to score as highly as possible overall. (The most famous multi eventers in recent years are Jessica Ennis and Ashton Eaton.) Athletes will expect to score highly in their specialist event but they then have to compete and attempt to score points in their weaker events too. It is the ultimate test of athleticism, particularly at international level.
The order of events on Saturday was 60m hurdles followed by shot putt, 200m, long jump and then 800m. The competition ebbed and flowed throughout the afternoon with each of the Clare trio scoring very highly all day and recording numerous PBs to rack up high scores. Even though Tony is an accomplished sprinter and hurdler, he still managed to improve his best but this was only the second best time of the day, proving that this was international competition of the highest caliber.
In the shot putt, Darragh showed his throwing pedigree too with a personal best just short of 14 meters but once again this was only the second best throw of the day. Each of them threw personal bests in the shot putt which gave their throw and jumps coach David Courtney a lot of satisfaction. Those personal bests were to prove crucial in the Irish team scores and final position later in the day.
In the long jump, the fourth event of the day, each of them soared out to impressive distances but at that point fatigue was starting to set in. But that didn’t stop them and the home crowd of fellow athletes and coaches and family supporters shouted them on to great performance. Once again Tony jumped over 6 meters to a personal best with both Joe and Darragh jumping out to over 6 meters.
The final event of the day was the 800 meters. Four laps of the indoor 200 m track. When you are strong enough to throw the shot a long way, or muscular enough to jump a long way or sprint fast, the 800 meters is the middle distance lactic acid burning event that will hurt you. It’s the event that will reward the leaner athlete and tip the score balance one more time before the final calculation.
Our three Clare athletes took to the track and gave their all for the Irish team for the final event. They emptied the tank to the roars of an appreciative crowd. Tony won his heat in yet another personal best, recording the second best time of the day and Joseph and Darragh did much the same in their heats.
When the scores were added up, the Irish boys over 16 team placed 3rd overall, with Tony placing 2nd overall individually. The event was won by England who had only 20 points to spare over Ireland. Bear in mind that in Clare we have no indoor sprint track and no indoor throw or jump facilities. The athletes from the other countries train consistently indoors in state of the art facilities. It puts the lads performance in perspective.
Their coach David Courtney uses what he calls his ‘back-room staff’ to help with their coaching. His own former coaches Greg Murray and Dan Kennedy do technical video analysis and help make the athletes perfect their technique in throws, jumps, sprints and hurdles. Dan has coached several athletes to Olympic Games level. They both watched the competition and said that the three Clare athletes are developing and performing at a very impressive level now, and are very much on schedule to achieve elite Olympic level in the future.
It takes guts to compete in events that are not your best, ones where your lack of technical know-how will be obvious to spectators and fellow competitors. It takes bravery to risk failure and to try. It takes athleticism and courage to overcome and compete at the highest level. This team almost won today and we in Clare athletics should salute Tony, Joseph and Darragh for representing their schools, clubs and families so proudly and magnificently. Coming away with a team podium finish and an individual placing too was brilliant. Well done.