Clare Athletics history was made on Sunday 19th of May when Ennis Track Athletics club was represented by a Men’s and & Ladies Athletics team in The National League. Round 1 took place at Templemore and the weather was kind to all who travelled to run, jump or throw for Ennis Track. Well known for its prowess over many years in middle distance and cross-country at local, national and international level, entering two teams to compete in all track and field events is the result of club coach education in technical events over recent years, spearheaded by Club President Gerry Hayes, leading to increasingly improving performance in field events.
Ennis Tracks two squads numbered approximately 36 athletes and in early summer sunshine the first athletes to compete were Martin Curley and Chison Ugweru in the sprint hurdles. Competing against six other clubs and counties in the Men’s Division and five in the Ladies, the competition was of the highest standard. Martin took 6th place and Chisom took 1st place, all the more remarkable given that Martin is normally a high jumper and Chisom had competed the day before in the Munster Schools Athletics finals, and won that too, over hurdles that were higher for her, competing as a senior athlete.
The day continued like that with the red and white of Ennis Track prominent all around the track and field all day. Picking up valuable points whether winning or taking 2nd, 3rd, 4th or lower placings. Next was Siobhan Gallagher and Pat Morrissey who ‘walked the walk’ in their walk races picking up valuable points. Then quietly going about her business was young Zara Deasey who jumped very well in her first senior high jump competition, followed by Shanice Benson in the ladies shot put. Shanice has become a fine rugby player in Ennis Rugby Club and she competed against Irelands leading female thrower Claire Fitzgerald from Kerry and did so with distinction. Shanice, another athlete who had competed the day before in the Munster Schools Athletics Championships winning her Senior shot and coming 3rds in the discus. In between her events by the way, she was studying for her leaving certificate. There’s dedication for you.
Laura Healy, another athlete that had competed the day before in the same schools competition, lined up for the 1500m and did very well. Damian Landers in the men’s 1500m, took 1st, stamping his authority on the field, reminding them why he is an international cross country athlete. Daniel Greene settled into the men’s high jump, getting close to his personal best and came 3rd.
Cathal O’Brien returning to athletics after college exams and an injury lay-off, got stuck into the long jump and showed the class and technique he cannot lose, jumping with power and technique and gaining valuable points. Phil Kearney, one of our newer athletes and field event technical coaches, bringing his UL PE expertise to bear on the day, coolly set about picking up 3rd in the men’s shot.
Half way through the event schedule was the 4 X 100m relay. Excitement had been growing all morning as the two teams sensed that not alone were they deserving of their place at the event, but they were doing well. The relays boosted and excited everyone. The ladies team of Chisom Ugweru, Jessica Jzgielska, Aisling Power and Mary Cahill blasted off and finished a very creditable 4th.
Then the men’s team of Cathal O’Brien, Gabriel Kehinde, Shawn Benson and John Power were narrowly beaten in to 2nd place. Shawn having only returned from exams in college in Manchester a few days before and Gabriel having also competed in the Munster Schools the day before. The quartet completed by John, National 60m sprint Champion at Masters 55 years+ category. Team Captains Rory Chesser and Maria Carey and Team Manager David Courtney were busy making sure that everyone was ready for their events on time and helped officiate during the day.
Mary Cahill took a break from her duties in An Post escaping cross dogs and raising money for the RNLI doing parachute jumps, by lining up for the 400m, her first of four events, two individual and two relays. Taking a valuable 5th position. And to show the team ethic of this event, the variety of backgrounds and performance levels, we had Cathal Crosbie in the men’s 400m. Cathal is a multiple national title winner and trains with Tom Barr, of Rio Olympics 400m hurdle fame. Taking time to loyally compete for his club. He scorched to victory.
In the same elite vein, Rory Chesser, the Men’s Team Captain, former National Senior champion many times and International athlete, stamped his class on the 3000m Steeplechase, taking 1st. Then Darragh Lynch did the same in the 800m, with ease and class, inspiring the rest of the team who watched and cheered.
At the other end of the stadium, other events were taking place. Phil was throwing elegant discus, getting a personal best PB and getting a 3rd place. While Cathal O’Brien did the same in the triple jump. And then Mary Cahill, recovering from her 400m and relay, took 5th in the javelin, her first ever competition. Ann-Marie Connellan was next in the 3000m, working her way with grit through the field and earning more valuable points.
The sprinters were back on the track with Jessica and Shawn in the 200m. Very competitive fields and more points for the teams. Aisling Power powered into the 800m and picked up points that added to the tally. Chisom was back at the jumping pit, this time in the triple jump and did so well, talking 3rd, despite two days of hard competition. Liam Naughten was next in the longest event of the day, the 5000m and ran tactically and with maturity to add his contribution to the team.
The teams prepared for the final event of the day, the 4 X 400m, which was to prove one of the most exciting. But not before Martin Davis threw in his first ever javelin competition coming 5th, Shanice threw in the discus coming 3rd, Chisom jumped in the long jump coming 3rd and Jessica and Gabriel ran the 100m. Jessica came in 4th in her first ever senior event and Gabriel put the pain of a false-start disqualification in the schools competition a week before behind him, winning in a new personal best of 11.18 sec. That’s the way to get over disappointment!
The ladies 4 X 400 of Ann-Marie, Mary, Jessica and Laura came 4th which was fantastic after all their events during the day. The men’s team of Kevin Chesser, Darragh, Rory and Cathal won, with Cathal Crosbie beating Wexford dramatically on the line. What a finish to the day.
The results from Templemore have to be collated with the results of the other side of the event which took place in Belfast on the same day. They have to be averaged and the points calculated to see where each team and county ranks. Then every team has to do the same again in Round 2, with different teams competing. Only after all that will we know which eight teams qualify for the final in July. But Ennis Track have made their mark, entered the National League for the first time ever. Competed with distinction, with good humour and sportsmanship, with fun and camaraderie, doing their best for the sport they love, the club, town and county they represent. See you in the final !!
Reported by David Courtney