JAMES McAssey of St Laurence O’Toole’s produced another outstanding display to take his third consecutive Carlow senior men’s cross-country title in excellent conditions in Ballon on Sunday, leading the Carlow town team to their 24th team title in the process.
After a dominant winning run in Tinryland last year, McAssey’s title was again on the line on Sunday with his main contenders on the day being club-mates Mick Kelly, Eamonn Murphy and five-time winner Brian Kirwan alongside Colin Payne of Tinryland.
From the start, McAssey set out his stall and together with Kirwan they built a small lead over pursuers Payne, Murphy and Kelly on the opening of five laps over a varied and testing 10km circuit.
As the laps progressed, the positions became clearer as McAssey maintained his fluid running style to break into a 150m lead with Payne and Murphy battling it out for the remaining medals. Kirwan was further behind in fourth position ahead of club-mate John Culhane. The following chasing group consisted of 13-time winner Tommy Payne, his club mate and Tennessee-based Brian Kennedy and last year’s runner-up Mick Kelly.
As the race entered the final lap, it was clear that McAssey had perfected his pre-event preparation and maintained his lead to the line to win in a time of 35 minutes 21 seconds. After an exciting battle for the runners-up places, Colin Payne took silver in a time of 36:14 with Murphy taking bronze in 36:59.
A hugely impressive showing on the day came from Killaloe-native John Culhane. A solid performer in this event in recent years, the O’Toole’s athlete has been in fine form this year with a time of 2.44 for the marathon. He managed to overhaul Brian Kirwan, who was making a welcome return to competition, for fourth place.
In sixth position was Mick Kelly with another fine display from Brian Kennedy who placed seventh. Tommy Payne was close behind in eighth.
The winning O’Toole’s team was completed by noted rower Niall Murphy who ran solidly to finish ninth ahead of the very consistent Ken Archbold.
The Tinryland team was completed by Cormac Kelly (11th), John Dillon (12th) and Jeremiah O’Sullivan (15th).
Bagenalstown were represented by David Ashmore and Bill Barry who both placed well. Other O’Toole’s athletes to complete the demanding event included Richard Ryan, Rasmus Gutzmer, a native of Bad Schmiedeberg, Germany who is curently studying in Carlow, and Kevin Murphy.
The O’Toole’s team convincingly took the team title with 28pts ahead of Tinryland on 55pts. Nonetheless, as Tinryland had a number of absences on the day through injury, there could be a close competition for the Odlum Cup again next year.
The senior women’s event for the JJ Lambert Cup saw a very depleted field in numbers but this did not take away from some fine individual performances on the day.
Although the destiny of the team title was decided in advance of the start with O’Toole’s fielding the only complete team with a solitary athlete from Ballon, the battle for individual placings was keenly contested throughout.
The 2017 champion Bronwen Kiernan once again produced an excellent front-running performance at this venue and despite the early challenges of the brave Laura Ward, the Dublin native extended her lead in the latter stages to win in a time of 21:32, 60 seconds ahead of her young club-mate.
There was another solid outing from Maria Curran who took bronze ahead of her club-mate and newcomer Catherine Doyle. In fifth was Eleanor Purcell with Marion Dowling also acquitting herself well in sixth.
After the event, the Odlum and JJ Lambert Cups were presented to the winning teams.
Great credit must go to the local officials and stewards in Ballon who ensured the course was well laid out and well-marked and to all who helped out on the day with Eamonn Byrne a very capable MC for both races.
Following both races, the individual medals and team titles were presented at the finish area in front of all spectators after what was another great advertisement for cross-country athletics in Carlow.
Senior Men 10km: 1 James McAssey (O’Toole’s) 35:21, 2 Colin Payne (Tinryland) 36:14, 3 Eamonn Murphy (O’Toole’s) 36:59, 4 John Culhane (O’Toole’s) 37:51, 5 Brian Kirwan (O’Toole’s) 37:55, 6 Mick Kelly (O’Toole’s) 38:11, 7 Brian Kennedy (Tinryland) 38:36, 8 Tommy Payne (Tinryland) 38:47, 9 Niall Murphy (O’Toole’s) 40:09, 10 Ken Archbold (O’Toole’s) 41:16, 11 Cormac Kelly (Tinryland) 42:10, 12 John Dillon (Tinryland) 42:18 13 David Ashmore (Bagenalstown) 42:25, 14 Bill Barry (Bagenalstown) 42:52, 15 Jeremiah O’Sullivan (Tinryland) 44:35, 16 Richard Ryan (O’Toole’s) 45:10, 17 Rasmus Gutzmer (O’Toole’s) 45:54, 18 Kevin Murphy (O’Toole’s) 48:31. Teams: 1 O’Toole’s (1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9) 28pts, 2 Tinryland (2, 7, 8, 11, 12, 15) 55 pts
Senior Ladies 5km: 1 Bronwen Kiernan (O’Toole’s) 21:32, 2 Laura Ward (O’Toole’s) 22:32, 3 Maria Curran (O’Toole’s) 22:55, 4 Catherine Doyle (O’Toole’s) 23:29, 5 Eleanor Purcell (O’Toole’s) 25:57, 6 Marion Dowling (Ballon/Rathoe) 29:30. Team 1 O’Toole’s (1, 2, 3, 4) 10pts