Lifford AC returned with three medals from the first weekend of the All Ireland Juvenile Track and Field Championships held in Tullamore last weekend.
One silver medal, two bronze medals and many, many personal best performances was the return – just reward for the months of hard work and commitment to training from this dedicated group of athletes and their coaches.
Alan McGinley was the top performer with a fantastic silver medal in the u15 Boys 250m Hurdles in what was undoubtedly the race of the day on Sunday with the first three crossing the line in a blanket finish with just four hundreths of a second separating first from third. Indeed McGinley led off the final hurdle in the home straight but despite a personal best time of 36.00 seconds, he was pipped on the line for gold by Diarmuid Glancy of Abbey Striders in Cork.
Just a month ago, Karen Gallagher was an odds on certainty for a bronze medal as she approached the final water jump barrier in the 1500m Steeplechase final at the All Ireland Schools Championships at the same venue. However, a fall at this barrier left the young Killygordon girl devastated as she limped home in 5th position after crashing awkwardly into the water . It is a mark of the girl that after this setback, she returned stronger and more determined to tackle the same course again in the u17 Steeplechase over the longer distance of 2000m in these championships and in the process raced to an unforgettable bronze medal in a time of 8 minutes 11.69 seconds, behind Alison Armstrong of Celtic AC in Dublin and Ciara Cummins of Nenagh Olympic in Tipperary.
Conor McKinney won a bronze medal in these championships two years ago in the u15 Triple Jump. He returned on this occasion to match that performance with a huge hop, step and jump of 12.44m at u17 level– a personal best for him on what was the final event of the weekend. The most satisfying aspect of Conor’s performance was the fact that he improved with every jump of the competition smashing his previous best jump of 12.33m achieved in the Ulster Championships on no less than three occasions. Indeed had McKinney been in this form a week earlier while representing Ulster at the Interprovincial Tailteann Games, he could well have gained for himself, an international schools vest for the upcoming Schools International between Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales.
It is often said that 4th is the hardest position of all to finish in – being so near to a medal, yet so far. Ryan Stewart in his first appearance at these Championships was just 0.43m short of a medal in the u12 Boys Turbo Javelin with a first round throw of 22.91m – out-thrown for the bronze by Aaron Walsh of Nenagh Olympic with a throw of 23.34m. Ryan followed this up later in the day with a 5th place finish in the u12 Shot Putt with a personal best putt of 8.43m.
Brandon Connolly had similar disappointment having to settle for 4th and 5th place finishes in the u15 Boys 80m Hurdles and 250m Hurdles respectively. Connolly’s 4th place finish in the 80m Hurdles was particularly noteworthy. Having failed to reach the final in this event over the past two years, he showed maturity beyond his years to race magnificently over the obstacles first in his heat and later in the final in a time of 12.86 seconds, and in the process take a whopping 0.71 seconds off his previous best.
Brendan O’Donnell may be better known for his Hammer Throw exploits but with him not due to take part in the national finals of this event for another fortnight, he turned his attention to the u15 Discus on this occasion. Lying in 3rd position going into the sixth and final round with a throw of 31.25m, he had to be content with 5th position when the throws were completed and the results were tallied. Young O’Donnell was unable to contain his disappointment afterwards as despite this being a second event for him, he actually had the furthest throw nationally this year in this discipline going into these championships with the 38.30m he threw when winning the Ulster Championships. His disappointment was exacerbated by the fact that the winning throw on Saturday was 38.18m.
Conor Breslin only took up the Hammer Throw discipline recently and has been making huge strides in this event over the past couple of weeks in training. His second round throw of 29.98m would have been good enough for a medal in other years in the u14 Hammer but young Breslin had to be content with 5th position overall – just 2.22m outside the medals. With greater practise over the coming months, the young Ballindrait athlete may indeed have a very bright future in this event.
Others taking part were Karen Gallagher, Shannon Craig, Nicole Cuskelly, Kathleen Craig, Ellie Green, Conor McKinney, Conor Lynch, Conor McGinley, Shane Gibson, Olivia Cuskelly, Alan McGinley and Charlie McElwaine.
With the second weekend of the championships taking place next weekend again at the Tullamore venue, the club is hopeful of adding to its successes with further podium finishes and personal best performances.