McGonagle: “Donegal not at the races when it comes to cross-county”

Tom Comack

Reporter:

Tom Comack

Donegal have really dropped down the pecking order at senior cross-country running and are no longer at the races when it comes to the national stage.

Donegal have really dropped down the pecking order at senior cross-country running and are no longer at the races when it comes to the national stage.

That is the view of none other that Irish Olympics Athletics coach and head coach at Finn Valley Athletic Club, Patsy McGonagle.

And while he feels that track and field athletics and the sport at underage is in a healthy state, he thinks there is a real problem at cross-country and it is an issue that must be addressed.

Speaking from the Ulster Cross-Country Championship in Antrim on Saturday last, on a day Donegal athletes and Donegal clubs were well down the order and did not really figure in the championship, he said that standards at cross-country level had really declined in the county.

“ It was a poor day for Donegal; we are just not the force we once were and we are going to have to take a good hard look at the situation,” Pasty told Highland Radio.

“There is no point in beating about the bush on the matter; we are not as competitive at senior cross-country as we were in the past. We simply don’t have the individual athletes we had in the past.

“We are running and winning 5ks here in Donegal and we think we are doing well. It is all local and parochial and is unbelievably successful but it is not the big world. The 5ks are brilliant and the interest and participation level is brilliant and we are probably leading the rest of the country in that respect and we must develop the concept and keep it going.

“But when we step out in the bigger world we don’t impact to any great extent and that was evident at the Ulster Cross-Country championship due to the fact that we did not show any serious competitive edge at all.

“I don’t know what is the cause of the problem but we don’t have it in Letterkenny and we don’t have it at Finn Valley. I know we have the rivalry between Finn Valley and Letterkenny and it is very important and exciting and there is great pride and tradition at stake and that must continue.

“But we must look beyond that and I accept it is different at other aspects of the sport. It is different at underage, it is different at track and field but at the moment at cross-country we are not as strong as we were.

“And I stress as we were. We had great days with Patrick Hegarty, individually, with Finn Valley and Letterkenny teams and with Danny McDaid, both at Cranford and Letterkenny, and then we had those glorious years with the Finn Valley ladies which lasted for 13 or 14 year. They were brilliant times and set a very high standard.

“I’m not despondent about it because I knew it was happening and I feel it has to be said and I know people will react and people will say what is Patsy ranting on about now. But the bottom line as of now at senior cross-country we are not at the races.”