Sweeney and Fenlon claim top honours in Vicarstown

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Murphy and Fenlon claim top honours in Vicarstown

The St Abban's ladies team in Vicarstown.

Oughaval AC were the hosts, and Vicarstown the venue, for this the second running of the Downey’s Nissan Intermediate Road Race.

Vicarstown is the home of the annual 'Beat The Barge 4K' in September, and the weekly ParkRun 5K run every Saturday morning. This Intermediate event was introduced last year to satisfy this need for more county road races, and to fill a gap between Novice and Senior Races.

Eligibility for this race is that athletes have to be over 20 before the end of the year, and not have placed in any previous running of a county Intermediate or Senior Road Championship, so allows for some competitive races, with athletes all vying for their names in the record books.

It was lovely to welcome our sponsors Mr and Mrs Richard Downey to the event, and Laois Athletics are delighted with their wonderful support this past 12 months. This much-needed support has enabled us to make important investment in our sport and its athletes.

The weather was good, and although overcast, it stayed dry and there was just a slight breeze. There were good crowds present, and the supporters were well spread out over the final kilometre of the course, and provided the athletes with some brilliant support, much required in the closing stages of a race.

The juvenile races, which preceded the main events, are fast becoming an ever-valuable addition to these county race programmes, and are attracting good numbers of runners.

Events began at 11am, and the first races were for U-9s, they had a relatively short 300m to run. The girl’s race was won in good style by Cara English from St Abban's AC, with the boys race going to Daniel Downey from Portlaoise AC. Both these athletes won the same race last year.

The U-11s raced over 600m, and Ella Dunne (Oughaval AC) ran a strong race to take the gold medal, while the boys race was won by club mate Eamon Browne. The U-13s raced over 1,000m, with Faye McEvoy (Ballyroan, Abbeyleix & District AC) running a strong and solid race to take the gold medal, and Jack Fenlon running equally well to take the gold in the boys’ race.

The U-15s also raced over 1,000m, with Seoighe English from St Abban's taking the girls race, and Ronan Hyland (Rosenallis-Kilcavan AC) winning the boys race. The U-17 boys and girls raced together over 1,400m with two Oughaval athletes, Orla Fennelly and Cathal Connaughton, taking top honours in both races.

The Ladies Intermediate Race over 3K had a delayed start due to the large numbers in the juvenile races, but there was plenty of camaraderie and banter on the start line, which kept spirits high and muscles warm! The course was as flat as could be, the middle section was into a slight breeze, and it finished along the canal up towards the bridge in Vicarstown.

It was one of the more competitive races in recent years, with five full teams representing Ballyfin AC, Ballyroan Abeyleix & District AC, Portlaoise AC, St Abban's AC, and St Michaels AC, so a super turnout from the Laois women today.

The pre-race favourite was Lisa Sweeney (nee Murphy) from St Michael’s AC, who established a significant lead from halfway, and went on to win easily. Second place went to Sinead Kelly from St Abban's, doubling up on her silver medal from the Novice race a couple of weeks ago. Also repeating her Novice performance was Joanne Carroll (Portlaoise AC) who ran on well to take the bronze medal. The team gold went to a delighted St Michael’s (27 points), with silver to Portlaoise AC (29 points), and third to St Abban's (39 points).

There was a good turnout for the mens also, with representatives from all the clubs with senior runners. They had a lap and a half to do, with their final 3K the same as the women’s race. John Fenlon from St Abban's has been in terrific form of late, and took the race by the horns from the gun.

Running solo for the whole race, he finished strongly to win by a good margin. There was an exciting finish for the silver medal with Portlaoise AC’s Tom Lupton pressed hard in the final 100m by Ballyfin AC’s Roibeard Miller.

The younger legs managed to hold on, but it was a great finish, with both athletes giving their all in the closing stages. The team gold went to St Abban's AC (22 points), with Portlaoise AC (33 points) in second, and Ballyfin AC (43 points) taking the team bronze.

The next Championship Road event is the Senior Road Race, which will be hosted by Rosenallis-Kilcavan, and will take place on Sunday 26th March in Kilcavan. With all the county’s senior athletes eligible to run, this will be the blue riband of the Championship series, so make sure and mark the date in your diaries - it’s sure to be a great spectacle!

Womens Intermediate (3K)
1. Lisa Sweeney (St Michael’s AC); 2. Sinead Kelly (St Abban's AC) ; 3. Joanne Carroll (Portlaoise AC)

Mens Intermediate (6K)
1. John Fenlon (St Abban's); 2. Tom Lupton (Portlaoise AC); 3. Roibeard Miller (Ballyfin AC)

U-9 Girls (300m)
1. Cara English (St Abban's AC); 2. Charlotte Fee (Oughaval AC); 3. Laura McEvoy (Ballyfin AC)

U-9 Boys (300m)
1. Daniel Downey (Portlaoise AC); 2. Kalem Buggy (St Abban's AC); 3. Séan Conroy (Mountmellick AC)

U-11 Girls (600m)
1. Ella Dunne (Oughaval AC); 2. Rachel Ayres (St Abban's AC); 3. Jane Hyland (Rosenallis/Kilcavan AC)

U-11 Boys (600m)
1. Eamon Browne (Oughaval AC); 2. Fionn Cuddy (Portlaoise AC); 3. Oliver McCawley (Portlaoise AC)

U-13 Girls (1,000m)
1. Faye McEvoy (Ballyroan, Abbeyleix & District AC); 2. Poppy Hackett (St Michael's AC); 3. Kate Connolly (St Michael's AC).

U-13 Boys (1,000m)
1. Jack Fenlon (St Abban's AC); 2. Adam Buggy (St Abban's AC); 3. Evan English (St Abban's AC)

U-15 Girls (1,000m)
1. Seoighe English (St Abban's AC); 2. Niamh McDonald (Ballyroan, Abbeyleix & District AC); 3. Ava Prendergast (Ballyfin AC).

U-15 Boys (1,000m)
1. Ronan Hyland (Rosenallis Kilcavan AC); 2. Oisin Jago (Oughaval AC); 3. Charlie Hackett (St Michael's AC)

U-17 Girls (1,400m)
1. Orla Fennelly (Oughaval AC); 2. Ciara Phelan (Ballyfin AC); 3. Inez Looney (Ballyfin AC)

U-17 Boys (1,400m)
1. Cathal Connaughton (Oughaval AC); 2. TJ Burke (St Abban's AC)