Last Sunday in Samorin, Slovakia will go down as the Club’s finest hour as two of our Club members Sean Tobin and Kevin Maunsell ran the proverbial blinders at the European Senior Men’s Cross-Country Championships on their debut in an Irish Senior Singlet. It was a privilege and an honour to witness these two fantastic performances at first hand. These two performances were top class and expertly executed in the cold face of the highest level of competition at European level. To see these two athletes put in such fantastic performances against the elite of European Middle distance running plus a handful of Kenyan and Moroccan athletes was just magnificent.
Conditions were very cold there as it was minus 1 at the start of race and athletes were trying to keep their gear on for as long as possible to withstand the cold.The race started, and Sean went with the early pace, just to get out into a good position and this he did and was lying 18th and was part of a very large leading group of around 40 athletes with little separating all 40 athletes, at the end of the first small lap. Sean at this stage was well positioned and at the end of the 2nd small lap he was 24th. Then the charge was on with many athletes increasing the pace on the first of the 6 big laps. As the athletes reached the 2.5k mark Sean now part of a large group in 33rd place.
On this longer loop there was plenty of room to make progress and Sean soon got into his stride and was full of running as he approached halfway in 22nd place. At this stage Kevin who also started off at a strong pace and was getting into a very good rhythm by the end of the 2nd small loop, made great progress on the bigger loops and by halfway he had moved onto Sean’s group which also included Hugh Armstrong of Ballina AC. These three athletes worked in great harmony with one another and showed brilliant team work as they worked together, none of them slackening off the pace as they made great progress through the field with the three athletes tightly bunched in a group of ten athletes at the bell for the final lap with Kevin 23rd, Sean 24th and Hugh 19th, unbelievable running. The pace didn’t slacken over the final 1300m and each athlete was giving it everything, none more so than our two Club members, Sean and Kevin and to see both of them powering down the finishing straight in full flight was a privilege in such exalted company and finishing 15th (30 mins 43 secs) and 24th (30 mins 49 secs) respectively and was just sheer brilliance.Then to know that these two athletes formed two thirds of the Irish team that were only beaten by the might of France by just 2 points, makes it even more memorable and speaks volumes for these two spectacular performances.
These two athletes along with Hugh were all making their Irish Senior debut and were the topics of conversation for the rest of the weekend. They have put Clonmel AC on the European map, the last time Ireland achieved such a high finishing position, 5th, was in 2011. Great credit for these two performances must go to their respected Coaches, Anthony Moynihan and James Sullivan, while Sean’s Coach Ryan Vanhoy must also have enjoyed witnessing this fantastic performance by Sean. Sean also used his previous experience of European Championships, to good effect having competed three times in the European Junior Cross-Country event as well as at the European Under 23 Event. For Kevin, this must be the Irish performance of the weekend as he used the same tactics as he did in Abbotstown to great effect, putting in a tremendous performance over the final 5k, at the business end of the race and it showed that he reaped the benefits of his Marathon training. For Sean he was approaching this 10k event from a different angle, an 800m, mile athlete moving up to compete over 6.2 miles at the highest level in only his 3rd 10k event, two spectacular performances from two genuine and dedicated athletes. They both commented on landing at Dublin Airport, when congratulated by John Foley for their spectacular performances, that “this is only the start”.Thanks to James Veale and David Kenneally for all the photos and to former club member, Martin Drake, for his support