Wicklow Way Relay 19/05/2018

Published in Other News on 21st May 2018

WWR 2018 start

Wicklow Way Relay Report by Kenneth O'Hara.

After nearly two months of trash talk and banter the day finally arrived last Saturday for the biggest throw down event of the year as members went head to head in two teams as part of the Wicklow Way Relay. A 104km trail race with 3500ft of climbing across the Wicklow Mountains, it is the highlight of many runners year and this time it took on some extra significance with two teams entered for some additional friendly competition.

With the number of team entries limited to 35 only one official team is allowed per club. So on the day we had Athenry AC, comprising all club members, taking on the Lactic Lunatics which hosted one non-club member.

Athenry AC:

Brendan Galvin (Leg1), Colin Duane (Leg2), Frances Leahy (Leg3), Maeve Noone (Leg4), Aidan Madden (Leg5), Mark Mitchell (Leg6), Lyall Guiney (Leg7), Niall Lyons (Leg8).

Lactic Lunatics:

Frank Burke (Leg1), Kieran Walsh (Leg2), Stephen Troake (Leg3), Deirdre Brophy (Leg4), Kenneth O'Hara (Leg5), Aoife Callan (Leg6), Jim Leahy (Leg7), Fergal Walsh (Leg8).

With peoples fitness levels & confidence fluctuating on a surprising level in the run up to race day we were finding it hard to agree on who would win with people on both teams admitting to pre-race nerves for the first time in a while – there’s something about running in a team which gives the race a whole different feel to normal road racing.

If ever there were two trash talkers in the club it’s Brendan Galvin & Frank Burke so we had no choice to put them head to head. And after Frank’s amazing ability to get lost (which he proved to us so well during our recent training run in Wicklow) it was decided to put him in Leg 1 where he would have runners around him before the field spread out across the day. After what looked a very leisurely start by both men we wondered we’re they going to saunter around together and leave the racing to the later runners. But sure enough as the race progressed battle commenced.


Brendan made the first move & pulled away on the first climb circling around Kilmashogue Mountain. Never too far out of sight, Frank kept in touch and as they crested the second mountain by Prince Williams Seat he pulled level with Brendan, offering some ‘words of encouragement’ (for want of a better description) to Brendan. Brendan, sensing the effort put in by Frank to draw level, did indeed take encouragement from those words and took off again on the downhill and as they crisscrossed the switchbacks said he heard in the distance many more ‘words of encouragement’ from Frank behind him, spurring him on to finish in 1:12:12 with Frank a further 40 seconds behind.  


With such a small amount of time between the teams Kieran Walsh had a target in his sights setting off on Leg 2 and wasted no time settling into his stride. A tough and long leg with more climbing than any other, Kieran used it to his benefit as he passed Colin Duane early on and continued this trend, passing a further seven more teams as he powered to a 1:20:36 finish. On any other year Colin’s 1:26:29 would have ranked up there with one of our best runs on this leg but Kieran blitzed the course to break our record for that leg by four minutes & handing the lead to Lactic Lunatics.


Our single guest member, Stephen, took over from Kieran and with similar race times to Frances we expected a tight leg here but with a net downhill elevation on this route Stephen proved the more nimble descender and opened up big gap by the end. Even though Frances had a great run, improving four minutes on last year with a 47.38, Stephen ran a 40:36 to increase the Lunatics lead to around 12 minutes.


Leg four saw another debutant in the race as Deirdre Brophy took over from Stephen. Whilst on paper this leg was a mismatch with Deidre going up against Maeve, terrain & local knowledge can count for a lot. By her own admission, Deirdre will run uphill all day long but she’s not as comfortable on downhill & technical ground. She was also unable to get up to recce the route prior to race day so her first viewing of the course was during the race. Maeve on the other hand had ran this route on numerous occasions in race & training conditions.


Armed with some handwritten directional notes tied to her bag to guide her through the course Deirdre powered up  

the tough hilly two mile start and never looked back as she hit the rough stuff. Finishing in 54:00 and knocking another 10 minutes out of the Athenry AC team as Maeve came home in 64:37.


Next up was myself and Aidan. We left the leg 4 transition early to get to our starting area as we had a tough 4 mile climb to contend with and a good warm up was essential. Disaster struck though as two miles into our journey we met a double cattle trailer coming against the flow of traffic on the narrow country road. With nowhere to go it took nearly fifteen minutes to get by and in mild panic stations, as Aidan heads off on a warm up, I rush to get changed & ready to run. I arrive to the start line and manage less than 1km of a warm up when Deirdre arrives much earlier than expected. It’s great that we’re so far ahead but I know I’m going to suffer now once I hit the hills.


After the first flat mile we turn left to climb alongside the Poulanass Waterfall. It’s a steep climb with sections touching 30% gradients and I decide to power walk most of it to try and save my lungs. It’s tough going though & adrenaline alone tries to push me on faster. I get to the top of the first tough section and it flattens out a touch so that it’s more runnable but it’s still averaging 8 – 10% gradient with dirty little kickers up to 15%. The lack of a warm up is coming back to haunt me & my lungs are screaming. I’m reduced to a run / walk strategy very early on & dark thoughts start to creep in. At this stage I had nearly a further 3 miles of constant climbing before I crested Mullacor & could start the fast descent to Drumgoff. I guessed I had at least a 15min head start on Aidan but not knowing how Maeve was doing I didn’t know the full amount. I also knew that Aidan should gain at least five minutes on me even if I was at my best here. With the fact that I was struggling so early how much would he now pull back?


I try to push through, running as many of the gentler sections as possible but having to walk the steeper hills. After about three miles we hit a long open section between Derrybawn & Mullacor Mountains. I know it’s a fairly constant gradient here & I try to run it all but the pace is low & I get passed by three other teams in quick succession along this drag. It’s the only section of the course where you can see ahead for any long distance & I know if Aidan hits the start of that drag before I finish it that I’m giving him a big target to chase. I redline myself to the top to screen myself in the forest again & luckily I see no sign of him. The damage is done though & I’m goosed. I eventually get to the top of Mullacor & the timber boardwalks over the bog. These are easy underfoot & I like running them. I take a minute to recover & intend to blast the second half of the course which is all downhill. Unfortunately the recovery doesn’t come though. As hard as I’m pushing I can’t get air into my lungs and manage a fastest mile downhill of 7.20, over a full minute per mile off what I should be doing on the downhill sections. I arrive into Glenmalure Lodge disappointed but with no sign of Aidan behind me yet. I say to Frank that I reckon he’s put 8 or 9 minutes into me & sure enough, running a stormer, Aidan comes in soon enough after burying himself into the downhills, collapsing to the ground from his effort & indeed taking back 8 minutes for Athenry with a 1:04:20 ahead of my 1:12:20.


Next up was Aoife & Mark. With this leg reverting back to its original course for the first time in many years there was additional climbing compared to previous editions of the race. Both runners had recce’d it together in recent weeks though & knew what to expect. Another tough course with a lot of constant & steep climbs plus some very technical downhills, we knew Aoife would go well, being one of our strongest climbers in the club. Mark was an unknown though, at his peak he should put in a strong run but as he is only recently back from injury it was all to play for. On the day though Aoife prevailed running a 1.13.57, taking back 7 minutes for the Lunatics with Mark running a 1.21.05.


Sensing defeat creeping upon his team, Brendan started reverting to dirty tricks & it soon became apparent that Aoife had been reported for running an incorrect route & was given a 10 minute penalty. After some discussions with the marshal’s though we could prove via Aoife’s recorded distance on her watch that she had indeed ran the full route and we thankfully got the penalty removed. (Some people will try anything to win!)


So with two legs remaining the Lunatics held roughly a 20 minute lead. Insurmountable? Definitely not, as next up was Lyall Guiney for Athenry. Whilst Jim is no slouch, this is why the Lunatics were trying to bank as much time as possible early in the day. We reckoned there was going to be a minimum 10 minute swing here and with rumours circling that the Lunatics had received a 10 minute or maybe even 20 minute penalty for a parking violation the race was blown wide open.


At this stage it was midday on an absolutely scorcher of a day as they head out on the longest route of the race. At just over half marathon distance the course also held 610m of climbing. No easy job, never mind knowing that Lyall Guiney is hunting you down from behind! Nearly two hours later we wait in anticipation on the Wicklow / Carlow border to see who will appear from the wilderness first. With nearly 1.55 on the clock a weary looking Jim appears &  

tackles the last climb to finish his leg (never mind the distance he’d already run, the finish line is on top of a steep 200m climb). He hands over to Fergal Walsh & the countback begins.


Less than 5 minutes later and looking way too fresh for what he’d just put himself through Lyall arrives in after an amazing 1:36:45, clawing back 19 minutes for Athenry. Game on!


The last leg again on paper looked a mismatch with Fergal going up against Niall but with Fergal out injured for the previous month & Niall showing fast improving times over the 5k series we knew that the overall result could still be in the balance, especially if the rumoured time penalties came into play.


Both runners took off at a fast pace as we all jumped in our cars to head to the finish line. We knew Fergal should finish first but what would the advantage be. Would we clear the 10 minute barrier to allow for a time penalty? He duly appeared with a fast downhill sprint finish, gaining another overall position for the team as he rounded another runner in the last 20m to finish for a 41:55 & a total time for the Lunatics of 9 hours, 10 minutes & 25 seconds and 18th position. He also finished as 6th runner home on the day for that leg with notable runners ahead of him such as Olympian Linda Byrne.


We watch the clock as we wait for Niall, it creeps past the 10 minute barrier and the Lunatics begin to breathe a sigh of relief. Have they done enough? Niall powers through soon after for a 48:50 and a total time of 9 hours 22 minutes even and 20th position. The Lunatics take it by 12 minutes! Woo hoo.


The official results arrived & despite the many rumours circulating, no penalty materialised for the Lunatics (More of the dirty tricks campaign by Mr Chairman?) so the 12 minute win was confirmed. A great performance by both teams with some seriously impressive times across the day.


It really was a great day out & everybody who takes part in this event raves about it. The weather payed ball too this year which always adds to the event but even without it, the terrain, the location, the team aspect, the camaraderie and banter between teams all throughout the day make this event something special.


The added bonus of a second team of members this year also seems to have added a bit of extra impetus to proceedings as club records were broken on 7 of the 8 legs this year (It’ll be a while before Darragh McShane’s 55min record is broken on Leg 6).


I’ll leave the closing word to our Chairman who ended his speech in the pub afterwards with ‘Even though my team lost, I still feel victorious after beating Frank Burke……’






Information re Athenry Leg of Galway Series 2018

Published in Other News on 16th May 2018

The Athenry Leg of the 5K series will be taking place next Tuesday the 22nd of May at 20:00

Based on feedback from last year the start has been moved to the link road approximately 1.5km from the Train station. To get there go past last year’s start at the tennis courts (Raheen). At the link road junction take a right and continue on this road approx 300mtrs to the new start point. See map attached.


Portable toilets will be located at the link road junction.

There is no parking at the start or at the Raheen Woods Hotel so please use parking facilities around the town making sure you do not block any roads, driveways or businesses.

Have fun and hopefully get a PB on the flat course!

Kevin Ryan, Derrydonnell AC, RIP

Published in Other News on 7th March 2018

Successful Derrydonnell AC athletes cir 1958.
Successful Derrydonnell AC athletes cir 1958: Front row: Bernie Rohan, Eamonn Fitzpatrick.
Middle row: Bernie Ruane, Willie Morris, Tommy Madden, Kevin Ryan. 
Back row: George Moran, John Joe Burke, Peter Michael Conneely, Mick Molloy, Dick Walsh.

Runners in Athenry have heard the news of the recent passing of former athlete Kevin Ryan with great sadness. Kevin was undoubtedly one of the greats of Galway Athletics over the last 100 years and although few of us knew Kevin personally, the family tradition for excellence in athletics has been ably maintained by his son Gerry in more recent times.

The article reprinted below was originally contributed by Kevin to the history of Derrydonnell AC that was compiled by his fellow runner, Tommy Madden (RIP) and Mick Rice of Athenry AC. We publish it again here so that today’s runners may have some appreciation for the tradition of excellence and bravery in sport that Kevin and others have established, and that we can only hope to emulate.


Jumping Stone Walls and Marching in New York 

Kevin Ryan may well have been the very first runner to cross a finishing line in the colours of Derrydonnell AC in December 1954. In subsequent years he was to become an integral part of the Derrydonnell ‘machine’ that dominated cross-country running in the West of Ireland. Although he first acquired his taste for athletics whilst working with Bord na Mona, he would go on to realise his full potential as an athlete in the famous colours of Derrydonnell AC.


“My name is Kevin Ryan and I started running and participating in athletics when I was just fifteen years old. At that time I wasn’t a member of any club, or was ‘unattached’, as they say. I had competed in the sports days that were organised by the company that I worked for, Bord na Mona, but that was many years ago. In the early years of its development Bord na Mona had a lot of people in employment all around the country. At about that time the company decided to have their own recreation centre and sports field at Attymon near Athenry. Many races were organised there over shorter distances, mainly 800 yards, one mile and three miles. I would also regularly compete in other track and field races around Galway city and county.


I was selected by the company to compete in sports against other Bord na Mona teams from Mayo and Longford. It was then that I knew that I had an interest in the sport. Winning prizes at these sports, and being told that I was a good prospect, made me more determined to carry on running. I kept going to the various ‘sports’ and winning some races until I decided to join an NACA athletic club.


I met up with Tommy Madden, founder of the Derrydonnell Athletic Club, and Willie Morris and they asked me if I would like to join the club. This was the right time for me to join the club because I was at the right age for running cross-country. In those days the Galway, Connaught and All Ireland senior championships were held over a distance of nine miles, which would include stone walls, ditches and ploughed fields all of which would have to be cleared by the runners at various stages. Having a nice standard set for myself, I was lucky enough to have joined up with the club that would be so successful throughout its reign. I had a younger brother Joe who also joined with Derrydonnell AC some years later and who helped me out in training. Every so often we would cycle to training and meetings of the club, which were held at different locations around the county. Cross-country running was the main ‘feature sport’ in those days and would have been more popular than road racing.


Running in all the races with the club was my biggest priority and luckily I didn't miss out on any of the main achievements of the club. My memories of the sheer enjoyment of running races with the club are clearer than specific details of what I won with the club. As I was usually fortunate enough to be on the winning side, I got into the habit of letting those victories pass by unnoticed. It is now only that I have a better picture of past achievements.


I was on the Derrydonnell team that won the County Galway Cross-Country Championships for thirteen years in succession and the Connaught Cross-Country championship twelve times. During that period I won the Galway and Connaught titles twice as an individual and placed second in the All Ireland Junior championships.


In 1959 in Dunleer, the Galway team won gold medals.  I finished in the scoring team and all the Galway team ran well that day. In 1960 I was also on the team that won the All Ireland in Limerick. In 1966 in Dromoland, Co Clare I was fifth home on a tough, fast course with a lot of high fences to be jumped. Galway won the team medals that day as well.


In 1966 a relay race was staged between Derrydonnell AC and Donore Harriers. Derrydonnell were a part of the NACA but Donore were an AAU Club. The race was held between Ballinasloe and Galway on the 1st May 1966. Although Donore won the relay race, on the day my own running went well for me and I felt great at the finish. History was made that day as both bodies achieved international recognition for all Irish athletes.


In March 1961 I traveled to New York with a party of nine Derrydonnell athletes by plane to compete in a serious of cross country and road races over there. Our first competitive race was a five-mile road race against a strong American team that included Browning Ross who was a top American runner who held world records for various distances at the time. The Derrydonnell team was well up in the team award and our best runner, Willie Morris, was just piped by the winner a few yards from the finish. Competing in other races against the best U.S. runners was no easy task. All in all, our team just about held it own in that series of races, with the Americans winning three races and the Derrydonnell team winning two.


Traveling around New York and other cities sight-seeing during that three-week stay was a great experience. The Galwaymen’s Association in New York made us very welcome arranging our stay in the Henry Hudson Hotel, as it was called back them. The also arranged for the Derrydonnell team to march in the St Patrick's Day parade while were there. The team was invited to many social functions at which they were presented with the various prizes they won. Another highlight of the trip was when the team visited the Mayor of New York, by kind permission from the Mayor of Galway, which was indeed a great occasion. It was sad to have to leave the country so soon. We had three weeks of happy times, but there was a job to be done back home which was to compete in the Connaught cross-country championships in Tuam. This was the type of spirit that made the club so successful. Looking back over all my years in athletics, I would do it all over again.”

Spring road races in Galway

Published in Other News on 14th January 2018

See the Events tab hereabouts for more information on all races mentioned here...

With the Resolution Run 5KM over us since New Year's Day, the seasons re-starts in earnest in Tuam 8KM next Sunday, 21 January.

Then the Coldwood 4M comes along in its usual late January slot.

February starts with Maree 8KM, who have moved back to their normal slot after flirting with a June weekend in 2017.  It will be the 11th year of the excellent  Maree AC club road race.

Gorgeous Gort are moving back to a 5KM after starting as a 4M and then an 8KM, on the second Sunday of February.  The hill after 5KM is being taken out, much to the relief of many road warriors who support this club-based event.

The Kilconieron 5M road race is two weeks after, celebrating their 10th anniversary, having raised many thousands of Euro for local charities.

The Kinvara Rock and Road set of road races kick starts March.

More races to come as they are announced...

Ballycotton 10 No More...Amazing News

Published in Other News on 6th October 2017

We are all in complete shock at the announcement made on the Ballycotton web site last evening.

See here for yourself.  Marches will not be the same any more!

One man's appreciation of the Ballycotton experience.  My 12 mugs were never for drinking - they were too hard earned to risk them on something as trivial as cups of tea or the vagaries of family life ;-).