THE second weekend of the HSE Community Games National Finals at Athlone Institute of Technology served up many thrills and spills, with the highlight for Longford being the remarkable gold success of Daire McManus, adding to the three gold medals claimed by the county on the first weekend of the finals.
Running in the Boys U-12 100m, Longford South athlete Daire sprinted to first position in his heat and semi-final and there was no displacing him in the final either as he powered past Runo Ayavoro (Kildare), Raphael Abidoye (Wexford) and Ciaran Gallagher (Donegal).
Daire’s triumph gave Longford their fourth gold medal of the National Finals. The golden stars from the previous weekend were Rionagh McCormack (Clonguish, U-8 Art), Cian Clancy (Killashee, U-12 Art) and Cian McPhillips (Ardagh/Moydow/Glen) in the U-13 Cross Country individual event.
Longford Community Games Secretary/PRO Shirley Maloney enthused, “What a weekend for county Longford with our competitors winning one gold medal, two silver medals and five 4th place medals on the track as well as very narrowly missing out on medals by coming 5th in three of the events.”
Ms Maloney added, “We reached thirteen track event National finals which was a tremendous achievement and congratulations and well done to all our competitors and their coaches/managers who were among the top eight placed athletes nationally in their chosen discipline.”
The first of Longford’s silver medallists was Yemi Talabi (Mostrim) in the Girls U-12 100m. Yemi was 2nd in her heat and finished third in her semi-final and although she ran the race of her life in the final, she was narrowly pipped at the post by Omason Ayvoro (Kildare). Holly Meredith (Limerick) and Sabia Doyle (Wexford) occupied 3rd and 4th place, respectively.
In the Girls 600m U-12 Bea Drummond (Ballymahon/Forgney) won a silver medal in a very well paced race where she ran a personal best time. Bea qualified as the third place finisher in her semi-final and she finished behind Ellen Lynch (Limerick) and ahead of Sarah Morrison (Cork) and Susan Nestor (Clare) in the final.
Fourth place medals were secured on Saturday by Shane Gilna (Killoe) in the U-12 Boys Ball Throw event and the Lanesboro duo of Aine Kennelly and Patrick Smyth in the U-13 Project.
And on Sunday, three more 4th place medals were claimed by Longford competitors.
David Ayorinde (Granard) progressed through his heat and semi-final in convincing style and he took 4th place in the Boys U-8 60m final. Killoe’s Rachel Quinn came home with a 4th place medal after her fine display in U-8 60m Girls ‘B’ final.
In the U-16 boys 100m Thomas McGann (Kenagh) captured a 4th place medal. In a quality field, Thomas was 2nd in his heat and third in the semi-final, before crossing the final finishing line behind Daniel Ryan (Tipperary), Tony Odubote (Clare) and David McDonald (Wexford).
Two Mostrim athletes, who are still eligible for the U-10 ranks in 2015, reached finals. Jack Belton finished the Boys 100m Final in 8th, while Fumni Talabi, after finishing first in her heat and semi-final, was unlucky to finish outside the medals and had to be content with fifth. No doubt, both will be determined to build on this experience next year.
Four Longford relay teams - Mostrim’s U-10 & U-13 Mixed, Ardagh/Moydow/Glen U-12 Boys and Dromard U-15 Mixed - made it through their heats but progress from the penultimate round eluded them. The Kenagh U-16 Boys did buck the trend and after their 4th place in the semi-final, they finished outside the medal places in the final.
In the Boys U-8 80m Final Matthew McCormack (Carrickedmond) ran a great race and just missed out on a medal, finishing 5th.
After second place finishes in her heat and semi-final of the Girls U-10 200m, Sarah McPhillips (Ardagh/Moydow/Glen) ran another brilliant race in the final but she agonisingly missed out on a 4th medal and came 5th.
Longford was also represented in the Boys U-10 200m where Fahed Allam (Mostrim), after a first place heat finish and coming third in the semi-final, ended the final outside the medals in 5th.
Dylan Farrell (Killashee) finished 7th in the U-14 Boys 800m Final, while Sarah Murphy (Dromard) qualified for the Girls final at the same distance. Both athletes finished fourth in their respective semi-finals.
Kieran O’Dowd (Lanesboro, Boys U-10 60m Hurdles), Cait Kiely (Killashee, Girls U-14 60m Hurdles), (Girls U-8 80m B sem Aoife Farrell (Mostrim, Girls U-8 80m), Cian Nolan (Killashee, Boys U-14 100m) and Rachel Gilligan (Abbeylara, Girls U-16 100m) qualified from their heats and competed in semi-finals.
Longford’s Joe Fox, National Community Games General Vice President and Patsy Kenny, National Patron, had the honour of presenting medals over the course of the National Final weekends, while former Leinster GAA Council Chairperson Martin Skelly was the guest speaker at a Community Games Development Forum which was held in conjunction with the National Finals at AIT.
Ms Maloney thanked the coaches and managers from all areas who put in so much of their own time into coaching and encouraging the participants. She also thanked the parents for their support and the volunteer area managers on both weekends.
“We had two wonderful weekends and we are very proud of all the children who took part,” added Ms Maloney.
Meanwhile, the Executive Committee of Longford Community Games wish to express their sympathy with the Reynolds family following the death of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds. Mr Reynolds was a great supporter of the Community Games organisation and his children were past competitors. “We’ve many fond memories of Albert and we’ll never forget the contribution he made to Community Games in Longford and nationally.”