Russell and McElhinney crowned IUAA XC Champions!

Christine Russell (DCU) celebrates winning the IUAA Women's Cross Country title.

The Irish Universities Athletics Association (IUAA) held their Cross-Country Championships on Sunday 26th September at DCU St. Clare’s Sports Grounds. Anticipation was high in the build-up to the races, which saw a return of inter-varsity action after an eighteen-month absence.

For months in advance there was speculation as to whether or not the event would get the go ahead and following the cancellation of the Track and Field Championships that had been scheduled for August, athletes were probably right to feel somewhat pessimistic. Due to the easing of government guidelines and the strong support of DCU the event was allowed to go ahead with only a limited number of people allowed to attend.

The Women’s race had been scheduled to start at 1.45pm but was pushed back to 3pm due to the closure of the M7 which delayed a number of athletes who were travelling. The sweet sound of the starters gun was music to the ears of athletes and stewards alike as the approximately 5k race eventually got underway.

From the off a small group of up to six athletes led the way, including DCU AC’s Christine Russell and Emma O’Brien, both of whom are in fine form at the moment. The group also contained Ciara O’Neill of UL and the Trinity duo of Eavan McLoughlin and Cliona Murphy.

As the race progressed Murphy and Russell began to pull away from the field, with O’Brien and others still running strongly behind them. It was with lap to go that Russell made her decisive move, injecting a burst of pace that Murphy could not deal with. Murphy’s race was ran at this stage and Russell began to move further clear from the field, her effortless running style making it look easy. Ciara O’Neill moved into 2nd on the last lap with an enthralling battle for bronze being fought out behind.

As she crossed the line Russell had a winning margin of over twenty seconds from O’Neill, with DCU’s Emma O’Brien just being pipped for bronze by Trinity’s Eavan McLoughlin. Trinity won the team title, followed by UL and DCU. The DCU team comprised of Russell, O’Brien, Ruth Kennedy, Aine Burke, Aisling McGuinness, Clare Barrett, Aoife O’Cuill and Avril Deegan.

The Men’s race followed soon after and it was clear from the get-go that there was only going to be one winner. Darragh McElhinney of UCD, National U20 5000m record holder and European U20 medallist showed his class and was never in any significant danger of losing the race. When crossing the line, his winning margin on the 8k course was in excess of one minute.

Keelan Kilrehill of DCU gave chase initially and was running strongly for much of the race. Unfortunately, with a lap to go Kilrehill ran out of gas and had to pull out, leaving Pierre Murchan and Thomas McStay of NUIG in a position to win silver and bronze respectively. Daniel Stone was DCU’s top finisher, crossing the line in 11th place. NUIG easily won the team title, with Matt Lockett having five athletes in the top ten. UL took silver, while DCU won bronze. The DCU was made up of Stone, Kilrehill, Jamie Battle, Ben Guiden, Patrick MacGabhann, Colin Smith, Euan Lagan, Eoghan Keaney, Neil Murphy and John Cleary.

It was a great honour for DCU Athletics Club to host the IUAA Cross Country Championships for the first time since 2004 and credit must be given to Head of Athletics at DCU, Paul Byrne for all his work organising a successful event. Attention now turns to the intervarsity Road Relay Championships which will take place next month in Maynooth.


Rory Cassidy

Image Credit: Mark Smyth – DCU AC PRO