Clare's James McInerney is the M Donnelly All-Ireland Poc Fada champion for 2016 – becoming the first Banner County native since Davy Fitzgerald 14 years ago to win the event writes Jackie Cahill.
Newmarket-on-Fergus clubman McInerney edged out Westmeath’s Brian Connaughton by just 20 metres in a thrilling finish on the Annaverna Mountain in Ravensdale, Co. Louth.
McInerney, who celebrated his 29th birthday last week, won the coveted silverware at the very first attempt, as weather conditions held up generally good.
McInerney covered the 5km course in 50 pocs and 78 metres, with Connaughton second on 50 pocs and 58 metres.
Defending champion Brendan Cummins from Tipperary, who was aiming for a sixth successive title and a tenth in all, finished in third place on 50 pocs and 34 metres.
Cummins led at the first turning point and halfway through the event but McInerney made up serious ground and by stage 3, An Gabhlán, had edged almost 25 metres in front.
Cummins cleared the famous ravine on the home straight with a massive drive but McInerney, who displayed excellent course management on his debut, followed suit.
Connaughton was a shot behind the leading pair at An Gabhlán but came with a storming finish to claim the runners-up spot.
Meanwhile, Cork’s Aoife Murray claimed the senior ladies title, finishing with 27 pocs and 68 metres.
That was good enough to fend off the challenge of fellow Corkonian Lyndsey Connell, who was 33 metres further back.
Dublin’s Faye McCarthy finished in third place on 27 pocs and 19 metres.
In the U16 events, Offaly’s Cathal Kiely and Galway’s Sarah Healy were crowned champions.
Kiely followed in the footsteps of his brother Cillian, a two-time winner, with a score of 22 pocs and 76 metres, as Healy posted 28 pocs and 30 metres to retain her title.