They may have relinquished their hold on the team title, but there was ample consolation for East Cork Athletic Club as Tim O’Donoghue powered his way to an impressive victory at the Cork County senior cross-country championships at White’s Cross.
After finishing second last year to Mark Hanrahan — who was not in the line-up on this occasion — for the 32-year-old O’Donoghue yesterday was only his fourth race of 2018 following a prolonged period out through injury.
He made his intentions clear from gun, setting a fast pace when taking clubmate Sean McGrath and Mallow man Paul Moloney along with him. Coming to the end of the first lap of five that made up the 10km distance, O’Donoghue had prised a seven-second lead over the battling McGrath and Moloney.
At the halfway mark, the gap had increased to 30 seconds and the attention now turned to the tussle for team honours as Leevale, packing superbly, had four points to spare over holders, East Cork.
O’Donoghue’s endurance training for the upcoming Dublin Marathon was evident as he continued to pull away, his winning margin growing to over a minute.
Moloney got a slight gap on McGrath on the final lap but the East Cork man came again with his customary all-out finish to take second. Remarkably, this was McGrath’s fourth time in the silver-medal position, along with two third-place and three fourth-place finishes since 2005.
“I said I’d go out hard as I could as I knew Sean and Paul were going well over four or five miles on the road,” admitted O’Donoghue.
“I was able to ease off a tiny bit for the last half of the race, so it went well. There are just two weeks now to the marathon, the training for that definitely paid off as I didn’t feel tired today, but of course the marathon is a different ball game.”
Tim Twomey (Leevale) was a clear fourth for most of the race but got into difficulties with the finish in sight, collapsing over the line in ninth. However, such was Leevale’s strength they still had sufficient numbers to place their four scorers in the top eight to reclaim the team title from East Cork, 23 to 26.
There was further success for the city club as Michelle Finn made it four titles in a row, her winning margin over a minute ahead of clubmate Sinead O’Connor with Fiona Santry (East Cork) in third.
“Cross-country is never easy, although I felt comfortable enough,” said the 2016 Olympian steeplechaser who now targets the trials in a few weeks time for the European cross-country which takes place in the Netherlands on December 9.