Hometown heroine Nollaigh O’Neill claimed back-to- back victories in the Irish Examiner Cork City Marathon yesterday, overcoming recent injury struggles to take the women’s title in 3:00:41, while the men’s race was won for the first time by Waterford’s Philip Harty in 2:32:59.
O’Neill’s participation had been in doubt before the race as she severely injured her ankle two weeks ago, but the 44-year-old Leevale athlete battled through the pain over the latter half of the race to become the fourth two-time winner in the race’s 10-year history.
“It was a slow time, but I don’t care,” said O’Neill afterwards. “Considering my injury, I’m absolutely delighted. I had a terrible accident two weeks ago, I fell off a footpath, and I didn’t think I’d be running today. I was worried about my ankle, and it did affect me, but I wanted to fight through it. It held me back, but I just dug deeper and it worked out.”
O’Neill was alone at the front for much of the race, but was joined by Una Plant Murphy shortly before the 20-mile mark, a challenge she successfully repelled over the closing miles.
“I said I’ll be damned if I’m going to give this away, so I dug deeper and lost her,” said O’Neill. “My mental strength got me through here. I was dreaming of the finish line at mile 12, which shouldn’t happen, but the support was unbelievable. I love the Cork course, and I love the Cork people.”
While O’Neill has competed in every edition of the Cork City Marathon, men’s winner Philip Harty was making his debut, and with a speedy personal best of 2:21:53 – run at the Berlin Marathon last September – he had every right to be considered pre-race favourite.
It was a billing the 38-year-old lived up to in commanding fashion, and he took the win with ease in 2:32:59, almost four minutes clear of runner-up Eoin Sugrue (2:36:50). With warm, humid conditions throughout the race, Harty was unconcerned with his relatively modest winning time.
“I wasn’t down here for a fast time, so I was happy to run whatever time I ran once I got into the top three,” he said.
“It was only in the last mile that I felt the pain, and I didn’t mind walking over the line. I’m in fairly good shape, but I was dreading the heat and humidity. The crowds were brilliant, though. They really kept me going, because I went through a few bad patches out there.”
With this win under his belt, Harty is now considering a quick turnaround to run the Waterford Viking Marathon on June 25. “There’ll be no celebrating tonight,” he said. “I’ll just take it nice and easy.”
In the half marathon, Clonliffe’s Sergiu Ciobanu was denied his third straight title, beaten into second place by Kenya’s Peter Somba, who ran 1:11:20.
Ciobanu had won last year’s title in a course record of 1:07:40, but could not match Somba’s surge towards the end. Aoife Cooke of Youghal took the women’s half-marathon title in 1:25:29. The marathon relay was won for the second straight year by Leevale AC.
On a day that saw 8,000 competitors in action across the various events, Race Director Jim O’Donovan paid tribute to all those who took part in the 10th edition of the event. “Congratulations all the winners of the Irish Examiner Cork City Marathon and to each and every one that crossed the finish line,” he said. “It’s a huge achievement, and particular thanks to those who ran for charity, raising significant funds for a variety of great causes.”
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