O’Mahony sees off young challengers to regain cross-country title

DONNACHA O’MAHONY (East Cork) rolled back the years to reclaim the Cork senior cross-country championship title while Freda Davoren (UCC AC) ran her first cross-country race in almost two years to claim her first county title at Inchigeela yesterday, when East Cork eventually won an enthralling team contest with their North Cork rivals.

It was back in the '90s that Donnacha O'Mahony dominated those championships winning a total four titles and when he returned last year to take the silver medal behind world ranked race walker Robert Heffernan, he raised a few eyebrows.

If he showed promise at the same venue a year ago he certainly realised it yesterday when the elements provided a mixture of conditions on an excellent course provided by the Muskerry Athletic Club.

He faced some of the brightest young prospects but jumped into an early breakaway group that also included David Doherty (Togher) and Bryan McMahon (Carraig na bhFear), who won the Munster novice and under-23 championships just a week earlier, as well as three of last year's outstanding juniors, Mark Hanrahan (Leevale), Fergus Meade (East Cork) and Garret Barry.

When O'Mahony went to the front, however, the process of elimination began and he eventually finished well clear of Fergus Meade, with Mark Hanrahan third.

Now teaching in Coláiste Muire, Ennis, he is as yet undecided about the inter-counties championships at the end of the year as his wife is expecting their second baby around that time.

Freda Davoren had not run a cross-country race since she dropped out of the national inter-counties championships in Dungarvan two years ago with a hamstring problem.

This year she just failed to make the qualifying standard for the world track and field championships in Paris.

Yesterday she made a dramatic return to cross-country running when she became involved in an exciting head to head with clubmate and training partner Louise Cavanagh, who has won this title five times.

After several attempts to get away on the final circuit she eventually broke clear to win by seven seconds. They were followed across the line by Niamh O'Sullivan (Riocht), who was guesting, with the bronze medal going to ever-green Carmel Parnell (Leevale) who won this title back in 1984.

"I am not sure if I will run in the inter-counties championships," Freda said. "I still have a slight injury problem and hills aggravate it so I will wait and see if the course is hilly. My coach wants me to run a cross-country race every four to six weeks so obviously I will think about it."

The junior men's title went to Jamie McCarthy (Riverstick/Kinsale), the schools 5,000m champion who had 23 seconds to spare over 15-year-old Ciaran O Lionaird (Leevale), with Timmy O'Donoghue (Glenbower) third and Kieran Ryan (St Finbarr's) next.

While the medals went to the Cork athletes, the race itself was won impressively by Andrew Ledwith from Co Meath a nephew of legendary middle-distance man Val Ledwith who is studying at the North Mon.

Aoife Cooke (Youghal AC) broke away on the final lap to win the junior women's title from Louise Finn (Belgooly), winner of the Munster under-16 title a week earlier. Maire Heffernan (Liscarroll) finished third.

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