Athletics: Ireland wins Loughrea race

Ireland made it a double win over England at the weekend when Ireland¹s

Ireland made it a double win over England when Ireland¹s

Peter Matthews won the BUPA Ireland Race in Loughrea, Co Galway .

Matthews, from Dundrum, Co Dublin, came in ahead of the rest of the 1,000

runners to win the race in 23.14 - a new course record.

The fourth-ranked athlete, along with fellow Irish team mates Seamus Power and Cormac Smith completed an Irish team victory over their Six Nations rivals.

Power, from Clare, finished in third place in a time of 23.25, while fellow team mate

Smith finished in sixth place, heading off their English rivals.

England¹s Ben Noad came in second - six seconds behind the victor - while

his team mate and last year¹s winner John Mayock, ranked No 1, finished in

fourth place in a time of 23.32.

Matthews set a blistering pace from the start of the five mile race and

after the first circuit was just heels behind the leader Welshman Mark

Morgan, who came in fifth.

The dry and cool conditions were ideal for this year¹s event.

After the race, Mayock said it although he came here to win, the Irish were

just too fast on the day. "It was incredibly fast and the conditions were ideal for running. I improved my own time by some 30 seconds or so, but I knew the Irish had some ringers in the race this year."

Mayock, who has yet to return to 100 per cent fitness after a month¹s

break, said the atmosphere was second to none.

"It's a cracking atmosphere out there - I wish English races were as good as

this. It¹s a real community event, and it's a pity Sonia O'Sullivan was not

here again this year."

O'Sulllivan, who has headlined the event for the last two years, attracting

a huge crowd to the east Galway town, was an absentee due to the impending

birth of her baby.

Her mantle was taken this year by Rosemary Ryan of Limerick who was the first woman home in a time of 26.25 - finishing in 34th place overall.

Ryan, who represented Ireland at the Sydney Olympics and the

World Cross Country Championships, made it a double ot Galway titles having

won the Streets of Galway 8K road race in August.

She was well clear of the second-placed women athlete, Pauline Curley of

Tullaghmore, who finished in a time of 27.10, heading off Mayo runner Ann

Lennon with a time of 28.26.

In the Six Nations challenge the first Italian home was Gennaro di Napoli -

the former world indoor 3000m champion who won two consecutive World indoor

titles in the 90s.

Di Napoli finished in sixth place, while the first French athlete home was Badre Zionini in 14th place.

Despite O'Sullivan¹s absence from the field, the race attraced more than

1,000 entries - a record number.

All Ireland football manager John O'Mahony, representing the race charity, the Irish Heart Foundation, was on hand to start the race, while former running great, the European 5000m champion, Brendan Foster, was also among the thousands of spectators .

Results (provisional):

1;Peter Matthews (Ireland) 23.14,

2; Ben Noad(England) 23.20,

3; Seamus Power (Ireland) 23.25,

4; John Mayock (England)23.32,

5; Mark Morgan (Wales) 23.33,

6; Gennaro di Napoli (Italy) 23.40,

7; Martin McCarthy 23.52,

8; Cormac Smith (Ireland, DSD) 23.52,

9; NoelBerkeley (DSD) 23.57,

10; Rob Birchall (England) 024.00.

Women:

1:Rosemary Ryan (Limerick) 26.25,

2; Pauline Curley (Tullamore) 27.10,

3; Ann Lennon (Mayo) 28.26,

4; Claire Gibbons 29.06,

5; Collette O¹Riordan (West Muskerry) 29.33,

6; Ann Moran (Kilmurray Kilbrickane) 29.53,

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