Dooney wins fierce national final showdown

by James Hendicott

Raheny’s Kevin Dooney is the new Irish cross country champion, and will lead the Irish men’s team at the European Cross Country Championship in Tilburg, the Netherlands in just over a week’s time.

Dooney won a fierce battle with favourite Sean Tobin, from Clonmel in Abbotstown on Sunday, finishing with a time of 30 minutes and seven seconds. His victory margin was four seconds over the 10km distance, with Raheny Shamrocks also taking the overall team title, assisted by recent Dublin marathon star Mick Clohisey’s fifth place finish.

Dooney, who came second in the nationals last year, spoke out about his mental health battles over the course of the summer, and had admitted in the build up to the race that the possibility of it going badly wasn’t something he’d really prepared for, though he did add that he is currently in a better state of mind.

“Some days it just comes together,” Dooney said afterwards. “Individual and team titles at the nationals. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

His emphatic celebrations as he came across the line in soggy conditions spoke volumes.

County Down woman Ciara Mageean also won her first national senior cross country title, taking advantage of a recent period of altitude training in the French Alps.

The 26-year-old ran in her UCD colours and led from just after the halfway mark, ultimately taking the title by a narrow margin from Annmarie McGlynn from Letterkenny, and at the head of an all Ulster top three.

Blackrock’s middle distance sensation Sarah Healy added to her titles as she took the junior race over 4kms. Healy is the reigning Under-18 European champion over 800 and 1500 metres, and won extremely comfortably around Abbotstown as her class shone through over the longer distance, too.

Healy had sat alongside the leaders for much of the race in a sizeable group, but powered clear on the last of the three loops, ultimately opening up a comfortable 17 second margin on the line. Her reward will be leading the junior women’s team in the European Cross Country. Healy’s time was 13.28.

“There were some hard parts on the course, and this is my first cross-country race this season, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” Healy said afterwards. “So just glad it went well. But I was always better at cross country when I was younger, so I’d never skip it.”

Darragh McElhinney from Bantry was the junior men’s winner over 6km, with Clonliffe Harriers Sean O’Leary grabbing a second place finish.

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