The annual England versus Ireland road running challenge took place yesterday in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
An England team of three men and three women took on Ireland’s best in a bid to win the Sean Kyle team trophy. The event also combines Athletics Ireland’s 10k Championships and consequently attracts strong fields from across he host nation.
The women’s elite race was the first to get started; conditions in Dublin were wet and windy and it was a slow tactical start to the race at six-minute mile pace. No-one seemed to want to take the race on until the half-way point when the pace cranked up and the group began to splinter with Gemma Steel and Naomi Taschimowitz amongst the leading group of five.
It was with 2k to go that the medals were decided when Ireland’s Kerry O’Flaherty and Shona Heaslip took off with Steel in pursuit, but lacking the legs to match the burn up to the finish. Heaslip who took the win comfortably with 8 seconds to spare over Flaherty, followed by Steel. Another Irish athlete split Steel and Taschimowitz, with England’s third woman Jenna Hill finishing in sixth.
This put Ireland clearly in the lead in the team competition going into the men’s race - the team with the accumulative fastest time of the combined men’s and women’s team deciding the match.
Ireland’s Mick Clohisey had been a podium finisher on several occasions at this event and - as one of the most experienced runners on the elite start line - was amongst the favourites to win. A leading group of five broke away as the race approached the final 3k stage, which included England’s Oliver Lockley and Jack Gray. Gray and Clohisey made a determined effort to break the group with 2k to go but could not shake off Maher and Lockley.
Coming into the long final stretch, five men were still in contention for the gold including the two Englishmen and Clohisey also in the mix. In an exciting sprint finish the top five were eventually separated by just 7 seconds with a proud Lockley taking his first title in an England vest. England’s third team member was Ian Kimpton who had been struggling with illness throughout the week, but nonetheless managed a respectable 9th place in difficult conditions.
Team Manager Paul Roden said, “The difficult wet and windy conditions had differing impacts on how both races developed, however the England team competed admirably against a very strong Irish team and I am sure that they will have gained a lot from the experience.”
1. 30:18 - Oliver Lockley ENG (Manx Harriers):
2. 30:20 - Brian Maher IRELAND
3. 30:22 - Mick Clohisey IRELAND
5. 30:25 - Jack Gray ENG (Cambridge & Coleridge AC, Coach: Mark Vile)
9. 30:53 - Ian Kimpton ENG (Luton, Coach: Tony Simmons)
1. 34:52 - Shona Heaslip IRELAND
2. 35:00 - Kerry O’Flaherty IRELAND
3. 35:08 - Gemma Steel ENG (Charnwood AC, Coach: Liz Nuttall)
5. 35:15 - Naomi Taschimowitz ENG (Shaftesbury Barnet, Coach: Charlotte Fisher)
6. 35:43 - Jenna Hill ENG (Sale Harriers, Coach: Michael Skinner)
Some photos by Paul Roden and others with permission from Great Run Ltd