Tullamore is about 80 miles westward of Dublin. I’ve been up and down there quite regularly over the last few weekends attending various Athletics Ireland championships. It’s a great facility, probably the best in the country outside the national stadium at Santry, and the Mardyke in Cork. The main arena is surrounded on three sides by a high hedge which keeps the worst of the winds off the track. On the fourth side is a covered grandstand and further, uncovered seating. There is a massive car park and even a large warm-up area outside the main stadium – this is also the place to where the long-suffering hammer throwers are relegated.

Yesterday (Sat) Alix Hughes took part in the U14G pentathlon. The standard was a lot higher than I envisaged and Alix, though she battled to the end, was rather blown away by specialist sprinters and jumpers. But she had her big moment in the shot putt as most of the other girls were obviously hating it! Alix sensibly put in an opening round marker of 8.83 with a standing throw. Her second throw was a good glide which produced a PB of 9.61 which, despite a less dynamic final throw was enough to give her the win.

Today it was the national ‘B’ championships, a great idea devised for athletes that didn’t qualify for the main championships. Patrick Keegan picked up medals in the U16 100m and long jump, though not against the strongest of opposition. Grainne McGuill (U13G) has yet to bring out her high jump talent – it will come. Ciara O’Sionain (also U13G) battled to pick off two runners in her 100m heat but it was not enough to progress. The girls kept honours even in the long jump with 3.24 apiece.

One of the nice bits about the Tullamore trip is the chat on the car journey back – no point in paying for a train ticket if there’s a car leaving from outside the stadium. I’ve recently had the pleasure of conversing at length with a number of Crusaders’ parents – being Irish they’re never short of interesting chat. Today it was Padraig and again I ended up far the wiser by the time I jumped out of the car in town. We crawled through Tullamore town centre despite my instructions – Kerry were playing Antrim. But as Padraig said we got the big-match buzz even though we didn’t get to watch it. And he pointed out, having the craic with some fans outside a pub, ex-Kerry football legend ‘Bomber’ Liston (who I’ve since learnt played for the county for 15 years during many of their successful campaigns).

Which is pretty well a wrap for junior track & field this summer, which is sad. Though we’re trying to arrange a last outing after the summer holidays.

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