A break from running as I headed for Tullamore to try my luck against some other old gits. Just for the craic really – I have never competed before in my life. An inauspicious start as, having bought my train ticket at Heuston the 8.40 for Galway seemed disinclined to leave the station. Fortunately I was able to intercept Jim O’Neill and jump in his car. Jim is a Crusader, a very good former athlete and ex-President of the club. These days he is as active as ever in all sorts of ways, notably taking the lead in maintaining the track and equipment down at Irishtown. Today he would spend the day officiating.

First up for me was shot. The competition encompassed M35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 with me being in the oldest category, throwing a 6k shot. (The really old fellas, 60+, constituted a further and seperate group). The throws lads turned out to be a great bunch, full of fun and wisecracks and not an ego between them. And there was some good throwing in amongst the more mediocre offerings. Following my own advice to young throwers I put a safe one in to the muddy grass – 8.89m with a standing throw. Then a passable glide and 9.56m – which was as good as it got. Slightly vexed not to hit 10m but, as the only entry in the M55 category I accepted my gold medal!

After which the day went downhill rather. I’d entered the high jump having coached it for years and occasionally having popped over low heights at the FB Fields and Irishtown. With some foreboding I checked in for the event – all around me were proper-looking jumpers, professionally marking out their run-ups and casually hopping over the practice bar. Two desperately embarrassing practice attempts later and I scuttled away from the scene having got the official to scratch my name out.

Meanwhile I have to confess to being impressed by the events unfolding as I sat on the bleachers with a coffee. The track stuff was pretty competitive with men and women giving it their best efforts. I have never been a fan of Masters’ athletics, having thought it somewhat sad. Too many vets swan about with their cheap medals and GB tracksuits imagining they are God’s gift. But here at Tullamore I was admiring the competitiveness, the athleticism and the good humour of everyone involved.

So to my final event, the discus. I had thrown a couple of practice sessions at Irishtown with the 1k discs and had been throwing comfortably in the low 30s. I was surprised to see the M55s were only expected to throw this girly 1k weight. To my consternation then it appeared that the entry paperwork had contained an error and it was 1.5k implements that were to be used! Now there is a big difference between the two weights and I just hadn’t had time to adjust my throwing accordingly. In I went to the circle and hooked my first ‘safe’ standing throw outside the left sector line. Ah well, with four throws in all I went for another safety in the second round, with the identical result! I reckoned I couldn’t do worse on a full turn and my third round throw at least found legal ground, albeit a paltry 24m something. But then, keyed up to bang a big one out with my final throw I snatched at it and instead banged it into the cage. However, my second medal, a bronze, though I still hadn’t beaten anyone.

So I’m glad I tried out the Masters. It was a good experience amongst some nice guys and gals. And it’s not every day you can claim to be a national champion.