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Munster Cross-Country of 1989 – Guest Article by John Walshe

Munster Cross-Country of 1989 Recalled

Guest Article by John Walshe

 This article, by John Walshe appeared in the Evening Echo, on February 16th 2019

john lenihan an riocht photo des barry cork examiner1John Lenihan, An Riocht AC, on his way to winning the Munster Inter-Club Senior title, in Killeagh, 1989 - Photo credit: Des Barry/Cork Examiner


Thirty years ago, Cork athletes were to the fore when winning seven of the nine individual and team titles at the Munster Cross-Country championships held at Killeagh.

The fixture, known at the time as the Southern Region championships, took place on the lands of Pat Lynch at Aghadoe, just past Glenbower Wood on the outskirts of the village. Fr Liam Kelleher, then a curate at nearby Inch, was the driving force behind the promotion and he had secured sponsorship from Cork & Limerick Savings Bank (senior men), Imokilly Co-Op (senior women) and Hibernian Life (junior men) for the three races.

On an ideal early-spring day, a large crowd turned out to witness three exciting contests on a course that contained a number of strength-sapping hills and extreme descents. First off was the junior men and the name on everyone’s lips was that of John Murray from the North Cork club.

The Dromina youngster carried an unbeaten streak of 10 victories – including the BLOE U16 and U17 titles and the youths international in Scotland – into the race and he didn’t disappoint, leading from start to finish of the 7500m to defeat national junior champion Paul Logan from Limerick by eight seconds in a time of 23:16.

The late Jer Twomey finished fourth and with 15-year-old George Murray (brother of the winner, John Murray) sixth and Frank Egan 10th, North Cork were easy team winners, and also assured Cork of the county award.

Interestingly, Leevale, winners of the county junior and national BLOE U17 titles in the lead-up to the race, didn’t enter a team. In his preview in the Cork Examiner, Brendan Mooney stated: “The field, however, will be without the Leevale stars who helped the club to the county junior title earlier this month.

“The standard at junior level in Munster, and especially in Cork, is particularly high, and it is felt it would be unfair to expect them to sustain so many high class races. Leevale have decided that their athletes should be allowed to give total commitment to their respective colleges, over the coming weeks.”  

The women’s race saw an easy victory for one of Cork’s outstanding athletes of the period, Valerie O’Mahony-Collins. Having won the Inter-Counties C-C in 1985 and 1986, she also numbered the Evening Echo Mini-Marathon amongst her many victories. Later that year, the Togher athlete added a national track title when winning the 1500m in a time of 4:24.20.

At Killeagh, she finished 11 seconds clear of Eileen Prunty (East Cork) with Veronica Colleran (Shannon) in third. Cork were easy county winners, Susan Jenkins (Leevale) in fourth and Joan Hough (St Finbarr’s) in sixth providing the back-up to the first two individuals.

The Leevale team of Susan Jenkins (fourth), Carmel Parnell (seventh), Brid Murphy (17th) and Niamh O’Sullivan (21st) were first team ahead of Waterford and Togher.

It’s to their credit that Parnell (who would go on to win World Masters titles on the track and over the country), Hough and O’Sullivan are still successfully competing three decades later, with the latter two mixing it with the best at the recent National Masters at Dundalk.


Munster Cross-Country Championships 1989


The senior men’s race was tailor-made for John Lenihan from the Riocht club. Showing the ability that would see him crowned World Hill Running champion two year later in Switzerland, the Kerryman relished the four circuits, which incorporated a steep hill, followed by a long, energy sapping drag, and a sharp descent, including two sharp bends.

Making his break at the end of the third lap, Lenihan increased his lead over Robert Costelloe – the Limerick man who had ran 48:05 for 10 miles at Ballycotton three years before – to cross the line a half-minute to the good, in a time of 29:46 for the 10km.


munster senior cross country championship killeagh 1989First 6 Senior Men: John Lenihan, Robert Costelloe, John Fitzgerald, Gerry Deegan, Noel Richardson and Liam O'Brien - Photo: Liam O'Brien

John Fitzgerald (Clonmel) was third, Gerry Deegan (Waterford), fourth, Noel Richardson (Limerick), fifth, and Liam O’Brien (East Cork), sixth. O’Brien was backed up by clubmate Donnacha O’Mahony, in seventh, Tony O’Leary (Leevale), eighth, Cormac O’Connor (Bandon), ninth, Bryan Meade (East Cork), 14th and Leonard O’Regan (Leevale), 15th, to give Cork victory, by a margin of eight points, over Limerick, with Tipperary in third.

Despite having three in the first 14, East Cork were pipped by Limerick (42 to 45 points) for the team award. Looking back to that day at Killeagh three decades ago, Liam O’Brien recalls: “it wasn’t the fairest of courses, Costelloe was head and shoulders ahead of Linehan at the time and if the race was held anywhere else, he would have won it.

“Linehan just cut loose on the downhill and that was that.”


Other Guest Articles by John Walshe


Steeplechase Legends Meet at Antrim International – Guest Article by John Walshe


Aidan Hogan - Ultra-Athlete – Guest Article by John Walshe


RUNNING FOR BETTER – Guest Article by John Walshe


Cork to Cobh 40 Years Ago - Guest Article by John Walshe


Unique National Double for McGraths - Guest Article by John Walshe


Dick Hooper Speaks at St Finbarrs AC Function - Guest Article by John Walshe



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