Irish Mountain
Running Association

Trooperstown Hill




<b> Record-smashers out at Trooperstown</b>

Another impressive crowd turned out for this second running of Alan Ayling's "Trooperstown Hill" route. If anyone who ran it last year found the route hard to recognise, it may have been because Peter O'Farrell moved some rocks on the final descent last Summer, or it may have been because a dreary rainy sky had been replaced by clear blue and hardly a gust of wind.

<b> Winter League continues </b>
The action is heating up at the Winter League, so much in fact that this Saturday's race could be called Winter only in jest. An interesting battle is unfolding in the women's section where Aisling Coppinger's entrance on the scene is putting Aoife Joyce's lead in the women's category under threat.

In the men's Eoin Keith seems well on his way to winning the WL title in his first season as an M40, and one more win would almost certainly secure this.

The Winter League is in some ways one of the IMRA "entry leagues", a place to run on decent trails, shorter routes, and learn the basics of mountain running before throwing yourself at monstrosities such as Carrauntoohil or acts of pure masochism such as Croagh Patrick or Ben Gorm in Connacht yonder.

Rarely does it prove to be that simple, however, often supposedly harmless routes are turned fierce by the Weather Gods (Ticknock a recurring case-in-point), or other times there is more to the routes than what appears at first glance.

Trooperstown Hill is by no means a short range, more than ten-and-a-half kilometres. As hill runners perhaps we should remind ourselves, with some sense of achievement, that 10000m on the flat is considered a major milestone for many hobby runners. Well Trooperstown, even on a good day like this, is not a comparable challenge to a 10000m at all...

<b>An Unusual Crowd</b>
Last year's Winter League was recently well-contested and featured a fascinating three-way battle between former Irish Marathon champion Garry Crossan, Cork-man Ronan Guirey and long-injured James McFadden.

Until now, though, many of the so-called "big guns" had not entered the WL races, choosing instead to focus on the final stages of the cross-country season.

So I was somewhat surprised as I saw the well-known Rathfarnham trio Barry, Peter, and Aaron, who have helped establish a virtual hegemony for their club in Irish Hill Running during the past 12 months, lining up with the intent to run!

Warming up on the first climb, I saw Paul Nolan coming up as well, but where he went and what his plans for this season are remains a secret, for he was not seen during the race.

<b> The Clubs </b>
This meant an exciting contest was lined up between current men's leaders Crusaders AC and Rathfarnham with a host of other clubs as outsiders. Clonliffe Harriers, who started so brilliantly were represented only by Dermot Murphy, who ran well to finish 14th.

A new team also emerged, apparently tailor made for the WL: Frostbite, who showed solid performances throughout their team to finish 4th team not far behind Rathfarnham, Crusaders, and local club Sli Cualann.

The women's team competition has suffered from the absence of the two other contesting teams: Clonliffe and Sportsworld, and all eyes was on the personal battle between the leading ladies of the three clubs: Aisling Coppinger, Aoife Joyce, and Jackie O.

<b> The Mad Pace </b>
Watching any IMRA race start is like watching wild horses being let loose after captivity. A certain mass delusion denying the fact that the race is starting on a fairly steep uphill firetrail.

As soon as Paul Kelly had yelled "go", the 106 strong field went off like thunder and lightning, stampeding over the red rocks of Trooperstown Forest's trails. I was determined to finally resist the trap of being caught up in this initial burst (it can be an expensive mistake from which you may never recover), and as some of my "rivals" got a few hundred metres lead early on, I stuck my head in thought "find your pace", and imagined I was a Diesel train (as I like to when going up hill, go figure, whatever works I guess!).

The route flattens a few times, and I used every little descent to push a bit harder, then came the turn onto the short tarmac, and the steep quarry, which I walked quickly to preserve energy before managing to catch a few runners and break away alone in pursuit of Tim Grummell, Mike Long, Dermot Murphy, and a bunch of other well-known runners.

<b>Ups and Downs</b>
It was to be a fairly lonely run, trapped between two groups I rarely had to fend off challenges or attempt to pass-out runners. Michael Searson passed me out on the ascent to the first hill, but I won the place back in an all-out assault on the very runnable descent.

Behind me Aisling Coppinger had broken away from Aoife Joyce and would go on to smash Orla McAvoy's record with a time of 50:29, and so would Aoife Joyce, who finished in a fine 52:20 (then went home to Wexford to beat her PB on the 10k distance on the Sunday!).

The record-breakers where helped on the day, though, by last years route having been hit by a mis-routing of the main field, meaning times where generally too high for this race.

Sportsworld's solitary female representative Jackie O secured 5th spot to elevate herself into third position behind Aoife Joyce and third placed woman on the day Tressa McCambridge.

On the final ascent I caught sight of a big group of seven or so runners in front of me, expending my last energy, I threw myself down the flatter descent toward the technical bit, and found myself unexpectedly at the heels of Tim, Niall McAlinden, and a few others runners within the spell of a minute.

Coming off the descent well, I could feel Tim clipping away at my heels everytime the course flattened, but each time he was close, a spell of descent saved me and allowed me to finish home in 47:53.

I had no fond memories of Trooperstown from the previous year, suffering badly then in what was my fourth exposure to hill running then, finishing in 61:12. Less is truly more!

<b> More Winners </b>
In the men's rankings Eoin Keith had defended his overall lead with a good 3rd place behind Peter O'Farrell in second and Barry Minnock who blew away James McFadden's record with a time of 39:12. That conditions were much better this year was illustrated clearly, as the men's top 6 all would have set a course record if not Barry had done it for them.

Shane, Alan, and Jason Reid ran home as second team after the Rathfarnham trio, and held on to the Crusaders lead for at least another round.

Other winners were Eva Fairmaner who took the women's F40, and together with relative newcomer, Sharlene Bell, who finished well in 9th, she helped Aoife secure another good score for the Crusaders women.

First F60 was Setanta's Caitlin Bent, Eoin Keith took the M40, Martin Francis, once again in top-10 took M50, well-known cross-country runner Sean Clifford took M60 in an impressive 27th place and Charlie O'Connell once again laid claim to the men's M70 before collecting his well-deserved prize for the M70 Munster Championship in Roundwood after the race.

Some runners had a rough day, some DNFed, while others, like Gavan simple smiled ans said: "What's the rush" as they finished.

What's the rush indeed, in two weeks time, Carrick awaits. It may be the Winter League, but we'll take some more sunshine then (since it'll probably be raining for the Leinster League anyway!).


1. Rathfarnham 9 (Barry Minnock 1, Peter O'Farrell 2, Aaron O'Donohue 6)
2. Crusaders AC 20 (Alan O'Keefe 4, Shane O'Rourke 7, Jason Reid 9)
3. Sli Cualann 66(Martin Francis 10, Cormac O'Ceallaigh 27, Christopher Daly 29)
4. Frostbite 100 (John O'Regan 23, John Belton 30, William Redmond 47)
5. Sportsworld 211 (Henny Brandsma 59, John Fitzgerald 73, Charlie O'Connell 79)

1. Crusaders AC 18 (Aoife Joyce 2, Eva Fairmaner 7, Sharlene Bell 9)

<b>Overall WL Club Standings</b>
Available by clicking <a href="">here</a>