ARTICLE: Wicklow Way Relay Cool-Down

Before launching into a personal account of yesterday’s happy, and gut-wrenching, day out for our club, I thought we should all cool down with a quick recent history of the event to avoid me feeling the need to insert these anecdotes at every turn of the race report:

The Relay changes course

My white and red club (mirroring my red and white country) first introduced me to their Relay tradition the year after I joined, in the summer of 2008. The club had long had a magnanimous tradition of putting in three evenly matched teams rather than trying to focus on one “elite” team.

But 2008 saw a watershed moment in the events history as High Performance Officer Gerry Brady had started to market mountain running more aggressively with the countries better road, track and cross country athletes. One by-product of the trend was the formation of two formidable sides in “Clonliffe and Guests” versus “Rathfarnham Runaholics”.

The continued rivalry between Clonliffe and Rathfarnham would set in motion a chain a course of events leading the two duellists to set six of the best ten times ever run during the three years 2008, 2009 and 2011.

Crusaders too, wanted to get involved and Shane O’Rourke, decided it was time to up the ante and assembled a strong squad which almost shocked the favourites, sitting in silver position until Barry Minnock was unleashed against our head-coach Michael McGovern on leg 8.

Rathfarnham’s curse

Yet Rathfarnham were thwarted by Clonliffe that year and  in 2009, the black and orange continued to haunt Rathfarnham, this year from all sides as they finished 1:41 behind Clonliffe A as Gerry Brady’s “all-star” team of “Clonliffe and Guests” were only six minutes behind bringing the cumulative time for the top-3 teams up to 22 hours 23 minutes, the fastest podium until 2011. A slightly weakened Motley Cru still finished in 7:53 and Sportsworld arrived in fourth in 8:05 as the involvement of the old Dublin clubs reached its zenith. 2010 would mark their nadir.

Here Rathfarnham’s “Castle Crew” “snatched defeat from the jaws of victory” when Padraig MacCriostail lost the guts of fifty minutes on leg 6 in a year when they had teamed up with Clonliffe in the shape of Aisling Coppinger. Only Rathfarnham retained enough man-power to field top-3 teams for the Relay as the life-blood of Clonliffe and Crusaders drained into the European Trial the following day.

Return of the orienteers?

As a benefit it allowed the online community of Boards AC to take full advantage and the impetus generated by this would shape the 2011. Setanta SET Alight almost resurrected the glory days of the “Setanta Scallywags” but it would under the banners of Boards that the orienteers, who are largely responsible for the creation of IMRA, would get closest to replicating the triumphs set by the Scallywags victory in 2003 and second-placed finishes of 2002 and 2004.

What about the local men of Slí Cualann you may right ask? Well, the men and women of the local amalgamation tend to be spread out widely across the teams but their “Flyers” were beaten only by “Johnnie’s Flying Foxes” in 2007 consisting of eight Rathfarnham runners who set the third best time ever run of 7:22:23. So it wasn’t all bad for Rathfarnham pre-08.

Such was the scene set ahead of 2011: The Dublin clubs were rearing to get back “into the action” after their 2010 hiatus, a newly confident Boards put together two strong sides led by a former and a current orienteering international (Paul Nolan of GEN and Colm Hill of CNOC) and Gerry Brady once again showed his creativity in putting together interesting teams with his formidable “Nifty Fifties” (which, due to injury, did end up including a few nifty forties!).