“IT'S your year, go for it,” shouted former winner Lizzie Lee from the roadside to her Leevale colleague Sinead O’Connor with a mile to in the 38th edition of the Echo Women’s Mini-Marathon.
And so it proved to be, as the Ballincollig native finally added her name to a prestigious list of former winners of the iconic event. Having finished second to Emma Murphy in 2016, along with a third place in 2014 and a fourth in 2015, this victory was richly deserved as O’Connor dominated proceedings from the start of the 6km distance.
Taking the lead from the gun and reaching the one-kilometre mark in 3:19, the gap was already 10 seconds to the chasing group led by Lisa Hegarty and Claire O’Brien. A kilometre later, the margin had doubled and rounding the corner at Blackrock Village the leader was out of sight of her nearest pursuers.
Working hard up the hill, O’Connor had the race won and in the distance it looked like it would be a one-two for Leevale as Hegarty started to pull away from O’Brien. O’Connor’s time at 5km was 17:43 and she crossed the line on Centre Park Road with 40 seconds to spare over Hegarty with the clock showing 21:19.
“I thought I’d never win this race, I’ve been trying now for a few years so I’m delighted to finally get the win,” admitted the 33-year-old. “I ran from the start, went to sleep a little bit in the middle but as I was on my own most of the way it was hard to keep concentrating.”
It has been a busy summer for the Scoil Mhuire, Ballincollig, teacher as she also won the KIA Summer Series which comprised nine races over a variety of distances throughout the country.
“I only managed to do eight as there was the small issue of a wedding in the middle of it,” quipped O’Connor, who married Michael Herlihy – a former winner of the Cork City Marathon – in July. “The Series came down to the last race over 10km, I thought it was all over after the wedding but I must be one of the only women to come back from honeymoon fitter than I left, so I was delighted to pull it off.”
Lisa Hegarty’s runner-up spot was also well deserved, as the Ballyclough native explained: “I was watching the race for the past two years with a broken leg and two stress fractures so I’m absolutely thrilled. It was my first time running the race as I’m only going into my third year as a member of Leevale.”
For third-placed Claire O’Brien, it was a good send-off as she and her husband leave in a couple of weeks for a two-year stint in San Francisco. “It was tough competition with the Leevale girls, it’s great to see them here as they bring me on and hopefully I’ll return fitter and stronger,” said the Watergrasshill athlete.
After missing two months with injury, Breda Gaffney from Mallow was another delighted with her performance as she improved two places and 49 seconds from last year to finish fourth overall and a clear winner of the masters’ category.
1 S O’Connor (Leevale) 21:19; 2 L Hegarty (Leevale) 21:59; 3 C O’Brien (Watergrasshill) 22:37; 4 B Gaffney (Mallow, F45) 22:58; 5 E Gocke (unatt) 23:19; 6 N Mackey (Kilmurry-Ibrick NC) 23:28; 7 V Spiteri (Midleton) 23:37; 8 R Smith (unatt) 23:42; 9 J Goggin-Walsh (Carrig na bhFear, F35) 23:53; 10 L O’Sullivan (Watergrasshill, F45) 23:56.
F35: 2 S Buckley (Midleton) 25:34; 3 D Duffy (Riverstick-Kinsale) 25:48.
F40: 1 R MacKeown (Leevale) 24:36; 2 C Creedon (Belgooly) 26:31; 3 C Devitt (Dunboyne) 27:18.
F45: 3 H Leonard (Leevale) 25:21.
F50: 1 C Clancy (St Catherines) 29:42; 2 I Horan (unatt) 29:57; 3 A Leguilloux (unatt) 31:04.
F55: 1 A Moore (Leevale) 25:04; 2 M Sweeney (St Finbarrs) 27:07; 3 A Campbell (unatt) 28:28.
F60: 1 C Parnell (Leevale) 25:03; 2 E Prunty (Clonmel) 29:58; 3 M Ui Chonghaile (Donoughmore) 31:14.
F65: 1 M Kelleher (unatt) 30:28; 2 M Lyons (St Finbarrs) 32:09; 3 H O’Mahony (unatt) 35:59.
F70: 1 K O’Brien (St Catherines) 32:41; 2 C Dunne (unatt) 38:21; 3 M Cronin (Limerick) 41:30.
F75: 1 M Hoare (unatt) 41:51; 2 M Lewis (unatt) 50:39; 3 F McCarthy (unatt) 57:55.
F80: 1 B Buckley (unatt) 55:52; 2 K McConville (unatt) 67:56; 3 M Rainsford (unatt) 79:04.
FJ: 1 H Carroll (Blarney-Inniscarra) 24:24; 2 E Lavery (unatt) 27:08; 3 G Behan (unatt) 28:47.