A triumphant return for the Cork City Sports

A huge crowd were present in the MTU Athletic Stadium to see Phil Healy, Sarah Healy and Darragh McElhinney steal the show
A triumphant return for the Cork City Sports

Ireland’s Phil Healy on her way to winning the 400m

RIGHT up until the final moments before the first event began, the hundreds of volunteers present at the Munster Technological University Athletics Stadium were working frantically.

After an absence of three long years caused by the pandemic the Cork City Sports were back for its 69th edition and everyone involved was endeavouring to mark its comeback in style.

The weather was certainly playing its part as the sun shone down on the pristine conditions at the MTU grounds in Bishopstown.

The heat may have made it tougher for the athletes to perform at their peak but it did ensure a sizeable crowd was in attendance to see some of Cork’s, Ireland’s, and in certain events, the world’s greatest athletes compete.

In the build-up to its much-anticipated return, chairman Tony O’Connell spoke to The Echo of his belief that this could be the biggest and best Cork City Sports of them all.

And, speaking on the night itself, O’Connell, who has served the games in various different guises over the years from programme seller as a youngster to his current role, insisted he was right to make such a prediction.

“Without a doubt, this is one of the best ever,” he enthused. “The pressure is off now it is under way but it is just so great to have it back after a couple of years without it.

Women’s 3000m
Women’s 3000m

“You have to just look at the turnout here tonight, it’s fantastic. We didn’t expect there to be this many here even coming back after three years.

“The competition here as well is just incredible so the whole event has exceeded our expectations.

“It has been unbelievable really and to be honest with you, we are ready for the 70th already!”

The hardest tasks for the committee and the volunteers may have been done by the time the first event began but that doesn’t mean their night was over as they still had to ensure the events ran smoothly.

Once the action started, the excitement was relentless as the first place medals for the InterFirm/Ladies Football Relay and the InterFirm/Services Men’s Relay had already been handed out to Cobh LGFA and Naval College respectively before the Irish national anthem rang out.

The applause from the crowd as those runners took their place on the podium was soon replaced by ‘ohs and ahs’ as the competition in the Women’s Hammer Throw and the Women’s Pole Vault intensified before being won by Denmark’s Kathrine K Jacobsen and Leevale’s Una Brice respectively.

Then came one of the most eagerly awaited races — the 3000m open men — which was won by Oisín Spillane of Tralee Harriers.

“This has been a wonderful start,” exclaimed the commentator. He wasn’t wrong, and things only got better from there.

As the night progressed, the stars soon started to emerge. American Olympian and multiple World Champion Lolo Jones competed in the 100M Hurdles Women but she was outperformed by Irish superstar Sarah Lavin, who came second just behind the impressive Jade Barber.

Leesider Joan Healy produced an excellent run in the 100m Women but it was only enough for third spot with Molly Scott coming second and Kristal Awuah coming first.

Between races, the crowd was clapping in encouragement for the long jump which was taking place right under the noses of those in the stand while across the field Donegal’s John Kelly broke down in tears after setting a massive new Irish record in the Shot Put.

Locals were dealt a blow when Cork’s Louise Shanahan withdrew from the 800m with an injury, allowing Christina Hering to capitalise on the absence of her rival, but they were soon on their feet and roaring in unison for an incredible race in the 3000m Women.

Cork City Sports, Munster Technological University Athletics Stadium, Cork 5/7/2022
Cork City Sports, Munster Technological University Athletics Stadium, Cork 5/7/2022

All eyes were on two-time Olympic and three-time world champion Caster Semenya but it was Ireland’s rising star Sarah Healy that stole the show.

“That has never happened to me before,” admitted Healy after she gave everything to fall over the finish line first.

It was only right that an incredible occasion should conclude with epic showings from Cork’s finest as Darragh McElhinney romped home in the 3000m, well clear of the rest of the meet for a personal best of 7.44 before Phil Healy did likewise in the 400m Women.

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