Sinead O'Connor sets a new course record as she wins the Echo Women's Mini-Marathon in fine style

Sinead O'Connor sets a new course record as she wins the Echo Women's Mini-Marathon in fine style

Race winner Sinead O'Connor of Leevale AC who set a new course record in The Echo Women's Mini-Marathon on Sundy 18th September 2022. Pic: Larry Cummins

IT may have been three years since the last Echo Mini-Marathon but the enforced break made no difference to the winner as Sinead O’Connor not only repeated her victory from 2019 but also set a new course record.

O’Connor’s time of 20:34 for the 6km distance was over a half-minute faster than she ran back then and it improved Michelle Finn’s previous best, set in 2018, by 14 seconds. 

And, for good measure, O’Connor also dragged her Leevale team-mate Lizzie Lee – a three-time winner of the race – under the previous record.

Soon after the start, a group of five established themselves at the head of the huge throng of runners and walkers. 

This included pre-race favourites O’Connor, Lee, Hannah Steeds along with Fiona Santry (East Cork) and Lisa Hegarty (Leevale).

At the Grotto shortly before the turn at Blackrock, the group was down to O’Connor, Steeds and Lee. 

 Race winner Sinead O'Connor of Leevale AC who set a new course record, with (left) third-placed Hannah Steeds, from Bantry; secon placed Lizzie Lee of Leevale and (right) Lord Mayor Cllr Deirdre Forde at the finish line medal presentation for The Echo Women's Mini-Marathon on Sundy 18th September 2022. Pic: Larry Cummins
Race winner Sinead O'Connor of Leevale AC who set a new course record, with (left) third-placed Hannah Steeds, from Bantry; secon placed Lizzie Lee of Leevale and (right) Lord Mayor Cllr Deirdre Forde at the finish line medal presentation for The Echo Women's Mini-Marathon on Sundy 18th September 2022. Pic: Larry Cummins

After the short hill at Ballintemple, Steeds was dropped. It was then a battle between the two Leevale athletes – both coached by Donie Walsh - with O’Connor’s superior finishing speed proving the difference as she crossed the line with seven seconds in hand.

“I went off quite comfortably for the first two miles so I’m surprised it was a course record,” admitted the elated O’Connor. 

“We obviously picked it up a lot in the last mile but I had Lizzie all the way to push me. It was a great race; I was just waiting to kick as I know I have the speed, so I’m delighted to win.” 

It brought a great season on both road and track to a close for O’Connor, 36, who is a primary school teacher in Scoil Mhuire, Ballincollig. 

Back in April, she took her first individual national title when winning the road 10km in 34:20 and later in the summer had a fine fourth place in the national 5000m on the track.

Lee hadn’t run the race since 2013 when she won it won it for the third time. 

 Participants at the start of The Echo Women's Mini-Marathon on Sunday 18th September 2022. Pic: Larry Cummins
Participants at the start of The Echo Women's Mini-Marathon on Sunday 18th September 2022. Pic: Larry Cummins

Despite saying beforehand she didn’t expect to be competitive, the fighting spirit she showed earlier this year when winning the Cork Marathon was again evident in an event that means a lot to the 2016 Olympian.

“I'm just delighted to be here, this is a brilliant event and it’s great to be back here again.” 

Hannah Steeds, winner of a number of recent local races, was pleased with her third position in what was her first Mini-Marathon. 

“It was tough, I just tried to stay with Sinead and Lizzie but had to let them go after 5km,” said the Bantry native who will be an important addition to the Leevale women’s squad this winter.

East Cork’s Santry was also happy with her fourth spot considering she had just returned from a holiday in France. 

“By the top of the hill the three girls got away from me and that was the way it stayed. I only got off the ferry yesterday, so I’m looking forward now to the cross-country season.” 

 West Muskerry AC runners Emily Cronin, Saoirse Twomey and Fern Mullane at the start of The Echo Women's Mini-Marathon on Sunday 18th September 2022. Pic: Larry Cummins
West Muskerry AC runners Emily Cronin, Saoirse Twomey and Fern Mullane at the start of The Echo Women's Mini-Marathon on Sunday 18th September 2022. Pic: Larry Cummins

Two impressive category winners were Mary Sweeny (St Finbarr’s) in the F60 grade (20th overall in 25:48) and Eileen Kenny, a former Midleton athlete who now runs with Athlone IT.

Kenny, first F70, has already won gold medals this year at both European and World Masters level and exceeded her expectations in what was her first Mini-Marathon in over 20 years when finishing 22nd in 26:27.

 Emily and Eugenie O'Leary, Ballincollig at the start of The Echo Women's Mini-Marathon on Sunday 18th September 2022. Pic: Larry Cummins
Emily and Eugenie O'Leary, Ballincollig at the start of The Echo Women's Mini-Marathon on Sunday 18th September 2022. Pic: Larry Cummins

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