Impressive Power sees off Bruton challenge

 

ONE of the most ambitious gambles of the cross-country season came undone in Killenaule yesterday after Seamus Power saw off Niall Bruton's challenge to win the national inter-counties individual title.

In a classic illustration of strength prevailing over speed Power pulled away in the last 2,000 metres to become the first athlete in recent years to win the championship in consecutive years. His time of 33 mins 5 secs over 10,000 metres of tough terrain gave him 24 seconds to spare over Bruton, with another Dubliner, Peter Matthews, in third place.

Bruton's immediate reward was a place in the Irish squad to compete in the European Championship at Charleroi, Belgium, in a fortnight but the more gratifying prize may have been the satisfaction of proving his durability in this, his first season in senior cross-country competition.

He was eventually caught out by the mud and the undulating Co Tipperary countryside but for a man accustomed to the pressures of 1,500 metre racing on tartan tracks it was a brave try.

Inevitably, he suffered on the climbs but his early pace meant he was able to rein Power in on the descents. This effort however, took its toll and when the race reached into its final stages the speed had begun to leave his legs.

It then became a question of whether he could hold on to second place. At times it looked doubtful but his resolution and strength held up long enough to enable him to duplicate his second placing in the Dublin Championship earlier in the season.

Bruton's run ought not to detract from another impressive run by Power who has recovered well after illness threatened to disrupt his career. As a proven crosscountry runner, he had many advantages going into the race but still had to beat athletes who were considerably faster than him.

"I was always conscious of the fact that there were three sub-four minute milers, Niall, Ken Nason and Shane Healy, in the race and to win it I had to get away early," he said.

"By surging at different times, I eventually dropped Nason and Healy but I was getting just a little worried when I discovered that Bruton was still with me after 6,000 metres. Fortunately for me, there was no response from him when I threw in a big effort on an incline on the third last lap and after that I was pretty certain I would win."

Dublin took the team title for the tenth consecutive year. The remarkable Dundrum athlete, Gerry McGrath, - he finished 11th yesterday - now has the unique distinction of sharing in all ten successes.

Peter Matthews, staying on well, took the bronze medal, just ahead of Nason and Noel Richardson. However he then heard the disappointing news that his run was not good enough to earn him a place in the European squad.

The selectors instead decided to award the four optional places to athletes not involved in yesterday's race. They go to the American-based trio of Mark Carroll, Sean Dolman and Cormac Finnerty and John Downes, a former winner of the inter-counties title.

Valerie Vaughan's decision to travel back from Colorado for the women's race was amply rewarded when she led all the way to foil Maureen Harrington's bid to win the title for a third successive year. Nobody was travelling better in the closing stages of the race than Olympian Cathy McCandless, who came from a long way back to finish fourth without ever getting in an effective challenge at Vaughan, Harrington and Teresa Duffy.

Ironically, McCandless was the other athlete involved in the controversy which denied Vaughan a place in the 5,000 metres in Atlanta.

Antrim, taking part for the first time, tied with Cork for the women's team championship but, on the countback, were adjudged winners.

The first four finishers in yesterday's race earned selection for the European Championship. The remaining place goes to Marie McMahon, a member of the Olympic squad.