Power surges to intercounty win

 

Seamus Power is off to the European Cross Country Championship in Lisbon in a fortnight's time, with his confidence suitably inflated by another handsome success in the National Intercounties Championship. It was his third consecutive success in the event and arguably, the best as he saw off some credible challengers at different stages of the 10,000 metres journey to win by 11 secs in a time of 29 mins 29 secs.

Form also dictated the result of the women's championship, over 5,000 metres, in which Teresa Duffy strode into the lead almost from the off and stayed there to confirm the quality of her performance at Margate a fortnight ago.

Fittingly then, the two form athletes of the moment will lead the Irish team into action in Lisbon. Their prospects of getting the support to sustain them, at the higher level of competition will depend on the selectors' judgement in formulating the remainder of the travel party today.

It is a measure of the way that cross country competition has evolved here, that Power, like most Europeans, will be setting his sights on finishing in the top thirty when the showpiece of the season, the World Championship takes place in March.

In domestic competition, however, his kingdom remains unassailable. The point was made tellingly and with some style here as he sought out the threats in yesterday's race and then dealt with them one by one, to the delight of the Clare contingent in the crowd.

The texture of the ground at Tinryland is such that, for all the recent heavy rain, the going was well night perfect and Power, skimming across it in a manner which the bigger, heavier men could never hope to emulate, turned it into his own personal play ground.

At different stages, Peter Matthews, Noel Cullen and David Burke all put down their challenges to the champion. And Power, surging when he deemed it expedient, economical on those occasions when he needed to be, was equal to the demand on every occasion.

"In the sense that I was able to cope with every situation as it arose, it was a good race for me " he said. "For the first time in a while all the best cross country runners were here and from that point of view, it was the toughest of my three wins.

"It was a good race to win before going to the European Championship. That's going to be a much harder race, of course, but I think the standard of this championship was high enough to give hope."

After a couple of lean years, Peter Matthews was back to the form which enabled him to win the national title a couple of years ago. And it established the mood of another convincing collective effort by Dublin who took the men's team title for an 11th successive year.

Together with fellow Dubliner, Noel Cullen, and Westmeath's David Burke, Matthews tested out the champion at a relatively early stage after the quartet had got away from the pack. Burke was the first to drop out and then Cullen, leaving Matthews as the only challenger in close proximity at half way.

Then Matthews hit a bad patch and with the intuition of his trade, Power knew it. In a matter of strides, he was away and widening the gap to the point when it expanded to almost 60 metres. To his credit, the Dubliner hung in and once he had recovered his composure, was travelling just as well as the winner. But at that point, the damage had been done and Power, a proven front runner, was revelling in yet another domestic victory.

Apart from automatic qualification for the European Championship, the consolation for Matthews and Cullen was to point Dublin in the direction of yet another victory. In that, there was no great surprise but the composition of the six scoring members of the side was less predictable.

Colm De Burca, giving substance to his reputation as an emerging force, ran on well to fifth just behind David Burke and further down the field, Alan Merriman, Tony O'Halloran and Gerry Dunne all came through well to ensure that Dublin had a huge 74 point advantage over Donegal at the finish.

Teresa Duffy's win in the women's race in a time of 16 mins 58 secs, was no less emphatic. Running as an individual, the Belfast woman established her superiority right at the start and for all the tenacity of the defending champion, Maureen Harrington of Kerry and Dublin's Annette Kealy, it was never seriously challenged.

Kealy surrendered second place to Harrington, only after an absorbing duel but in reality, the pair were merely in the supporting cast on this occasion as Duffy ran on in imperious style, to win by 18 seconds from the holder. Donegal, taking their lead from a good run by Margaret Synnott in 5th place, had five points to spare over Dublin in winning the team championship.