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Golden girl O'Reilly making waves in cross country

Story by Paul Fitzpatrick

Wednesday, 12th December, 2012 12:52pm

Golden girl O'Reilly making waves in cross country

Clodagh O'Reilly, from Annalee Athletic Club, Ballyhaise, Co Cavan, on her way to winning the under-17 girls 4000m.

Paul Fitzpatrick

It's a few years now since Catherina McKiernan captured the imagination of the Cavan sporting public but the county could have another cross country sensation to follow if Butlersbridge girl Clodagh O'Reilly continues her remarkable rise.

The 16-year-old added to her growing reputation in athletics circles last weekend when she took gold in the All Ireland U17 Cross Country Championship, a grade for which she is still eligible next season.

"This year I was young for that age group. I'm U16 but I qualified for the U17 as well, so that was U17 this weekend," Clodagh, who has been running for "seven or eight years" told The Anglo-Celt.

Leading out from the front over the grueling 4,00-metre course in Co Wexford, the Loreto College student was never in trouble and ran out a comfortable winner.

Coached by her father Sean and Kildare-based Denis Noonan, another recent win secured Clodagh's place on the Ulster team for the Celtic Games in Scotland in January, where she will be expected to be among the main contenders.

At 16, the Butlersbridge girl has reached the age where international competition will become the norm rather than the exception.

Earlier this season, Clodagh was selected for the Irish team for a meet in Perth, Scotland, an achievement she rates as the highlight of her career to date.

"It was good to get the Irish tracksuit and go on the trip," she said.

"I think the standard is considerably higher in Britain. They just have better facilities and a higher population, so more people to pick from. I thought the standard was better there, definitely.

"There were about 35 or so in the race and I came tenth so I felt I did well enough anyway. It was a good learning experience and to see what the standards. That was my first time competing outside of Ireland."

An admirer of Catherina McKiernan, two-time European champion Fionnuala Britton and Paralympian Michael McKillop, Clodagh feels that she is better suited to cross country running than any other discipline. Not for her, then, a cross-over to the more glamorous world of long distance track running later in her career?

"I'd say I'll always be a cross country runner rather than track. I do the longer races on the track during the summer but I'm more suited to the fields and the mud and the hills. I find it better. It [the track] looks like an easy life from my perspective [laughs].

"At the very beginning my dad trained me and all the older ones were cross country runners and my dad was a cross country runner, so the type of training we were doing was for cross country. So I just naturally was better at it than the shorter races." For now, the plan is a straight forward one.

"Keep improving, keep getting better, see where it takes me."

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