from Donore Harriers Some pleasant winter sunshine and a relatively still made for good going at the Waterhouse Byrne Baird 10mile shield race on St Stephen’s Day. This prestigious race, which is run as an open handicap held every year by the club since 1896 with the year of the Great War being the exception saw new Club Man Simon Meyler come through the field and snatch victory for Eileen Walsh within the last half mile. Fred Kiernan just failed to get past Eileen finishing third. The day was capped off by really special presentation to Willie Smith on the 50th year anniversary of his winning of the coveted Shield.
The course was well marked, a new look programme brought out and a pre race entry system that worked well from the organisers point of view, and several other dirves from the committee served to make this one of the most memorable Stephen’s Days for some years. 37 athletes braved the distance and their handicaps to line up led off at 11 a.m. by the legendary Harry Gorman. Each athlete according to his handicap mwent off in succession until the last athletes went at 11.35 a.m. Due to new rules those who entered on the day had to go at 11.35, which saved the difficulty of having to grant athletes spot handicaps.
Right from the off there were several markers thrown down by several athletes. Joan McTernan who started off 30 mins new she had to put the pressure on the field and was the early leader. Always being difficult to spot who from the later starters will come threw it was clear that Fred Kiernan had “the eye of the tiger” as Grace his daughter was very conspicuously placed to take photos of what could be his big day. Fred started well and pushed his handicap well and broke away from his starting partner Colin Moore at a very early stage. Both were off 13minutes. Florrie Curley and Charlie O’Neill started within 30 seconds of each other and they quickly formed a pairing that went and back and forward for the entire race. Simon Meyler a new member and of known good pedigree also started moving well, the question was how would the legs do.
After the second laps however many time participant in the race and lady who had already signalled this year she was in good form saw Eilleen Walsh get within sight of Joan McTiernan. Eileen had started off 23mins and was in full flight in the middle section and new she was within grasp of the lead. Joan Held her off till after half way on the third lap but Eileen decisively went past her and seemed to be going away from all of the earlier starters, She rounded the the cricket pitches with 2 laps to go a clear leader and the race was on to see who could catch her. Some of the most experienced felt she was uncatchable……
Fred Kiernan looked the nearest challenger at this stage with 2 laps to go, but as those who have watched the race a lot know that it is remarkable how it comes together on the last lap. Eileen still led into the last lap Fred looked as if the gap was just too much, but Simon Meyler, even though close to the length of the Horse gallop behind had wound it up and seemed to have momentum, could he catch them!! Aidan McGrath on his return to racing for the club after injuries galore showed how talent n ever fades and had steadily come through the field and also looked good. Ken Nugent was the latest starter to be defying the handicaps and they distance was clearly suiting him and also seemed to have momentum.
Reports from the back of the course had Simon passing Fred and gaining on Eileen through the tress at the back and as the crowd looked on at the through the tress to the civil service cricket pitch Simon was seen have streaked past Eileen and was pushing on to a certain victory. Eileen completed a really battling race to hold off Fred Kiernan by just 6 seconds and Aidan McGrath and Ken Nugent passed a lot on the last 2 laps to come 4th and 5th. Florrie and Charlie who had battled together both had good runs to be 6th and 7th. Joe Rankin again had a fabulous run and rumour has it when he got a sniff of Charlie O’Neill old rivalries spurred him on to within 20 odd seconds.
The fastest men’s time was Ken Nugent in 60mins and 2 seconds with Florrie Curley the fastest lady in 71mins 15 seconds.
The race watched as ever by Tommy Hayward and other greats of the clubs history had Mr Eamon Coghlan former winner also an interested spectator, The day was rounded off by a presentation to Willie Smith a winner at age of 15, 50 years ago for his contribution to the club as a runner. We had a great feed with Stephen’s soup and the traditions of Stephen’s day including some music from Barry Potts.
The Spirit of St Stephen’s Day would seem in good stead.