Newcastle & District AC’s Kerry O’Flaherty has had a fast start to 2017. After making the Irish team for the European Cross-Country Championships in Sardinia in December, she represented Ireland again in a relay leg at the Great Scottish Cross-Country in Edinburgh in January, set an indoor 1500m PB of 4:14.63 at the Athlone International Grand Prix in February before running a lifetime best at the Armagh 3k International Road Races and securing the Irish Indoor 1500m title in Dublin before racing for the first time at the European Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia in March.
Towards the end of March she won the Ulster & Northern Ireland 5k Road title at the QUB race in Belfast running 16:18. Sunday past was the annual Great Ireland 10k in Phoenix Park in Dublin where a combined Irish men and women team competed against England for the Sean Kyle Memorial Trophy in among the more than 5,000 runners taking part. In its second year this team challenge remembers the significant contribution that Ballymena and Antrim’s Coach Kyle made to Irish athletics. The England team was led by race favourite Gemma Steel, European Cross-Country Champion in 2014 and former winner of the Great Ireland Run. On the Irish team were Claire McCarthy from Cork, who represented Ireland at the half-marathon in the European Championships in Amsterdam last year, Dublin’s Laura Shaugnessy, who represented Ireland at the World Mountain Racing Champs and City of Derry’s Catherine Whoriskey, making here Irish debut hot from victory and 76:52 personal best at the Omagh Half-Marathon.
The course in Phoenix Park is not one on which to set personal bests – first, it is wide open and exposed to any wind – the year is was a north westerly buffeting the runners especially in the second half and second, it is very undulating or more plainly hilly….after a gentle rise in the first km, it is relatively flat and then a bit downhill and as it turns at the bottom of the Park around 4.8km. The next 4.2km is a mixture of steady drags and moderate descents. The 4 Irish women and England’s Steele and Jenny Spink had broken away from the rest of the field by the time 3k was reached in a gentle enough 10:18. Half way was reached in 16:58 and Steele and Spink made a break that O’Flaherty and McCarthy tried but were just unable to cover. The racing was fierce through the tough second half with Steele pulling away to victory in 34:15 and her compatriot in 2nd in 34:24. O’Flaherty came home in 3rd in 34:38 – an excellent time over the tough course – to secure the Irish National 10k road title (with McCarthy, whose main season’s aim is the marathon at the World Championships in London in August in 4th in 34:47, Shaugnessy 5th in 35:04 and Whoriskey 6th in 35:55.
With Mullingar’s Mark Christie winning the men’s 10k in 29:30 ahead of England’s Graham Rush (29:41) and Irish Olympic Marathoner Mick Clohissey in 3rd in 29:43 – the combined Irish team just pipped the England team by 40 seconds over the scoring 6 times in each team. O’Flaherty was delighted to secure the National 10k Road Title, a title that she won once before in Navan in 2009. It demonstrates her versatile range from 1500m indoor champion all the way up to 10k on the road. Her focus now is on aiming to achieve the World Championships Qualifying Time for the 3k Steeplechase in London in August and she will spend the next three weeks up at 6,000 at Font Romeu in the French Pyrenees