ATHLETICS | Red letter day for Louth Athletics as women’s team win promotion to top tier of National League

Members of the Co Louth athletics team pictured at the Irish Life Health National League final in Tullamore. Kneeling L-R: Ruarcán Ó Gibne and Amy McTeggart. Middle row L-R: Micheal Mulligan (Dunleer AC and Athletics Louth Chairperson), Seoda Matthews, Bláthnaid Donnelly, Shauna McMahon, Darren Weldon, Emma Conway, Emma Cheshire, Kelly Breen, Geraldine Finegan and Sam O’Neill. Back row L-R: Oisín Ó Gibne, Tom McGrane, Deirdre McTeggart (Boyne AC and Athletics Ireland official), Pat Cheshire, Nicola Welsh and Lee McGuinness

The Co Louth senior athletics teams enjoyed a very successful day in Tullamore recently when they did battle in the final of the National League.

Both men’s and women’s teams were competing in Division One of this All-Ireland competition and both matched their previous best performances. In 2016 the women finished sixth and the men seventh, but there was a clear improvement by both teams this year.

The women led the way by finishing second of the eight teams who had qualified for the final, matching their achievement of 2013, while the men finished in sixth place, as they had previously done in 2014.

By finishing second, just one point ahead of the Co Kerry team, the Wee County’s women’s team earned promotion to the top-tier Premier Division for next year’s competition.

Gabriel Bell of Louth Athletics competing in the Division One 400m during the AAI National League Final in Tullamore. PICTURE: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Heptathlete Amy McTeggart (Boyne) contributed very strongly to the women’s success, winning the High Jump, and finishing second in the 400m and third in the Triple Jump. The other individual victory went to Shauna McMahon (Blackrock) in the Shot.

Another heptathlete, Geraldine Finegan (North East Runners), scored good points by finishing second in the Javelin and third in the Pole Vault.

Two other athletes enjoyed a top three finish in their individual events — Emma Cheshire (Dunleer), who was second in the Long Jump, and Niamh Belton (Dundalk St Gerard’s), who came home third in the 200m.

The women’s 4x100m team of Cheshire, Belton, Kelly Breen (Blackrock) and Bláthnaid Donnelly (Drogheda & District) also finished in third place, pipping their counterparts from Kerry by less than one-hundredth of a second, which proved decisive in deciding the second of the two promotion places. Had the teams even dead-heated for third place in that race, it is Kerry who would have won promotion instead of Louth.

Of course, with such a tight margin between the teams, it is not just the 4x100m team who deserve special mention. The contribution of the remaining four athletes on the team was also of vital importance, as Nicola Welsh (Dunleer), Erin McHugh (Drogheda & District), Seoda Matthews (Dunleer) and Emma Conway (Dundealgan) all played their part on a great day for athletics in Co Louth.

The Louth women’s team receive their medals at the National League final. L-R: Georgina Drumm (Mountpleasant AC and Athletics Ireland President), Amy McTeggart, Emma Conway, Bláthnaid Donnelly, Emma Cheshire, Kelly Breen, Shauna McMahon, Nicola Welsh and Seoda Matthews

The star performer for the men’s team was Conor McMahon (Ardee & District), who was joint first in the High Jump.

Oisín Ó Gibne (Boyne) finished second in the 800m, as did Darren Weldon (Ardee & District) in the Hammer. Ruarcán Ó Gibne (Boyne) came home third in the 3000m Steeplechase and the other third place finisher for Louth was Lee McGuinness (Drogheda & District) in the 200m.

As was the case for their female counterparts, every single point earned by the Louth men’s team was of vital performance in securing their sixth-place finish, as the seventh placed team, Slí Cualann from Co Wicklow, finished with the same points total only to lose out to Louth under the league’s tie-breaking rules.

Hence the points earned by the rest of the men’s team — Gabriel Bell (St Peter’s), Sam O’Neill (Drogheda & District), Pat Cheshire (Dunleer), Tom McGrane (St Peter’s), Jonathan Rice (Dun Dealgan), Stephen Kelly (Drogheda & District) and Andrew Kelly (Drogheda & District) — were every bit as important.

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