There are names and faces that are synonymous in Irish running circles. Faces that are seen at races the length and breadth of the country, names that have consistently appeared at the head of results sheets at every level. Since September of 2021 however, there has been a notable absentee from the start lines, that of Na Fianna A.C’s Mary Hanley.

Mary Hanley remembered

Mary was one of the greatest supporters of local races throughout Meath and Ireland over the years, collecting prizes on a regular basis on the road, track and cross country. Mary's running longevity knew no bounds, the green Na Fianna vest regularly appearing near the pointy end of races before her untimely passing last Autumn. It is perhaps fitting that a race which is now jointly in her honour alongside the late Bob Heffernan, attracts some of the greatest runners who currently reside on the island.

Kia series heads to Meath

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Hosted by local club Na Fianna A.C, the third instalment of the Kia Race Series made its way to Enfield on Tuesday. After a day of downpours in South Meath, the evening fortunately turned for the better shortly before the gun, with conditions perfect for running on a course renowned for fast times in the past.

With the quality field assembled and the added incentive of 500 euro were they to be broken, it was clear that both the male and female course records would be under severe threat on the night. This was indeed to be the case as Paul O’Donnell appeared into the final straight approaching the Hamlet Court hotel with only the Kia lead car for company. A member of the European Cross Country team from December last in Dublin, the Dundrum South Dublin man came home in Enfield in a personal best time of 14 minutes flat, to take 19 seconds off the previous course record of 14:19 set by Hiko Tonosa in 2019.

Win sets O'Donnell up for European outing

O’Donnell has already opened his account in the Kia Race Series with a second place finish in The Streets of Portlaoise in March after a hotly contested battle with Clonmel’s Sean Tobin and will be a strong favourite for the overall series win with the form he has displayed this year so far. O’Donnell was last week named as part of the Irish 10,000m European Cup team which will compete in Pacé, France at the end of the month.

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In his third outing on the roads since last Friday, Peter Somba (Dunboyne A.C) followed O’Donnell home in second in 14:17. Somba was runner up to Efrem Gidey of Clonliffe Harriers on Sunday in the National 5k Road Championships in the Phoenix Park, just two days after romping to victory by over two minutes in the Simon Cumbers 6k in Navan. Corkman Michael Harty, who currently holds the Irish Masters over 40 record for 5k on the road, came home for third in 14.20, just 6 seconds outside that record set in Kilkenny this year.

Finn takes second course record of the night

The women’s race also saw the course record duly obliterated. Olympian Michelle Finn produced a characteristically gutsy performance to take over half a minute off the previous time of 16:21 set by Barbara Cleary of Donore Harriers, running 15:44 on the night. Finn was presented with the Mary Hanley Perpetual Trophy following her win.  It capped off an evening of dominance by Leevale in the women’s race, with Lizzie Lee and Jessica Coyne following Finn home for third and fourth respectively. Only Jessica Craig could prevent a full Leevale podium, with the North Down A.C athlete crossing the line in second in a time of 16:18.

In the junior category, it was an all-Meath affair with Adam Canning of Rathkenny taking the male junior win in 16:31 and Trim's Ava Costello coming home in 17:27 to claim victory in the junior women's. There were almost 800 finishers on the night in Enfield which capped off another great race hosted by Na Fianna A.C.

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The full set of results from the night can be found here.

Next stop Dunshaughlin

The next stop for the Kia Race Series will be Dunshaughlin, County Meath on June the 18th. To be contested over 10k, The men’s course record is still held by Noel Cullen from 2000 standing at 29:21. In 2019, Hiko Tonosa got within 9 seconds of the record.  The women’s course record, set in 2019 by Fionnuala McCormack, stands at 32:18.

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