James McCarthy is the undoubted king in Ballintotis when it comes road running. . The 8th running of the Ballintotis 4 Miler saw the East Cork Clubman maintain his incredible one hundred per cent record at the venue, but only after a titanic battle with clubmate Sean McGrath from Ballyandreen. It was a tremendous climax to another high class sporting occasion that brought almost 900 runners to the picturesque venue.
From early morning anticipation had been building amongst the local community as they prepared to welcome the by now standard huge entry to a race has grown dramatically in stature in recnet years. The action that followed was absolutely thrilling as the large crowd of spectators witnessed the aforementioned duel for supremacy between two class athletes from the promoting club. Early on Eric Curran and his Leevale colleague Conor McCauley along with East Cork AC man Kenneth Kelleher had kept the leading duo company over the opening miles. But as the race progressed it was clear the honours would be decided between McCarthy and McGrath.
After they had run shoulder to shoulder for the closing two miles, it was only in the last few meters that the defending champion finally kicked on to get the better of his colleague in the final strides of the race. Both athletes were actually clocked at 19:55 with third placed Eric Curran coming home in 20:46 four seconds ahead of Conor McCauley with Kenneth Kelleher holding firm in fifth and breaking the 21minute mark by five seconds.
"This was my closest call yet - no doubt about it", commented the race winner. I suppose for a few years I might have had it a bit easy but with Michael (Harty) last year and now Sean tonight, it has taken a massive effort. I am delighted again to have won - it's a great race and the real start of the summer season"
Just behind a great race was also developing in the chase for the top ladies prize. Clare Gibbons McCarthy of Leevale was given a huge battle for honours by Youghal's Aoife Cooke with the Leevale athlete prevailing by just 7 seconds in 21;31, just 10 seconds shy of Olympian Lizzie Lee's course record of twelve months previous. 2011 winner Niamh Rowe finished third ahead of a trio of Youghal athletes, Evelyn Cashman, Ruth Mellerick and Michelle Nolan all immediately behind and therefore on the overall honours list.
So a win on her inaugural visit to Ballintotis for Clare Gibbons McCarthy who said that the race lived up to all her expectations." I had heard so much about this race that I just had to come down and experience it and it was fantastic - and a really great course. Aoife (Cooke) is a great athlete and I had to pull out everything to just get ahead of her", commented the ladies winner.
On a perfect night for running there was no surprise in the fact that several runners recorded coveted personal best times for the 4 Mile distance whilst a significant number of local participants from the East Cork region excelled in their various age categories. Neilus Aherne (Men 60), Phil McGrath (Men 65) and Frank O'Brien (Junior) all won their respective categories whilst whilst Helen Gilroy, Margaret Rohan, Margaret Rohan, Stephaine Isley and junior Maggie Sillett all reigned supreme in their respective ladies categories. There were plenty of lcoal cheers also at the prize giving as both Clare O Hanlon, Eilish Downing, Mary O Mahony and Aisling O Brien from Ballintotis Fit4Life Club were also amongst those to receive category prizes.
A special draw took place for the 399 runners who had availed of the pre registration on line option and the lucky winner was Jim McGann, who received a high tech top quality head light for those darker training nights.
As always the race was a massive community effort with the steering committee having begun work early in the New Year. On the week of the race and in particular on the day and the night of race there were joined by several more volunteers. The appearance of over 100 stewards in yellow high-viz jackets ensured that all who visited Ballintotis were made most welcome and indeed taken very good care of - a fact that has become synonymous with the event since it was first run at the venue in 2010.
The organising committee extend a huge thanks to all who took part in both the race and the walk, all race sponsors and all who helped in any way to make the Ballintotis '4' - 2017 another very successful venture. On a night when all participants left Ballintotis with a souvenir of their visit in the shape of the by now famous Ballintotis Buff - sponsored by McCarthy & McGrath Auctioneers Midleton, it was appropriate that the night turned to be the McCarthy & McGrath Show - with James McCarthy just getting home ahead of Sean McGrath and Clare Gibbons McCarthy adding her name to the distinguished ladies roll of honour.
Roll on Ballintotis 2018!