Former Carlow Association London man Niall Sheehan from Kilcoltrim is All-Ireland Cross Country Champion.

It was celebrations all round when Kilcoltrim native Niall Sheehan and former committee member of the Carlow Association London running in the colours of Gowran AC claimed gold in winning the All- Ireland Intermediate Cross Country Championships in Tuam on Sunday last 22nd January.

Niall Sheehan raises his arms to an emotional All-Ireland win bringing the gold home to the County for the first time ever.

Niall Sheehan raises his arms to an emotional All-Ireland win bringing the gold home to the County for the first time ever.

He felt confident and good the week prior and trained and prepared well in the later part of that week with rest and massage for a few days beforehand.  The course was tough given it was set on undulating parkland. There were a number of steep hills, particularly one towards the end. The underfoot conditions added to the difficulty of the course as the ground was wet in some places. The weather was dry and bright with little or no wind – ideal conditions for Irish cross country.

Sheehan was well in contention over the early stages of the 8,000 meter course of 2 short 1km laps and 4 long 1.5km laps with the lead changing hands at different stages between himself Ian Guiden of Dublin, Toss Hayes of Kilkenny and  Tim O’Connor of Meath.

With about 2 km to go he made made his break and stretched the lead bit by bit on the last lap kicking for home with approximately 250m to go and keeping the gap between Colin Maher and himself at just over 20m.

After an emotional finish, Niall said “Winning the race was an unbelievable feeling. My emotions prior to the race were one of cautious expectation, however on crossing the line were a strange mix of relief, delirium and disbelief. I won it for Gowran and for Carlow.”

Niall  Sheehan (Gowran) All-Ireland Intermediate Cross-Country Champion with Colin Maher (Ballyfin) and Ian Guiden (Clonliffe Harriers).

Niall Sheehan (Gowran) All-Ireland Intermediate Cross-Country Champion with Colin Maher (Ballyfin) and Ian Guiden (Clonliffe Harriers).

Niall loves his sport and has been running some 13 years after playing GAA and soccer. He started in Secondary school with his first race in Knockbeg in the Carlow Interschools  “The best thing I like about running is that you can shape your training and racing around your life and also the buck stops with you. What I like most about racing is the big cross country and track races.”

His favourite place to train is the Nine Stones and Mount Leinster and along the Barrow Line and is totally against ‘The Blueway’ planned for it saying it’ll ruin the whole aspect of the area.

On the win Niall said afterwards…

“I haven’t won a race of this importance previously. I had no national titles at adult level to my name before Sunday, hence this makes the victory extra sweet. Unfortunately, my parents or my brother weren’t able to make it as it’s a busy season at home on the farm”

This was the first individual win in the event for a Carlow born athlete. Mick Kelly a neighbour of Sheehan from Ballymurphy lead for most of the race in 2005 and was still in the lead with 50m to go but was. outkicked to finish 3rd. It is noteworthy that Mick and Niall both run for Gowran as there are no athletics clubs in South Carlow. Tommy Payne the legend of Carlow Athletics finished 2nd in the snow in Navan in 1986 having finished 3rd the previous year. Denis Shannon was 8th in Naas some years earlier to Ray McBride.

And whats next for the champ.  “Although I finished up working in London prior to Christmas, I hope to travel across to Nottingham for the English Cross Country on the 24th of February to run for my club in England, Newham and Essex Beagles. There may be a local or low key race in the interim.

My training is going well at the moment I train 7 days a week, with two days Wednesday and Friday being a little bit easier. I undertake sessions with a group on Wednesdays and Saturdays. In addition to running either individually or as part of a group, I also undertake gym sessions individually about 3 or 4 times a week. My mileage totals approximately 60 miles a week, with some weeks towards the earlier part of the season being heavier, and towards the business end being lighter.

While I don’t play any other sport, I am a keen GAA and soccer follower. I am an ardent Carlow and Mount Leinster Rangers fan, and always attended Carlow’s annual trip to Ruislip. In soccer I follow the Irish national side with Manchester United and Hibernian (having previously lived in Edinburgh) being my club sides.”

Niall made another big move in his life after Christmas by taking up an appointment as a Quantity Surveyor in Dublin after 8 years in the UK, 4 them in London. We in the Carlow Association London wish him the very best and look forward to hearing more great news from this talented sportsman.



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