O’Neill records historic win in Donore’s long-running Shield race

THREE Rock Rovers fought back from the brink of defeat against Pembroke to force a shootout and ultimately capture the Neville Cup for the first time in ten years.

Goalkeeper Shane O’Brien emerged a hero for the Grange Road side at Serpentine Avenue with three saves in that shootout in the wake of a very impressive performance throughout the match that finished deadlocked at 2-2.

Niamh ONeill receiving Shield from president and Ladies Captain

It was Three Rock who broke the deadlock in the second period when John Mullins’ delivery in from the end line was deflected to the target.

Yet Pembroke managed to turn this narrow deficit on its head, starting with an equaliser by Cian Murphy before Keith O’Hare edged them in front for the first time with just 10 minutes left on the clock.

It looked to have been enough to see them clinch this piece of silverware, but Three Rock’s Conor Empey had other ideas as he stole possession late on and drove forward only to be fouled.

It led to a penalty stroke which was converted by Ross Canning as Rovers grasped a last-minute lifeline.

And they made the most of this reprieve with O’Brien pulling off three fine saves in the eventual shootout while Empey, John Mullins and Harry Morris all converted their strokes to see Rovers win out 3-1.

NIAMH O’Neill became the youngest female winner of the Waterhouse Byrne Baird Shield held in the Phoenix Park on St Stephen’s Day.  

The 20-year-old UCD student lapped the 5x2-mile cross course with incredible consistency finishing with a sub-15 minute final lap in this, the 121st edition of the annual Donore Harriers race.

This allowed her to remain clear of the field from which the oldest competitor Barry Potts finish second.

This unique race is an open handicap contest over 10 miles and, for it, O’Neill had a 23 minute and 30 second handicap over the scratch runner.

Held every year since its inauguration, with the exception of 1916 due to the aftermath of the Easter Rising, this event is run by Donore for club members giving every athlete the chance to win regardless of their ability.

This year O’Neill’s performance was quite dominant and she looked to be the favourite from the early stages as she settled into a confident rhythm from the very first lap.

After a year of injuries last year and a mixed cross country and road season for club and college this winter, she recaptured the form she had shown in the juvenile ranks.

She was chased hard by Potts, a club veteran who also coaches the ‘Fit for Life’ group in the club, but he could make no impact on her lead in the closing lap and remained second with Des Gill retaining third place.

Ken Nugent posted the fastest time of the day over the ten miles in 58 minutes and 37 seconds and emerged from the late starters to finish in fourth place, deservedly picking up the Tommy Hayward Perpetual Trophy for the Fastest 10-Mile performance of the day.

It marked a great return to form for the former top 30 National Senior Cross Country athlete.

Rossa Hurley, the men’s cross country captain and scratch athlete, ran the second fastest time while O’Neill clocked the fastest Lady’s time of the day with Florence Curley, the lady’s cross country captain, running the second fastest.

Elsewhere 14 Donore runners took to the line for the Liffey Valley Tom Brennan 5k in the Phoenix Park on New Years Day.

Eric Keogh finished third overall in 15.33 and there were three more runners in the top 25 men with Fergal Whitty 12th and 1st M40 in 16.39, Chris Muldoon (17.14) and Peter Gaffney (1st W45 in 17.49). 

The team emerged second overall, while the first Donore woman home was Florence Curley in 20.36, a time that was good enough to earn her third place in the W40 class. 

Prior to this event, Donore’s Ide nic Dhomhnaill carded a very impressive win in the Farranfore Maine Valley 5k in Kerry, clocking a time of 18.17.

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