UCD have been awarded the National Road Relays women’s title after Queen’s, who narrowly beat them last Sunday in Raheny, were disqualified.
The Belfast team had included an athlete on their team who was not a “first claim” member of QUB AC; unfortunately, rules for college athletes differ in the various third level institutions. DCU, for instance, like QUB, is a closed club for students only, but because it is not affiliated to Athletics Ireland, its members can compete for their “home” club when not on college duty. UCD AC is affiliated to Athletics Ireland and athletes who are already members of an AI club must leave their existing club and transfer to UCD in order to compete for them.
All three members of the QUB team are fully paid up members of the college club, and their entry to the road relays – which they were attending for the first time – was accepted by Athletics Ireland. Both Emma Mitchell and Sinead Sweeney are on athletics bursaries from the college and QUB is their “first claim” club. Henderson’s “first claim” club is Dromore and since Dromore did not have a team entered in the national relays, she thought she was eligible to run for Queen’s – her “second claim” club, as is the case in events organised by Northern Ireland Athletics. All three women are coached by Eamonn Christie.
On Sunday, an excellent opening leg from Sweeney saw her hand over to Mitchell in third place. A brilliant time of 10 mins 18 secs for Mitchell put QUB in front ahead of Letterkenny. On the final mile, Henderson held off the challenge of Ciara Everard for UCD and brought the team home in a time of 20 mins 58 secs. Whatever happened afterwards, QUB has now been “purged” from the official result and UCD – who did not turn up for the prize-giving – are the champions with Letterkenny taking silver and Leevale bronze.
Making up the UCD team were Alanna Lally who put UCD into the lead on the first one mile leg with a time of 5 mins 13 secs. She was followed on the two-mile leg by Ellie Hartnett, who then handed over to Ciara Everard, who showed a welcome return to form when she crossed the line in 5 mins 10 secs having passed Letterkenny’s Noeleen Scanlan and almost catching Henderson.
UCD’s overall time was 21 mins 4 secs; Letterkenny clocked 21:15 and defending champions Leevale 21:21.