2 April 2015 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Clones AC

Wow, Denise Toner lived out a childhood dream of representing Ireland at international level and boy did she do it in style, as Thursday 26th March will go down as a red letter day in her career for what she achieved in the Torun, Poland.

Having been an excellent juvenile athlete in her early teens, Denise gave up the sport to play Gaelic Football. Having got married and had a family she returned to running after the birth of her third son in late 2010 and how things have evolved from that race in Newtownbutler in March 2011.After this race she had a conversation with now coach Paul O Neill to look at her training. In the early years having joined Clones Athletic Club in May 2011, Denise took the local road race scene by storm before winning her first title of note the Ulster & NI Intermediate Cross Country title in February 2013. A combination of an injury during a Cross Country race in January 2014 and an invitation to represent Northern Ireland at the Inter Area Challenge in London in late February where she subsequently broke two Irish O35 age group records in the 1500m and 3000m got coach and athlete thinking that track running could be the way to go.

From this Denise has won 4 National titles the last, an impressive double over 800 & 1500 the week before she set of to Poland for the Europeans which was a timely boost as a persistent calf injury since August 2014 had curtailed her training up to mid January. At the time of entry, heats in the Over 35 category 800m were scheduled for Wednesday 25th but with only nine athletes registered on the closing date it was down to be a straight final. Composure was the name of the game as Denise watched other Irish athletes take medals in the first three days of competition in the magnificent surroundings of the Hala Sportowo-Widowiskowo. Eventually race day came about hours past and at 5.30pm we headed to the stadium in preparation for the race at 8.10 local time. After a good warm up and the hold for 20 mins in the call room the athletes were led out into the arena at 8pm. Work was done and the starter summoned the athletes to take to their assigned lanes and after they were individually introduced to the crowd he called them to their marks.

A very brisk opening seen the field split with Denise the only one going with one of the pre race favourites Anna Tittova of Latvia as they went through the first 200m lap in a shade over 31 seconds. Down the back straight and Denise moved out and took the lead and as they approached the finish line for the 2nd time they were still moving well hitting halfway in 65.8 seconds. On the third lap Denise kept applying the pressure on Tittova who earlier in the week had taken Bronze in the 400m. The Latvian was 3-4m back as they headed down the back straight for the last time and coming around the final bend the Clones athlete was still in control and been driven on by the Irish contingent around the stadium who were showing their appreciation for this fine run. Down the straight it was starting to hurt but as they approached the line she was still clear and the lady from the Knocks had time to raise the arms to celebrate a super victory in a time of 2:15.73 a new personal best indoors and a new Irish Age Group Record which seen her a full second clear of the Latvian Tittova 2:16.73 with Helen Reynolds of Great Britain who had won the 400 earlier in the week back in third in 2:21.55. This was a superb performance as Denise showed great character to go with the early pace but she had done the work and clearly was prepared to do what it took to bring home the medal she had come here to get. Speaking a few days afterwards when Denise was able to gather her thoughts she said that she was delighted with how the race panned out, she had and executed it and it really couldn’t have went any better. The whole experience of been at a Championship like this was great from the off, there was a great team atmosphere and the early gold from Ann Woodblock in the Women’s Over 75 3000m on Monday really inspired us all, got everyone focussed on what we could achieve. The whole package that goes with what a championship at this level entails will stand to me going forward she said. I enjoyed the whole experience and the Gold Medal and Irish Record really topped the whole week off, even though I was dragged off immediately after my race for a random drug test which meant I couldn’t see my family for 90 minutes after my win.

In achieving this amazing feat Denise apart from all her hard work, discipline and determination would not have been able to get where she is as European Champion but for the help of the following; Her husband Philip and the family, her coach Paul O Neill, her Strength & Conditioning coach Cathal Beacom, Physios – Elaine Mohan, James Mellarkey and Marty Mc Gourty, Ann Flanagan Principal and all her fellow staff members at St Mary’s Irvinestown and Fermanagh District Council and Clones Athletic Club for their financial assistance. Denise would also like to thank the Athletic Club and Donagh GAA for their Home Coming receptions, and the presentations made by Clones Athletic Club, Clones/Ballybay Municipal District and the Ladies and Mens GAA in Donagh.

In conclusion training at the track at the Peace Link in Clones has been a real pleasure and this along with been pushed by fellow club mates has really helped bring her on in her sessions and she hopes it can bring further success to her and to those who use this superb facility in the future. Finally Denise would like to congratulate fellow Co. Monaghan athlete Anthony Martin of Monaghan Phoenix who took Silver in the Men’s O55 400m in a very exciting finish. (See front page for more coverage of Denise’s win.)

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