LIAM Brady stunned Irish athletics with a sensational win in the National Senior Cross Country Championships in Abbottstown, Dublin on Sunday last.
Racing away from the field after the half way stage, digging deep with everything he had to withstand the ferocious challenge mounted by the runner up, Brian Fay and displaying a blistering kick inside the last 400 metres plus, it was the biggest win of the 27 year old Coolderry man's career.
It was a massive triumph for him. Bitterly disappointed not to be picked for the Irish team for the European Cross Country Championships in Tilburg, Netherlands last year, he trained like a demon and got his reward in brutally tough, energy draining conditions on Sunday.
His win seals his place on the Irish team for the European Cross Country Championships in Lisbon on December 8. He previously ran for Ireland in the European Senior Cross Country Championships in Chia, Italy in 2016 and has also represented his country in the European Junior and U-23 Cross Championships.
Brady's triumph was the crowning glory on a very sweet day for his club, Tullamore Harriers – earlier, one of their most promising young females, Danielle Donegan came a superb second in the national junior ladies cross country race.
For much of the first half of the race, Brady was part of a pack of eight, that coasted along with the occasional surge. Then, he found an extra gear and opened up what proved to be a significant, race defining gap of 30 metres.
While Brady was expected to challenge strongly for a podium spot and a place on the Irish team, few observers expected him to take the title. He had also broken clear of the field in the Autumn Classic a few weeks ago but had been hauled in by Conor Bradley. Whether the field expected the same to happen here or not is unknown but if they were complacent in anyway, they certainly paid a dear price.
Inside the last of the 1,500m laps of the 10k course, promising U-23 star Brian Fay emerged as the main contender. The Dubliner closed the gap to ten metres and for a brief few moments, it looked like he would get there but Brady dug deep and found he had extra in reserve as he finished like a tornado with the winning post in sight. Brady's winning time was 32.50 with Fay in 32.55 and Sean Tobin third in 33.05 – Tobin had recently come back from injury as had last year's winner Kevin Dooney, who started but didn't finish.
It was an extraordinary finish and it was all hugely exciting to observe. Brady is a member of a famous Coolderry hurling family but athletics has been his sport of choice – his older brothers Kevin and Joe have been great servants of Offaly and Coolderry hurling and are still performing for their club.
Brady's career has had the usual ups and downs that are par for the course with athletics – a brutally tough individual sport where there is no hiding places and the hardest questions are asked by the athlete themselves.
Unsurprisingly, he was a keen hurler in his youth but he took up running in St Brendan's Community School in Birr under the physical education teacher there, Kilcormac man Jimmy Dunne – a well known trainer of football and hurling teams, Dunne was the physical trainer as Kilcormac/Killoughey made the Senior Hurling Championship breakthrough earlier this decade and played underage and senior football for Offaly in the mid to late 1970s, winning a Leinster U-21 medal in 1977.
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