By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — Sonia O’Sullivan capped a magnificent season when she cruised to victory over the half marathon distance in the Great North Run near Newcastle, England, last weekend.
Running competitively over 13 miles for the first time, O’Sullivan saw off the challenge of the European Marathon champion, Portugal’s Manuela Machado, to come home in a time of 71 minutes, 50 seconds.
"I may run a marathon some time," said a delighted O’Sullivan after her victory, "but definitely not before the Sydney Olympics."
Despite not always showing her best form on the Grand Prix circuit, the Cobh athlete was won all the races that count this year. Starting with a superb double over both short and long courses at the World Cross-Country Championships in Morocco, followed by a double gold over 10,000 and 5,000 meters at the European championships in Budapest, and now with this latest success, O’Sullivan has confirmed her reputation as the world’s best female distance runner.
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A number of county finals were down for decision over the weekend and in football, there were wins for East Kerry in Kerry, Ballina in Mayo and for Bantry Blues in Cork. The Leitrim title went to Melvin Gaels, while Rhode came out best in Offaly.
In hurling, Dunloy were convincing winners of the Antrim title and Trim came through in the Meath final replay.
Rugby drugs row
A row is brewing between Irish rugby officials and former international Neil Francis over claims that some top players have been taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
Francis, who was last capped for Ireland in 1996, was adamant in his column in the Sunday Tribune that steroid abuse was present in Irish rugby.
"Since 1988 members of the international squad have taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs," Francis wrote. "Even club players performing in the All-Ireland League have taken anabolic steroids to improve their efficiency."
The current Ireland team manager, Donal Lenihan, called the article a disgrace, saying that Francis had cast aspersions over every international player.
"In my time as a player, I never once came across anyone who ever took any performance-enhancing drugs," said Lenihan, who played for Ireland on several occasions with Francis. "What angers me is that the man in the street could believe that type of thing. It’s totally unfair on the players he played with. I think he’s let a lot of them down."
Meanwhile, the president of the Irish Rugby Football Union, Noel Murphy, called on Francis and the Sunday Tribune to substantiate the claims of steroid taking. Since testing was introduced to rugby in the late 1980s, no Irish player has ever tested positive for a performance enhancing drug.
Cahill leads Cork
A hat trick by Ollie Cahill put Cork City on their way to an impressive 5-0 victory over Waterford United in the Premier Division of soccer’s National League last Sunday. Cork now move three point clear of St. Patrick’s Athletic at the top of the table with a 100 percent record from six games.