What is it about the Dublin masters cross country? Ask any club captain?
Try cobbling together a team for the Dublin Senior last October, the Leinster Masters next week or the National Intermediate next month.
It’s a gargantuan task? Niggles, birthday parties, long runs in preparation for a Marathon months away are all trotted out. When you do get them on board you wince with dread every time the next ping hits your phone.
But the Dublin Masters? Early January! Bad weather forecast! What’s the problem captain? I’m there.
Now the phone pings with Late entry requests. Pleading’s replacing excuses.
In 2011 the Dublin Masters came to Raheny for the first time. A marriage made in Heaven it has never left.
The driving force in its growth to the biggest and most popular event on the Dublin Cross Country Calendar was undoubtedly Pat Hooper. Later as Chairman of the Dublin County Board he made a point of keeping the event in Raheny and relentlessly drove the growth of the event to what it has become. Better than all the rest.
Sadly Pat is no longer with us but on Sunday 584 Men and Women, all Masters between 35 and 78 years of age from all the Clubs of Dublin will converge on St Annes Park. They will be racing for themselves and their Clubs.
The atmosphere will be warm, competitive and friendly. Some will take it very seriously, others less so but all will be there because they want to be, providing proof this running drug can last a lifetime.
And this time for the first time Pat will not be there. He took his leave of us in October 2020 and let us not forget that Covid-19 played spoilsport on the 2020 event. But his spirit and contribution will be celebrated.
The Pat Hooper cup; a novel new event will be competed for by all the Clubs. Its essence embodies everything Pat stood for, good competition open to all.
The beautiful new Pat Hooper cup; commissioned and sponsored by the Dublin County Board is a competition designed to interest and motivate everyone competing.
It takes the combined Team Placings accumulatively across the six team races of M35, M50, M65, W35, W50 and W65. Based on the number of teams finishing in each category, points are awarded on a placing decreasing basis.
For example if there are 14 finishing teams in the W35 age group, the club that has won it will be awarded 14 points and the club that has finished14th will get one point.
This in turn will encourage Clubs to get as many finishing teams across the six categories as possible.
An incredible 96 Raheny Masters, 48 men and 48 women intend to toe the line. Many of these would have found themselves in this type of event because of an initial encouragement or dare it be said directive from Pat.
Because it became such a niche event in local running folklore, it is no co-incidence that Raheny have enjoyed great success in the Dublin Masters.
At the 2020 event our M35, M50, W50 teams all struck gold and our W35 team were only beaten on countback after finishing level on points with Sportsworld.
Every year one marvels at new arrivals of baby masters on the start line. For local interest this year’s excitement centres around two young bucks, lifelong friends and rivals, Mick Clohisey and Mark Kirwan. Youth is wasted on the young, hardly a fair refrain in their case given all they have achieved.
Proof though that grey tints and receding hairlines stand still for nobody.
They too as can all Club members play their part in keeping Pat Hooper in Raheny. And here is how.
There are all sorts of rules in place in the event of clubs finishing level on points. If it were to be won on the final defining one then that might be most fitting. That rule says that the club with the most finishers across all events on the day is deemed the winner.
With 96 entries and entries closed it looks like we have that eventuality boxed off!
The Dublin Women’s Masters CC has a starting time of 1pm with their Male counterparts of a certain vintage being called to battle at 1.30pm. Be there if you can.