Gutsy Win for Bailey & Newcastle & District AC Team Success at Cross-Country Championships

‘It’s been a proper winter’, heavy rain, snow, gales, waterlogged ground, not much sun and so on. Saturday saw the Northern Ireland & Ulster Masters and Intermediate Cross-Country Championships at the Billy Neil Playing Fields between Comber and Dundonald. The 2km lap is an arduous one at the best of times taking in a fair climb and add to that the fact that there wasn’t one piece of firm ground anywhere, even the well-drained football pitches were saturated. Conditions like these bring the road speedsters back to the mudlarks and today was no exception.

Men’s Masters (8km)
Kilcoo man Ian Bailey took his biggest cross-country win of his career. Better known as Slieve Donard Classic winner and for his prowess of long, long mountain and trail races, Bailey was being tested over only 5 miles. After taking out the first half of 4 laps, he was absorbed into the leading bunch of 3 and it was a ding dong battle thereafter. Did he have the guts or didn’t he? On several occasions it looked like he had been dropped by Willowfield’s Neill Weir but every time he clawed his way back and into the final lap he made another concerted effort to break Weir but Weir was stubborn in getting back into the lead. Bailey wasn’t to be beaten and with around 500m to go he put in one final effort and developed a 10-metre gap. It was eyeballs to all the way up the final rise to the line but Bailey held on for a famous victory by just 2 seconds.

Aidy Brown, the Leitrim flyer is in the middle of marathon mileage, but he took one for the team, sorry he took two for the team – more of that later. He produced his best ever performance over the muck to come home in 13th place overall and 2nd scorer in the team. Supported by mountain specialist, another man more at home over a 3-hour race rather than a half-hour ’sprint’ Rostrevor man David Hicks ran strongly to come home in 23rd place. Colly Murtagh is from Drumaroad and overall these 4 guys put the ‘District’ in Newcastle & District AC with Murtagh home in 30th place overall to secure the silver medals in the team race for the club (with 68 points) behind Letterkenny AC (57 points) and ahead of North Belfast Harriers (76 points) – a great result out for the club with overall 13 teams fielded.

Behind the scorers were Francis Tumelty 60th, Michael Flynn in 77th & Ryan McDonald in 78th (both in their first ever cross-country race), Gerard McAuley in 101st and Stephen Rice in 112th.

1 Ian Bailey M35 Newcastle AC  00:27:42
2 Neill Weir M40 Willowfield Harriers  00:27:44
3 Dermot Mc Elchar M40 Finn Valley AC  00:27:59
13 Aidan Brown M35 Newcastle AC  00:29:20
23 David Hicks M35 Newcastle AC  00:30:16
30 Colm Murtagh M35 Newcastle AC  00:30:56
60 Francis Tumelty M45 Newcastle AC  00:33:23
77 Michael Flynn M35 Newcastle AC  00:35:32
78 Ryan McDonald M35 Newcastle AC  00:35:36
101 Gerard McAuley M40 Newcastle AC  00:37:37
112 Stephen Rice M50 Newcastle AC  00:39:01

Bailey takes the victory (photo courtesy of Ryan Maxwell,

World Masters Mountain Racing O70 champion Jim Patterson didn’t disappoint securing the O70 title over 4km of mud – another great performance from the man who doesn’t know how to stop. Pride of place for him today was his left leg, he wasn’t happy about it, but it got him round and followed this by giving it a lot of exposure to anyone who would listen for the rest of the afternoon.

1   Terry Eakin M65 North Down AC 00:16:59
2   Jim Patterson M70 Newcastle AC 00:18:13
3   Malcolm McCausland M65 Derry Track Club 00:19:06

Men’s Intermediate (8km)
In the signature race of the day over 4 laps and 8km it was 19-year-old Craig McMeechan of North Down AC, currently Irish Junior Cross-Country champion, who stole the show and glided over the mud to win in 27:25. Zak Hanna, another mountain specialist, revelled in the conditions and came home an excellent 5th place in 28:36, just 1 second outside 4th. Luke McMullan, making a welcome return to racing, came home in 15th place with newbie cross-country runner JP Gartland in 16th, looking like he loved every minute of the mud. Prolific marathon runner Patrick Higgins was 24th just ahead of Paul Carlin, finally back to some consistent running after a break and… wait for it… Aidy Brown, just half an hour after running 8k in the Masters came home in 30th place to help the team secure the bronze medal behind Foyle Valley and Acorns (Magherafelt) – a brilliant performance by the team and a massively resilient performance from Brown who headed home with silver and bronze team medals and 10 miles of speedy mud running under his belt.

Behind Brown for the club was Wonderwall Noel Gallagher in 41st place (he had just come down with Brown to ‘watch’ having covered 10 miles in the morning including the Castlewellan ParkRun and borrowed gear to run because the ‘mud looked like so much fun’) and everyone’s favourite local landlord fresh from the sun in 51st place.

1 Craig McMeechan North Down AC  00:27:25
2 Chris McGuiness Foyle Valley AC  00:28:05
3 Scott Rankin Foyle Valley AC  00:28:19
4 Roy McGilloway Foyle Valley AC  00:28:35
5 Zak Hanna Newcastle AC  00:28:36
15 Luke McMullan Newcastle AC  00:30:20
16 John Paul Gartland Newcastle AC  00:30:22
24 Patrick Higgins Newcastle AC  00:31:18
25 Paul Carlin Newcastle AC  00:31:19
30 Aidan Brown Newcastle AC  00:31:26
41 Noel Gallagher Newcastle AC  00:33:43
51 Jack O’Hare Newcastle AC  00:36:55

The Newcastle & District Intermediate bronze medallists with plenty of mud on show (photo courtesy of Paul Fegan)

Women’s Masters (4k)
It was a first ever team finish for the club women in the Masters with Donna Daly looking strong and leading the team out in 37th place. Catherine McIntosh was next home on 50th, Rita Devlin in 61st and Patricia Shields making up the score team in a fine 66th.
1 Catherine Diver F40 Beechmount Harriers 00:15:40
2 Fionnuala Diver F35 Letterkenny AC 00:15:50
3 Cathy McCourt F40 AthleticsNI Unattached 00:16:03
37 Donna Daly F35 Newcastle AC 00:19:14
50 Catherine McIntosh F40 Newcastle AC 00:20:06
61 Rita Devlin F40 Newcastle AC 00:20:55
66 Patricia Shields F55 Newcastle AC 00:21:43
Women’s Intermediate (4k)
There was only one club runner in the Women’s Intermediate, Mari Troeng ran strongly to come home in 7th place.
1 Rebecca Wallace Lagan Valley AC  00:16:55
2 Esther Dickson Newry AC  00:17:05
3 Kerry Bamber Ballymena Runners  00:17:19
7 Mari Troeng Newcastle AC  00:18:13