Patterson Rules & Newcastle stay in touch at top of league…

The NAC 16

The NAC 16

The 5th race of the Athletics NI Cross-Country League took place on Saturday – the Malcolm Cup organised by Annadale Striders in its usual venue of Sixmilewater Park in Ballyclare. Despite the driest autumn in living memory, Sixmilewater Park still managed to produce some mud, but fair enough, not as much as usual. Newcastle & District AC (NAC) was out in force with runners in the supporting races as well as the main league event.

First up over 3 miles were the Masters and no greater Master than NAC’s Jim Patterson. Turning 70 seems to have given him a new lease of life and already this cross-country season he has proven himself to be the fastest 70 year-old across Ireland and GB when he won the Home Countries International last month in Glasgow. Coming home in 20:31, there was no one in his category near him (2nd was Larne AC’s Charlie Meran 45 seconds behind).

12 year-old Ronan McVeigh has a lot of potential and having just missed the start of the U-13 1 mile race, he toed the start line for the U-15 2 miles race rather than waste the journey up to Ballyclare. He went out hard showing a clean pair of heels to many of the 42 runners over the first lap. He was clearly suffering as he headed into the second lap but he kept working hard to come home in 11th place in 12 minutes and 25 seconds – great work from the 12 year-old.

A Focused O'Flaherty

A Focused O’Flaherty

The men’s race was the final one of the day, over 4 laps of the 1 mile circuit. It was fast from the start with 2 of the top 3 from the Seeley 10k hitting the front from the start – Foyle Valley’s Scott Rankin and Springwell’s Neill Johnston. Their pace was relentless but for the second week running Rankin had to give up 1st spot for the fast improving Johnston – 8 seconds in it at the end. Behind that was NAC’s Seamy Lynch producing another strong performance in 3rd place just outside 21 minutes. Mourne’s Willie McKee was under real pressure at the end from NAC’s David O’Flaherty but held on by 2 seconds for 4th place in 21:27. Next stop for O’Flaherty is his half-marathon debut next weekend.

NAC’s David Hicks being stalked by club mate Jack O’Hare

NAC’s David Hicks being stalked by club mate Jack O’Hare

David McNeilly, starting to recover his old form, was NAC’s third counter in 19th place in 23:07 and David Hicks made up the scoring 4 in 33rd place in 24:02, just 3 seconds ahead of fast finishing Jack O’Hare in 34th place in 24:05. With a team score of 60 points, it wasn’t enough to match the performance of Springwell Harriers from Coleraine who won the Malcolm Cup with 34 points, but it was enough for 2nd place ahead of North Belfast with 66 points.

It was a brilliant turnout by the men in red & yellow, needing 16 finishers to score maximum participation points, the team spirit showed with 16 men exactly making it home. Sixth club man home was the ever present Francis Tumelty in 40th place overall (24:24), another solid performance. Just behind him in 41st was Barry McConville (24:25) starting to make real progress again. John Kelly was 8th man home in 50th place (24:59) and 10 seconds behind him was Gargary’s best in the shape of Aidy Brown in 55th (25:09) who showed a good turn of speed to slip home ahead of Noel ‘WonderWall’ Gallagher in 56th (25:10).

Now WonderWall had had an eventful day as he had already turned out in the Victoria ParkRun at 9:30 in the morning and achieved a personal best of 18:26 but that’s only half the story. “I was leading, I think, and I was on the second lap and the marshall was shouting turn left, turn left, so I went straight on – well it was three laps last time I ran here – but turns out the course had changed and we had cross the bridge and do a lap of the island. I’m an eejit, I had to turn round and go back. By that time I wasn’t in the lead anymore, that’s if I was in the lead in the first place, I’m not sure, anyway, eejit. I was mad with myself, I grabbed a coffee and agreed to ‘take one for the team’ and drove to Ballyclare – nearly got lost again. Made it in good time though and I just love the cross-country – surprised myself by finishing 56th after the race in the morning – great craic’. Great craic indeed and WonderWall did take one for the team and the point that each runner scored might make all the difference by the time we get to March and the final race of the league.

Self-styled team leader Joe McCann was only along to jog around and score a point as he was doing the Griddle 10k at Saul the next day. However, half way round he say Orangegrove’s Robin Montgomery and the race was on – he couldn’t help himself and he hunted him down and passed him. McCann for the record was 8th (26:37). The ever reliable Stevie Rice and Gary Cairns were the next two NAC men home in 133rd (28:42) and 142nd (29:11) with Trucker Horrox in 149th (29:33) making his annual appearance to register his annual point for the team. 16th man home to make it maximum points was Paul Fitzpatrick on 155th and just outside 30 minutes – a monumental effort by all.

The 6th race of the League Season is the Northwest Cross-Country on 14th December. With 4 of the 6 races before Christmas to count, NAC’s 3 2nd places so far combined with getting 16 runners out means that victory on the 14th would definitely see them top of the league for Christmas – so hopefully the big guns will all be out on that day to both win and to celebrate Brendy Donnelly’s 30th birthday in style.

Malcolm Cup – Team Race

1 Springwell 34 points
2 Newcastle & District AC 60 points
3 North Belfast Harriers 66 points

Malcolm Cup – Individual Results

1 Neill Johnston Springwell 00:20:40
2 Scott Rankin Foyle Valley 00:20:48
3 Seamus Lynch Newcastle AC 00:21:04
4 William McKee Mourne 00:21:27
5 David O’Flaherty Newcastle AC 00:21:29
6 Emmett McGinty City of Derry 00:21:52
19 David McNeilly Newcastle AC 00:23:07
33 David Hicks Newcastle AC 00:24:02
34 Jack O’Hare Newcastle AC 00:24:05
40 Francis Tumelty Newcastle AC 00:24:24
41 Barry McConville Newcastle AC 00:24:25
50 John Kelly Newcastle AC 00:24:59
55 Aidan Brown Newcastle AC 00:25:09
56 Noel Gallagher Newcastle AC 00:25:10
75 Richard Rodgers Newcastle AC 00:26:10
85 Joe McCann Newcastle AC 00:26:37
133 Stephen Rice Newcastle AC 00:28:42
142 Gary Cairns Newcastle AC 00:29:11
149 Ronnie Horrox Newcastle AC 00:29:33
155 Paul Fitzpatrick Newcastle AC 00:30:21

171 finishers