Three counties in one weekend

Three counties in one weekend

Newcastle AC notes by Bogusboy with a little help from his friends


To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of Jethro Tull’s seminal flute based folk rock masterpiece ‘Thick as a Brick’, Newcastle Athletic Club travelled to Bohermeen to take part in the Meath Spring Half Marathon. For once the weather forecasters got it right and the strong early morning winds had become moderate and the rain had dissipated by the time 10k runners took to the line at the earlier time of 10:30am. NAC had three competitors in the prelude to the main event. Wonderwall, decisive as ever and had changed his mind at least a dozen times 10k, no half, no 10k, no half! And so it continued the whole way down the road. Eventually he decided that 10k was the best option and set out to record a fast time. The wind was a hindrance and a help in equal measure. Wonderwall, however, is made of strong stuff and dug in deep despite the energy exerted in recent weeks in preparing for 2017 London Marathon on April 23. He was rewarded with an impressive 17th place overall in a more than credible 38:05. Gallagher claims he would have been at least a minute quicker had his regular pacers Cairns and Rice been available to bring him home. With the 10k over just after the Half started he was free to support his colleagues in the Half Marathon by hurling abuse at them as they passed through the half was point. The 10krace was won by Clive Quinn of Sli Cualann AC in a speedy 33:45.


He does a lot in the house, that lad!

Ciaran Og Mussen was next home in 30th overall, recording 41:29 for the 6.2 mile loop. Oggy was pleased with his performance, but claimed he could have run faster had he not spent all day Saturday washing clothes, ironing,  cooking food, cutting the grass, washing the cars and hoovering. And that was only Saturday morning. Big Ron Burgundy was mesmerised by this and asked what a hoover was! Gary McIlhennon made a very welcome return to running and got back to the hut in 74th place in a time of 47:48. Exhilarated by the joy of racing he was observed repeating a mantra to himself the whole way home, ‘train more, race more, train more, race more…’ There were 335 finishers in the 10k event. Wonderwall has suggested that a 1 mile fun run is added next year to meet his needs

Position Name Time
17 Noel ‘Wonderwall’ Gallagher 38:05
30 Ciaran Og Mussen 41:29
74 Gary McIlhennon 47:48

As 11am approached the masses made their way to the start line. The race was delayed for e few minutes to ensure that all got to the line safely – something that did not happen in 2014 when, allegedly, Podge, Sparky, the Prophet and Butcher missed the start acting on the principle the ‘these things never start on time’; the truth has yet to be revealed. Again, their field was top heavy with talent. The race was won in 1:08:32 by Valdas Dopolskas, the man who finished ahead of O’Flaherty at the Trim 10 mile road race a few weeks ago. Ian Conroy was second, almost 5 minutes back and Paraic Ennis completed the podium places. Paul Byrne was first home for Newcastle.


Nip and tuck for the NAC lads

Things were tight early on as O’Hare and McCann shared the pacing duties in the opening miles. Morgan, Byrne and McQuade were never too far away as places chopped and changed. Conditions were tough at times with strong headwinds occasionally disrupted the rhythm of the athletes. McQuade was the first to make the move at 5 miles but was quickly closed down by Byrne and McCann. Things settled for a little until the 6 mile mark when Byrne decided it the pace was too slow and took off. No-one was able to cover this move and, as the runners passed through the village he opened a sizeable gap. Morgan came past a fading McCann and McQuade was suffering a little as well. With Mary Knight on gel duty at just past the half way, flagging athletes were rejuvenated as they headed out onto the second lap. Byrne and Morgan would stretch their advantage and both recorded times in the 1:24. McQuade found a little something to get him home and went past McCann just after mile 11; both finished in 1:26. The Prophet, in his role as chaperone, special adviser and all round good egg for the day awarded the Man of the Match award to Morgan, though Byrne can count himself unlucky to be a close second. Out on the course NAC envoy, the Prophet, did a great job of relaying information and moving between the runners and motivating them when times were tough. Such was his skill that when he belatedly noticed Darren Swail with less than a mile to go. He turned around to engage in a full conversation and proffer words of wisdom. Carnage was avoided when the ever vigilant marshals pointed out in colourful language that he was close to mowing down the runner ahead.


It’s all about the taper

A little further back a similar battle had unfolded between Murdock, Carson and McAuley. Murdock had tapered for the race in Las Vegas and New York. Sin city and the Big Apple seem to have been just the ticket as he improved his 2016 time of 1:30:04 by over a minute and a half. Carson was equally impressive and buoyed on by multiple doses on beetroot juice and the now mandatory multiple cereal bars he came home 16 seconds behind Murdock. Gerard McAuley was delighted to get over the border without being asked for a passport. Furthermore, he was delighted when he heard that the Monasterboice Inn was offering a Cowboy Supper followed by jelly and ice cream as a special on the children’s menu. All three finished in 1:28. Paul Rodgers was next over the line in just over 1:31. Regrettably big brother Richard was ill and unable to compete, much to the chagrin of his younger sibling rival. The prospect of a craft ale was the primary motivating factor as the man on the bus with the best half marathon PB (70:01) ran an extremely steady and well-paced race. Fegan followed shortly afterwards, again having put in a big shift in windy conditions. When asked how he felt about McAuley’s time he replied, ‘no comment’. O’Hare has missed much of the last two months and has not been training to his usual level. This showed in the latter stages and he wisely ‘pulled the plug’ and coasted home. One of NACs finest and most consistent in 2016, he had the good sense to realise that discretion was the better part of valour on this occasion.


Let me show you how it is done!

Trucking Ron was next across the line in another steady time. Although a few seconds slower than 2016, he was pleased as the conditions certainly made for tougher running this year. Ron got very excited on the way to the race when he saw a Scania reverse into a tight side street in Slane. He even asked driver James Rogan to stop the bus so that he could show the fellow professional how to do it better! Ron also won the ‘Rip Van Winkle’ Award for being asleep on the bus before it left the Bohermeen community Centre Car park. Moreover, he took some waking up when it was time for the chow down. Next in was Michael Harty. Another recovering from knocks and niggles, he ran strongly and is now well on the way to being ready for the challenge of 26.2 in London. Grace Neville and Pat Shields were making their racing debuts in red and yellow.  There was little to choose between them throughout and they finished close together in 1:48 and 1:50 respectively. Both are committed trainers and much greater things will follow in the months ahead.

Close on their heels was Stephen Knight, a man usually found in the mountains and on the trails. Stephen equipped himself very well and was pleased with his 1:52 finish.


Position Name Time
53 Paul Byrne 1:24:14
59 Kieran Morgan 1:24:44
73 Brendan McQuade 1:26:30
75 Joe McCann 1:26:49
98 Philip Murdock 1:28:28
101 Niall Carson 1:28:44
102 Gerard McAuley 1:28:44
145 Paul Rodgers 1:31:11
157 Kris Fegan 1:31:43
205 Jack O’Hare 1:35:50
217 Ronnie Horrox 1:36:34
398 Michael Harty 1:46:35
433 Grace Neville 1:48:35
455 Patricia Shields 1:50:07
478 Stephen Knight 1:52:03


After the race it was off to the Monasterboice for a feed that would have choked a donkey. Just as well that the food was plentiful as Fegan was particularly starving. In typical altruistic fashion he donated the contents of his stomach to the main Navan Road and was given a great deal of sympathy from his bus mates! Carson noted with customary caustic wit that he was sick as a brick!


Interlopers welcome

NAC were joined by 5 non-NACs and the ‘NAC effect’ had great effect as 4 of the 5 recorded PBs. Michael McKenna was the exception to the rule, but had a great run to finish in 1:29. Still recovering from a troublesome back, he put in a big shift and finished totally spent – it was almost as if he was trying to continue the tradition of at least one man in the ambulance! His fellow MAC club mates Michelle McCann (1:46), Nicola Mathers (1:48) and Brendan Laverty (1:52) set new bests, all the more impressive on a day when conditions were not always perfect. Lagan Valley’s Darren Swail was the other guest athlete for the day and set out to run steady 8 minute miles. He far exceeded his expectations, benefitting from following the 1:40 pacer for the first 10 miles, before ramping up the pace to come home is a fantastic 1:36 – no doubt there will be a song about it soon and the tale will grow taller in the telling!


Jimmy’s 10K goes from strength to strength

While many travelled to Bohermeen, others raced close to home. For many in the running fraternity Jimmy’s 10k is seen as the season opener to the road racing year. With 908 finishers this year the appeal of the race remains exceptional. In near perfect running conditions 9 NAC athletes set off in a field off over 900 runners to face the undulating 10k loop of Downpatrick which takes runners around the grounds of Down Cathedral, where O’Flaherty would lead the field, towards a scenic loop of the Quoile River before returning back towards the town centre. As the pace increased the lead group was down to 4. Just before 5k Ben Branagh quickened to pull clear, a lead he wouldn’t relinquish. He won the race in a very fast 31:33.  Chris Madden followed through in 2nd (31:48) leaving O’Flaherty to battle with Willowfield’s Weir for the final podium place. A strong 2nd half from O’Flaherty saw him claim the final podium place claiming a new PB in the process (32:03). Tumelty was next NAC home in 41st place. Patricia McKibbin ran a strong race and was placed 3rd V35. Not far behind Conlon & Barr finished a mere 45 seconds apart. Next NAC runner home was Graham in 43.22 with McNamara also running a good race to finish in the top 200. Duggan & O’Higgins both ran a steady race and can be satisfied with their efforts.


Place Name Category Finish 1st Half 2nd Half
3 David O’Flaherty MO 32:03 16:18 15:46
41 Francis Tumelty M45 37:18 19:05 18:18
123 Patricia McKibbin F35 41:32 20:58 20:40
143 Jason Conlon MO 42:01 21:10 21:00
161 Ronan Barr MO 42:47 21:39 21:15
175 Stephen Graham MO 43:22 22:10 21:24
190 Tadgh McNamara M35 44:08 22:25 21:50
215 Martin Duggan M35 45:23 22:41 22:50
253 John O’Higgins MO 46:44 23:06 23:46


All Ireland Schools’ Cross Country at Mallusk

Ronan McVeigh, a Year 9 student at St. Patrick’s Grammar, Downpatrick was NACs only representative at the All-Ireland Schools’ Cross Country Championships held at Mallusk on Saturday 11 March. Ronan had progressed through the Down heats, where he finished second to eventual All-Ireland Champion, Dylan McBride from Grosvenor Grammar School in Belfast. He finished 12th in a very competitive Ulster Final at Mallusk two weeks ago. On Saturday all four provinces came together and McVeigh was an excellent 19th overall and 7th Ulster scorer on the day, completing the 2550m course in 10:29. Such was the quality of the field that 38 seconds separated the first finisher from the 20th man across the line. Well done to Ronan.


Glenariffe Mountain Race

The NIMRA Mountain Running Championship kicked off on Saturday with the Glenariffe Mountain Race.  A free bag of spuds for each competitor was an extra incentive for the 112 brave souls that took part including 11 from Newcastle AC.  This year the Newcastle men will be looking to defend the NIMRA team championship prize that they won last year. With the race loaded with the all the top local mountain running talent, including defending male champion Willie McKee, it was sure to be a very competitive affair.

As the athletes gathered at the start line everyone went through their final pre-race rituals which for some involved a light jog on the spot, for others a bit of light stretching while for one Newcastle vet this involved a few puffs on a cigarette!!

After the final pre-race instructions from race director Johnny Steede they were off.  The pace at the front of the field was fast & furious with the McKees (Willie and David, ironically not related) at the head of affairs.  In the women’s race Megan Wilson and Esther Dickson dictated the pace from the off with Shileen O’Kane back in third.

At the turn at the top of the mountain Willie McKee was first, a position he maintained until the finish line holding off a strong challenge from the other McKee with Alan Boggle in 3rd.  David Hicks was first Newcastle AC athlete home with a highly impressive 4th place finish which included a great descent. Hicks pick off several other athletes as he dropped down the mountain like a stone!  David McNeilly swapped his cross country spikes for the mud claws and had an excellent 10th place finish.  Colum Campbell also carried his good XC form through to the mountains with a very good 12th place finish.  Next home was Murtagh (16th) just in front of Phil Hodge (19th), who put in a very solid performance as he continues his preparation for the Wicklow Way Ultra in 3 weeks.

Eugene McCann had a great run finishing 36th ahead of Pete Grant 38th who ran well considering he is a more of an “up and down” mountain man.   The ever green Jim Patterson had another excellent run finishing 59th overall followed home by the ever consistent Declan Magee (77th).

In the ladies race Ester Dickson of Newry AC finished first ahead of Megan Wilson with Shileen O’Kane 3rd.  First Newcastle AC lady home was one half of the Vikings Mari Troeng who continues her unconventional preparation for the London Marathon followed closely behind by Paulette Thomson who put in another good performance.  Mari may have actually been closer to the lead ladies only for some dubious race advice from her Newcastle Team mate in the car on the way to the race!


After a quick dip in the sea it was all back into St Patrick’s Primary school to enjoy the excellent spread of soup, sandwiches, scones and buns (ironic to see scones and buns mixing so easily!) laid on by Glen Runners before heading home to put the spuds on.

Next race in the NIMRA championship is The Fallows on April 22nd when Newcastle AC will need to get a strong team out if they are to defend their title.


Position Name Category Chip time Gun time
4. David Hicks MO 45:34 0:45:34
10. David McNeilly MO 47:36 0:47:36
12. Colum Campbell M45 48:14 0:48:14
16. Colm Murtagh MO 50:44 0:50:45
19. Phil Hodge MO 51:20 0:51:22
36. Eugene McCann M55 55:15 0:55:17
38. Pete Grant M45 55:36 0:55:36
45. Owen Brady MO 56:57 0:57:02
54. Mari Troeng FO 59:11 0:59:12
59. James Patterson M70 1:00:39 1:00:41
65. Pauline Thomson F45 1:01:31 1:01:34
77. Declan Magee M50 1:05:39 1:05:41