Streets of Portlaoise 5k Road Race
On the day of the famous 3rd Grand Slam for Ireland, St Patrick’s Day, Newcastle & District AC’s Kerry O’Flaherty made an early morning trip to compete in the Streets of Portlaoise 5k. The race was the first in the newly-launched Kia Road Race Series that takes in 9 races across the country between now and September. The series is designed not least to encourage the best of local talent to compete against each other and Portlaoise did not disappoint.
Up against O’Flaherty was the Irish Cross-Country Champion of the past two years, Shona Heaslip from County Kerry. O’Flaherty had finished runner-up to Heaslip each time over 8km of at times muddy conditions. Also in the field was Irish Marathon representative at the London World Championships in 2017, Cork’s Claire McCarthy. The first km took the field into the centre of town agains a strong headwind and onto a 4km circuit. O’Flaherty settled into a group of 5 or 6 with Heaslip to its fore. Reaching 3km in around 9:35, it was still all to play for. At 4km as the runners returned to the race start point, it was 1km to go back into that headwind and O’Flaherty unleashed a long kick for home. Heaslip responded but O’Flaherty was relentless and pushed on breaking the elastic and establishing a winning lead.
O’Flaherty came home to win in 16:10, an excellent time especially in the conditions, with a 15-second gap over Heaslip in second, who in turn was 14 seconds clear of McCarthy in 3rd. Not only was it a course record, but O’Flaherty was 10th overall out of the 649 finishers.
Queen’s University 5k Road Race
The annual QUB 5k road race took place 4 days later on the circuit around the Lagan. The race moved a week earlier from last year and so at the 7:30pm start time, it was dark adding a different atmosphere to this very popular race. 18-year-old Patrick McNiff was hoping to run a personal best. Last summer he registered 15:15 on the track in Loughborough and in February equalled that time at the famous Armagh International Road Race around the atmospheric Mall. This evening he set off sensibly, passing the first km in around 3:00 and just at the back of a reasonably large leading pack. First City of Lisburn’s Chris Madden pushed the pace and in the final lap of 3, Springwell’s (Coleraine) Neill Johnson hit the front to race to victory in 15:01, followed home by North Down’s Craig McMeechan, Irish U-20 Cross-country Champion, in 15:04, Mourne AC’s Andrew Annett in 3rd in 15:06 and McNiff running an excellent new personal best of 15:10 in 4th. It must only be a matter of time before he breaks the 15-minute barrier in the new track season this summer.
Behind him, Kerry O’Flaherty was back on there start line seeking to win the Northern Ireland & Ulster 5k Road Race Title and her 2nd win in 4 days. She too ran a sensible race and come home to win easily in 16:13 ahead of Finn Valley AC’s xxxx Burke in 2nd in 16:43 and City of Lisburn’s Kelly Neeley in 3rd in 16:45.
There was a great turnout from Newcastle & District AC runners with:
- Brendan McQ
- uaid setting a new personal best in 17:51
- Noel Gallagher also setting a new personal best, breaking 18 minutes for the first time – 17:57
- Ruairí Donnelly with a personal best in 18:03
- Frank Cunningham in a new personal best in 18:50
- Richard Rodgers running 19:43
- Ciaran Oggie Mussen also breaking 20 minutes but just failing to get past the old man in 19:44
- Ashlene Mussen preparing well for the London Marathon, home in 20:57
- Declan Magee getting into good shape again, home in 20:58
- The younger (under-20) clan were well represented by Megan Rodgers (22:02), Jack Quinn (20:53) & Daniel Molloy (17:57).