by Joe McCann
All-Ireland Schools’ Cross Country Championships
The National Aquatic Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin, was the perfect venue for the AVIVA All-Ireland Schools’ and Irish Universities Cross Country Championships held on Saturday 12th March. The flat course provided great underfoot conditions and as a result fast running was the order of the day. There was plenty of Ulster interest in the event and Newcastle AC were represented by two athletes, Eoghan Totten from St. Patrick’s Grammar school Downpatrick in the Senior Boys’ and Dearbhla Magee representing St. Malachy’s Castlewellan in the Junior Girls’ race. Eoghan continued his great form this season and finished an extremely credible seventh place, a mere two seconds behind his nemesis Andrew Monaghan and six places ahead of Ulster Champion S Kerr. The Race was won convincingly by Shane Quinn from Waterford, who had 15 seconds to spare over runner up Kevin Dooney.
Eoghan finished as second fastest Ulster athlete, no mean achievement for a runner who is perhaps best suited to the mountainous terrain. On this showing Eoghan will certainly be in contention in the first two Hill and Dale races, where the steady climbs and fast descents on trails should suit his style. In an extremely fast Junior Girls’ race Dearbhla equipped herself very well and finished strongly in 32nd place, a minute behind the winner Ella Fennelly. Congratulations to both athletes on fine performances and we hope to see other Newcastle athletes competing at the highest level nationally next year.
Junior Series ends with a bang
On the same day most members of the junior club were in action in the sixth and final race in the McGrady Financial Services Junior Cross country series. The weather had improved dramatically and conditions were perfect for the series finale. While myself and Paul Rodgers marked the course, our long time colleague Frank Morgan shouted words of wisdom from the warmth of the Ranger’s Hut as he sipped from a mug of coffee: every club should have a Frank, but roles could be reversed at the Leitrim 5 on April 2nd!! Against the stunning backdrop of Tollymore Forest Part the racing got underway promptly at 11am. The first winner of the day was Conor Murray who managed to hold off Morgan Steele and Andrew Watson in the P3&4 boys’ race, while Eve Keneally had to work all the way to the line to keep ahead of Ellie Parkhill and Catherine McVeigh. Caelan Quinn and Caoimhe Grace O’Donnell were Primary 5 winners, while Nathan Heath and Michaela Quinn ran strongly to win convincingly. The primary school roll of honour was completed by Emily Forte and Paul McMeckin.
Jack Quinn won the Year 8 boys’ race despite a gallant effort from the ever-improving Corey Smyth and Eilis Doyle managed to overcome Ellen Erskine in a very tight and tense finish in the girls’ race. In the Year 9 and over category long time leader Aisling Pell was overtaken by a really strong finish from Anna Rogan, both girls showing great determination and endeavour. Finally Arthur Morgan recorded another victory from Patrick McMeckin as the series was brought to a close. All 90 runners are to be congratulated for finishing their races and for competing so well throughout the series. The presentation ceremony will take place on Monday 14th March in Shimna College and a full report and pictures will appear in the next issue. Finally a word of thanks to Hales fruit sales for their generous support of the post-race fruit; it was certainly appreciated by all the athletes.
It’s chilly in Glenariff
While the children enjoyed the sun in Tollymore conditions were a tad more inclement for those who had made the journey to Glenariff for the Mountain Race. The race itself is an off road trail/mountain race and starts in Waterfoot, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It takes in a distance of six miles with approximately 1,100 feet of climbing in Glenariff Glen. With some snow on the higher reaches, athletes were tested to the limit in this stunningly picturesque event.
The Steady Steede
The race was won by Jonny ‘the Steede’ Steede from Little Ballymena AC, from last week’s runner up Des Woods. McGreevy was 13th for Newcastle, with McCann and Bell 18th and 19th respectively, and I note there were no snaps from Bell this week! A rare outing in the daytime from Jim Patterson resulted in a 25th place finish and Richard Cowan 31st and Anne Sandford 32nd completed the Newcastle contingent. My sources reveal that Anne arrived at the last minute in a car full of crossed legged runners and the race was delayed until one of the posse attended to a call of nature. In typical fashion that athlete will remain nameless. Shileen O’Kane was unavoidably delayed in getting to the start for some unknown reason and was registered as a Newcastle runner by virtue of the fact that she arrived in the same car as Anne Sandford
Jimmy’s 10 is a real cracker
The busy weekend of competition was brought to a close with the 13th running of Jimmy’s 10, a 10k race to honour the memory of former stalwart Jimmy Murray, was a fitting tribute to the great man. With a record entry at the start line in an eclectic rainbow of colour, the scene was set for a great race. The elite athletes did not disappoint and Stephen Scullion produced a memorable performance to record a stunning win in a time of 30:39, a minute and 11 seconds ahead of Joe McAllister. Unsurprisingly McNeilly was the best placed Newcastle athlete in 9th place in an entirely respectable time for a 48 year old of 34:43. Kerry Harty was once again the leading lady, clocking the fastest female time of 35:09, 30 seconds clear of second lady, Julie Turley from Dromore. Although Kerry admitted her disappointment with her time, I found it difficult to be sympathetic as I was over 4 minutes behind her – maybe next year, but then again probably not! Brendan Quail clocked an impressive 36:30 and stress free Damien Brannigan was not too far behind him in 36:43. I had the pleasure of running with my good friend and colleague Audie the whole way and he filled my head with positive thoughts the whole way around the course – thanks kid! The only disappointment for the lad was his inability to defend his LV40 title! Well done to all our colleagues at East Down AC for the flawless organisation and meticulous planning that are synonymous with the club name.
The biggest winner
One of the big decisions at this race is whether or not to hang around in the hope of winning the holiday voucher. Mark King, much to his regret on a previous occasion can testify that it is worth waiting just in case your number comes up. This year’s lucky winner was Newcastle’s own generous benefactor and my new best friend PJ McCrickard. When considering who shall accompany him on his well earned holiday I am confident that he will remember all the kind words he has received in this column and perhaps be wary of the backlash if he makes a foolish choice!
Better late than never
Belated congratulations to those athletes from the club who participated in the Slieve Gullion race. Deon was in his usual sparkling form, romping home with more than a minute to spare over the excellent Des Woods. Granddad McGreevey came home 7th, to win the Vet50 category (though some have said he looks a lot older – that’ll teach to shout abuse at me as I toil on the roads!), ahead of Eugene McCann who was 17th. Eugene was closely followed by the club’s newest member, Richard Bell, who not knowing the acerbic wit of Newcastle AC posted his collection of dodgy photos of the race on the website, the virtues of which were lost amid a fanfaronade by some of the more belligerent members. PJ McCrickard was 26th, Richard Cowan 31st, Anne Sandford 34th and Paul Fegan 49th.
There are now only five weeks until the beginning of the 2011 Hill and Dale Series and it promises to be another exciting season. A full preview will appear in the next few weeks.