Eddie Hanna Dominates Penultimate Race to takes 2009 Hill and Dale Series
Conditions for the penultimate in the 2009 Hill and Dale Race where perfect with dry conditions under foot, with only the odd cloud breaking the clear blue sky. The route was anti clockwise following the shoulder of Meelbeg to the summit before a decent down the Mourne Wall towards the summit of Meelmore. Then there was a very fast decent to the finish just above the style where the Ulster Way crosses the Happy Valley. From the start the pace was fast with Andrew Niblock taking the early lead but a group soon began to break away, led by Deon McNeilly, followed by Eddie Hanna, Des Woods and Stevie Cunningham. Soon Deon and Eddie where on their own having dropped Des. Eddie forced the pace all the way to summit with Deon by his side. Eddie continued to build his lead over Meelmore and on to the finish, while Des passed Deon on the decent off Meelmore to take second place.
Eddies winning time of 29 minutes 2 seconds was inside the old record set by Brian Irvine in 2000. Brian who was running, although not in the race, was quick to point out that the route he ran to set record on finished further down the valley but this didn’t make any difference to Chief Time Keeper Frank Morgan who awarded the record. As well as winning the Race and setting the new course record Eddie, in taking his 4th race win also secured the title for the Series first time.
First lady overall in 37th place was Ciara Largery running for FERMO. Mourne Runners won took the team race with 7 points from Ballymena in 2nd with 23 points. Newcastle AC could only manage 3rd with 25 points missing early session series contender David O’Flagherty and last years Series winner Alan McKibbin.
In the team event Newcastle and Mourne currently have 5 wins each which mean the team title will be down to the last race. Can the paths of Tollymore, the venue for the last race, tempt more Newcastle runners to take part? Damien Brannigan, now with ”Forest Gump” style beard, used to always be a high finisher for Newcastle and had intended to run Meelmore Meelbeg. Until that is, he heard club marathon men Paul Rodgers and Alan Stracken planned to run the Tollymore river loop on Thursday evening. The call of the forest was too great for Damien, the river loop it was.
In attendance on Thursday evening was Northern Ireland Mountain Running Associations President, Jim Patterson. While he doesn’t run the series himself he likes to support his Mourne Runners team mates and also view at first hand any impact running events may have on the environment, so that he can pass comment in open letters to both local and national press. Jim announced that on his post race environmental study of the recent Donard Forest Race he found a H&D top. Under normal circumstances Jim would keep anything he finds to wear himself but as this was an exclusive H&D top only awarded to those that finish 6 races, which he hasn’t recently, if he decided to wear the top in public it could be questioned as to how he came by the top. Jim would therefore like to return the top to it’s rightful owner if they can describe to him what it looks like, what size it is and approximately where it was lost in Donard Forest on 21 May. Jim can be contacted via the NIMRA website or at most hill running events.
The final race of the series has moved from the traditional Friday evening to Thursday due the Prodigy Concert in Donard Park on 19th June, as Donard Park is closed several days before the concert the race has also moved to Tollymore Forest.
Parking for the Tollymore Race on 18th June will be in the main Tollymore Car Park, entries will close at 19.15pm sharp.
This weeks report was brought to you by Borat who is still struggling with his English.