The men from the shore triumph on the mountains

Newcastle AC notes by Joe McCann

The 2012 Mountain Running roared into life on Saturday March 3rd with the Slieve Gullion race in South Armagh.  The race inaugurated a full programme of top quality fell racing which includes Northern Ireland, Irish and British Championship races and a diverse assortment of local events. The season opener, organised by Armagh AC, was 4 miles in distance and took in 1400 feet of climbing. It is one of ten events in the NI Mountain Running Association’s (NIMRA) Grand Prix Series.  Last year the race was won by Newcastle AC’s Deon McNeilly in an impressive 36:46.  He was followed home by Des Woods, Dale Mathers and Paul McAnespie. This year the evergreen McNeilly, rapidly approaching 50 years young, was once again at his imperious best and had a minute to spare over McAnespie from the host club.  My sources reveal that he shot off at the start like a nocturnal mammal from a famous Meatloaf song and left the field fighting for second place.

Deon Slieve Gullion 2012

On the exit from the forest at the 1.1 mile mark, Deon had a lead of 40 seconds on the next three Paul, David O’Flaherty and David Steele. On the descent at the same place he had increased this to a minute and with the race well and truly in the bag eased off quite a bit.  McAnespie held off the fast finishing David O’Flaherty to claim second place, while David Steele overcame Dale Mathers of Newry City Runners by the narrowest margins in the battle for 4th and 5th places.

A great day for Seasiders

In all it was a great day for Newcastle AC, who in the absence of many of the top Mourne men certainly made hay while the sun contemplated shining.  Eamon McCrickard finished 6th, Dominic ‘Mad Dog’ McGreevy was a fine 7th (despite the fact that he took a wrong turn and took the scenic route home!!!), Eugene McCann 8th and PJ McCrickard 10th ensuring that Newcastle laid claim to seven of the top 10 places, something they have been unable to do for quite a while.  Not to be overshadowed, Brian Wilson, a man usually obliterated by his wife in the hills, reversed the long-standing tables on his beloved spouse and demonstrated the benefits that undoubtedly accrue from turning up for the highly structured and well managed weekly session with a fine performance to finish a highly respectable 18th and over three minutes ahead of his better half.  Diane was allegedly asking for Newcastle’s Membership Secretary when she witnessed for the first time the progress made by her leading man.  When asked about his remarkable improvement, Brian was quick to pay tribute to those who are providing him with a well-thought-out programme, aimed at improving both his leg speed and climbing prowess commenting; ‘All the boys talk about during runs is running.  I have never met such a focused group of individuals, committed to analysing their running and using benchmarking data to bring about improvement.  I get so much advice that I sometimes cannot take it all in.  Today I am reaping the rewards and this is in no small part down to all my new clubmates, who are effervescent in their support.’  Seamus White, Bob Brown, Frank Nugent and Paul Fegan completed the scoring for Newcastle in 30th, 31st, 33rd and 51st places respectively.

The Secret of their success

TheNewcastle lads were very quick to point out that their success was firmly grounded in the strict diet of mountain running reported regularly in this column in recent weeks.  Preparation is the key to success and there have been many jaunts and excursions to the hills since the turn of the year, firstly under the watchful eye of the mild-tongued Eugene, then latterly under the stewardship of McNeilly, who is clearly a man on a mission in 2012.  It would be true to say that in recent times they have been up and down more than the Dow Jones Index!  Clearly the good work is paying off and those of us who are running on more even and less undulating terrain can only enviously applaud their efforts.  I am almost tempted to ransack the garage and scrub up my Walsh PBs!

Caira makes an early claim

In the ladies race it was the same story as last year, with Shileen O’Kane taking an early lead but eventually surrendering to Ciara Largey. Shileen, running strongly led on the way out, with Ciara a few seconds behind and Diane Wilson a few seconds further adrift. At the same point on the descent, just above the forest, Ciara had overtaken and opened up what proved to be an unassailable two minute lead over O’Kane, who was dominant in the ladies scene in 2011, which she maintained to the finish. Diane, still working to become race fit, lost further ground on the descent, finishing over two minutes behind Shileen in third place. Ciara, who has now finished the first degree stage of her medical training, is confident about competing in NI more frequently this year, which can only be good for competition and spectating.

Next Stop Glenariff

The second race of the series is next Saturday, 10th March, when athletes will face the challenge of the Glenariff Mountain Race.  Registration is at St Patrick’s Primary School in Waterfoot Village, where the race also starts and finishes.  The race is 5.9 miles and takes in 1200 feet of climbing.  Further details are available on the NIMRA website (  Last year the winner was Jonny ‘the Steede’ Steede, with Dominic McGreevy the best places for Newcastle in 13th overall.  I am reliably informed that there is a strong contingent from Newcastle going and they are confident of performing well (let’s hope they do not get a late bout of the ‘maybes’).  If Gullion is their barometer, then their optimism is grounded in reality.

The Ben Dearg 10km Road Race

Sunday 26 February saw the running of the Ben Dearg 10km Road Race in Kilclief and the surrounding environs in a race that attracted 78 athletes. Brendan Teer was the convincing winner in an impressive 33:01 and had a minute to spare over runner-up Adam Boyd who in turn was over 4 minutes ahead of the third placed athlete. The third man home was our very own Aidan ‘the Quiet Man’ Brown who posted a very respectable time of 38:21.  Aidan is running very well and showing well in races, which will serve him well when the new football season begins in the not too distant future.  He was closely followed by ‘the Prophet’ Jerome who finished 5th,dipping under the 40 minute barrier for the first time in his fledgling running career with a time of 39:33.  Rumour has it that he has struck a bet with his running brother that he will beat him by two minutes at the Leitrim 5.  Speaking from hard-learned experience, it would take a brave man to bet against the Prophet and my money rests firmly on his ability to follow through on his prediction.

Is there a ‘Prophetess’?

Unknown to all but the eagle eyed, Jerome brought his good lady, Monica, to the race and initiated her into the buzz of competing.  Monica ran very well and recorded a very good 54:23 for the 6.25 mile course.  No doubt in his soothsaying mode, Jerome had known in advance how well his ‘prophetess’ would run.

Has ‘Silky’ lost his sheen?

Kilclief’s finest son Darren ‘Silky’ Swail finished 27th in a time of 45:34.  In his long running, mostly verbal battle with his colleague and all-round good egg Declan Morgan he came a very poor second best as his colleague clocked an impressive 40:24 to finish 7th overall. The pundits are saying that it is only a matter of time before Darren’s wife Christine overtakes him and shows him the soles of her trainers.  Morgan claims that he can no longer take his one-time running mentor seriously any more and is striving to find a higher level of competition.

1:18 marks the spot

In preparation for his forthcoming assault on London on April 22, Mark Kendall travelled to Bohermeen outside Navan to compete in a relatively new half marathon.  He performed extremely well recording 1:18:50 for the 13.1 mile course and finishing 15th overall. Mark reports that he was extremely pleased with his run and commented that the course was relatively flat and fast.  He had passed through the 10 mile marker in a pacey 59:03, but slowed a little in a headwind which the athletes had to contend with in the last three miles. Well done Mark on a sterling performance that augers well for a sub-2:50 on the big day.

Stormont Cross Country Races

A day earlier two Newcastle Senior Men competed in the Northern Ireland Civil Service Championships at Stormont Estate.  In a race won by Paul Carroll in a fast time of 27:47, David McNeilly finished 21st (31:12) and Declan Magee 87th (39:19) of the 108 competitors who took the line.  Declan’s daughter Dearbhla had an impressive run in the Girls’ U15 race finishing second to Lois Hagen of Willowfield Harriers, 12 seconds outside the winner’s time of 13:08.  It was a similar story for Patrick Sherridan in the U17 Boys’ race as he finished second to Chris Connolly of St Malachy’s AC.  These were impressive performances from young athletes who will now be turning their attention to the track in anticipation of the forthcoming Schools’ events. Sarah Dougherty finished 15th in a fast and furious Primary Girls’ race where less that 30 seconds separated the top 25 athletes.  Newcastle was also represented by Aine Rice who finished 71st and is making great progress with every race.

NI and Ulster Indoor Championships

Kiara Cairns and Patrick Sheridan were the only juniors to make the journey to Magherafelt to compete in the Championships. Kiara competed in the 60m, 600m and long jump events. She finished in 21st place in a time of 2.11.07 in the 600m and 28th place in the long jump with a jump of 2.35m. Patrick competed in the 1500m race, clocking 4.55.41.

Next week

With Jimmy’s 10k less than a fortnight away, the Castlewellan Spring Lake and the Leitrim 5 shortly after, we preview these races next week and report on how the hill running fraternity fared in Glenariff.  There might even be a few yarns about those that are usually lampooned (and possibly some about those who escape unscathed each week – like Dermot McGonigle who in honour of his big 50 is coming home to have a bit of a soirée!), but who bizarrely have avoided the poison pen this week!  Be sure readers that it will not last!