Can McNeilly make it 10 wins on Donard as the Irish Championship begins in Newcastle?
The annual Slieve Donard race, the opening round of the Irish Mountain Running Championship will start at 2.00pm on Saturday 5thMay at the Newcastle Centre, with the leaders returning to the Newcastle around 2.55pm. Amazingly within one hour the leading athletes will have climbed the 852 metres to the summit and returned to the point from whence they came. The first race was held in 1945 and 32 different runners have added their name to the illustrious list of winners; Stephen Cunningham set the current record (beginning and ending at the Newcastle Centre) when winning for the first time in 2010 in 54:33. Last year Des Woods was first home in 55:28, over a minute clear of Jonny Steede, who many believe has a great chance this year in light of his stunning performances to date in the Hill and Dale series.
Newcastle’s Deon McNeilly, with an amazing tally of 9 victories and numerous minor placings remains the most successful competitor in the race’s long history. 2012 will witness the 68th running of the race which starts at the Newcastle Centre. The course follows along the main street with free route choice to the summit and any route back to Newcastle Centre.
So what of the main northern contenders for the title this year? If form is any barometer then Steede, fresh from his outstanding series victory in the opening Hill and Dale races will be the man to beat. However Stephen Cunningham, despite not competing much in recent times, is believed to be in training for this one and a second successive title is not beyond him. The definite absence of Woods through injury certainly opens the door for other athletes.
As the race marks the beginning of the Irish Championship we can expect a strong contingent of IMRA runners looking to establish an early foothold. Among these Brian Furey, the Irish champion in both 2010 and 2011 is the most serious contender, but there are other equally serious contenders in Bernard Fortune, Tom Blackburn and Peter O’Farrell, all of whom have enjoyed considerable success recently. It will be interesting to see the best of IMRA line up against the best of NIMRA to tackle the steep climb and sharp descent.
Host club and race organisers, Newcastle’s hopes of adding to their considerable roll of honour lie with McNeilly who is still as hungry as ever for the ultimate glory of a tenth title to supplement his existing magnificent nine. Andrew Annett who improved from 17th in 2010 to 3rd in 2011 cannot be ruled out and Andy Niblock, David O’Flaherty and Neil Carty (who will probably aim for his usual 2nd!!!) cannot be discounted either and all have given good accounts of themselves in recent weeks. While it is unlikely the Gary Bailey will have the climbing prowess to compete with the top men, he is always a good each way bet for the fastest descent and a joy to watch as he throws caution to the wind and drops like a stone. My outside bet for a top 5 is Ian Bailey; a recent addition to the Newcastle ranks. This man is a phenomenal climber and if he can hang in on the descent he will do very well.
Shileen O’Kane, revelling in unprecedented success in the last 2 years will be a strong female favourite. However she cannot expect to have it all her own way and others like Diane Wilson, Anne Sandford and Ciara Largey possess the ability over the longer race to worry theLaganValleystar.
The race is a tremendous spectacle with stunning views of the mountain (weather permitting!!) as the runners tackle the challenge. So bring you binoculars and come down to the Newcastle centre where there will be a lively atmosphere, live music by Finbarr Keaveney and no doubt plenty of commentary from the Newcastle AC pundits!
Family Fun Challenge
The occasion will be all the more spectacular this year with the addition of the Family Fun Challenge which will begin around 2:10pm. Registration will be in the Newcastle Centre from 1:00pm. Entry fee is a donation of at least £2 per person or £5 for a family. All proceeds are in aid of the great work done at Mary Murray House which cares for adults with complex and profound learning needs and physical disabilities. Entrants can run or walk the marshaled route. Young children under Primary 5 must be accompanied by an adult at all times on the route. All other children must have an adult at the start and finish line. Children cannot be left unsupervised at any time. Dogs are not allowed. Everyone who completes the challenge will receive an ice-cream voucher for Maud’s entitling them to a large Ice Cream for the price of a Small one.
2011 Top 10 Results
|Finish Position||Finish Time||Name||Category||Club||Summit Time||Summit Position||Descent Time|
|1||00:55:28||Des Woods||V40||Mourne Runners||00:37:40||1||17:48|
|2||00:57:45||Jonny Steede||MO||Ballymena Runners||00:39:40||3||18:05|
|3||00:58:33||Andrew Annett||MJ||Mourne Runners||00:39:29||2||19:04|
|4||00:59:03||Andrew Niblock||MO||Mourne Runners||00:40:24||4||18:39|
|5||00:59:29||Stephen Cunningham||MO||Mourne Runners||00:41:10||7||18:19|
|6||01:00:17||Neil Carty||V40||North Belfast Hatrriers||00:40:28||5||19:49|
|7||01:01:20||David McNeilly||MO||Newcastle AC||00:41:29||8||19:51|
|8||01:01:42||Deon McNeilly||V45||Newcastle AC||00:40:55||6||20:47|
|9||01:03:26||Clive Bailey||V35||Mourne Runners||00:43:42||10||19:44|
|10||01:03:40||Brendan Quail||MO||Newcastle AC||00:44:05||13||19:3|