REPORT 1 : You don’t have to be there to write the report: A candid view of the Slieve Gullion Fell Race from afar based on hearsay and speculation!
Newcastle AC Notes by One of the ‘Maybes’
The Northern Ireland Fell Racing season roared into life with the challenging Slieve Gullion race, a race made more difficult by the fact that the mild weather had been replaced with rain and mist. This was not enough to deter the 71 athletes who registered for the season opener in an attempt to gauge their form before the forthcoming Hill and Dale series. Preparations are at the ‘almost complete’ stage according to Series Director Marty McVeigh and his assistant Paul MacWhirt. Both men have been working tirelessly to put the finishing touches to what promises to be bigger and better than 2012 when all previous records were surpassed. Newcastle AC are also pleased to announce that in mindful recognition of the present economic decline race entries have been frozen at £7/£8 for the fourth season in a row. Online entries are now available and the organisers are encouraging athletes to register early, with the promise that a little surprise awaits all who do! Remember that registering online is free and race entries are only payable on the night for those races that runners come to.
The Slieve Gullion Race
Of course as this article is about Slieve Gullion one had better get to actually writing about it. Congratulations to Dearbhla Magee and Patrick Sheridan who in the colours of St. Malachy’s Castlewellan and St. Patrick’s Grammar Downpatrick produced fine displays in the All-Ireland Schools’ Cross Country Championships at a very cold, wet, windy and muddy University of Ulster at Jordanstown on Saturday 9th March. The cream of the crop from schools the length and breadth of the country were on parade and the quality of the racing was exceptional. Dearbhla and Patrick certainly did their club and schools proud recording 24th and 38th place finishes in the intermediate girls’ and boys’ races.
A Testing climb
Slieve Gullion, just outside Newry is a testing climb and the McGrady Financial Services Junior Cross Country Series Prize-Giving will take place on Monday 18th march in Shimna College. Athletes from Newcastle AC, East Down AC and Burren AC will assemble to receive their rewards for all of the hard work throughout a season that began back in September 2012. Brendan Teer, (East Down’s second most famous citizen after the legendary Joe Quinn!) has been confirmed as the keynote speaker and undoubtedly the achievements of this young man will be a source of inspiration to all the young men and women who are learning their craft in the athletics world.
McGreevy softens up!
Meanwhile back at Gullion Dominic McGreevy had a fine run. When asked to explain his success in finishing 13th he said that he had found a bag under the bed containing foot and hand cream and had been applying lavishly to his much maligned tootsies over the last few days. The product which rhymes with Bolton Crown was intended as a Mother’s day gift, but alas was used as a pre-race ointment by our intrepid racer. Not only did he run well, but his feet were as smooth as a billiard ball and sweet smelling. The prophet has ordered two gallons of the stuff online from the cement beg!!!
Other Club news!
Several club members attended Slieve Gullion this weekend to compete in the first round of the NIMRA Championship. The race was won by Stephen Cunningham of Mourne Runners who had a minute to spare over our newest recruit Seamus Lynch. Seamus was delighted with his first outing in a Newcastle vest and paid great tribute to all the advice and sagacious wisdom that he has received from club mentors such as Audey, ‘Hen’ to name but two in recent weeks. Seamus believes that with the continued advice proffered by the two great men will lead to great things in the Hill and Dale. Evergreen Deon McNeilly was 4th while the unrelated David McNeilly was 6th securing the imaginary team prize for Newcastle. Well done to all of the 9 Newcastle athletes who competed and set down an early season marker.
Congratulations to the Newcastle stalwart who returned home to find a large club vest on his doorstep. Obviously there were some behind the scenes discussions that led to the conclusion that the club archive would be tarnished by photos including spare tyres! The recipient of the vest was less than pleased and has vowed to buy a bacon slicer – we’ve all heard that one before. Watch this space in the coming weeks for reviews of the Leitrim 5 and Hill and Dale Series.
REPORT 2: Team win for Newcastle AC at Slieve Gullion
The 2013 Northern Ireland Mountain running session started on Saturday 9 March with Slieve Gullion. Mountain running always subject to the risks on poor weather conditions, with runners gathering in Slieve Gullion Forest Park for pre-race registration of the Armagh AC organised the signs weren’t good with the rain falling and cloud hanging low over the hill.
As race organiser Brian Valley called the 72 starters for the pre-race briefing the rain continued to fall, usual safety equipment of full water proof body cover was order on the day, as was the importance all runners checking in at the check points and finish. The race was soon underway with pre-race favourite and winner of New Year’s day Over the Glen race, Johnny Steed setting the pace followed by Newcastle AC’s Deon McNeilly and David McNeilly, as the race proceeded on to the open mountain David dropped back, Armagh Ac’s Paul McAnespie and Mourne Runners Stevie Cunningham joined Deon and Johnny stretched his lead and disappeared into the mist. The race route follows a fence to the summit ridge at which point the route turns left along the boggy ridge path to the summit. This point is critical from a navigation point of and in previous has always been marshalled, this things weren’t looking good with no marshals present to direct the runners. The trio led by Deon continued to the summit, as which point Stevie skipped of down the hill to trace the same route home, clearly confident he could find his way home by following the steady runners still climbing up the mountain.
On the descent positions changed with Paul pulling ahead of Deon and both being passed by Newcastle AC’s most promising new signing, Seamus Lynch. Fast finishing North Belfast’s Neil Carty only just failed to catch Deon and Paul on the line, David McNeilly wasn’t far behind in 6th place. Next to finish for Newcastle AC to bring home the team prize in 9th place was Colum Campbell.
What about Johnny Steed? He was clearly the first runner to finish; Brian Valley was getting excited, over 5 minutes off the course record. The excitement was short lived however; Johnny had found the missing Marshalls, unfortunately for him they were on the wrong summit and as a result he was disqualified, demonstrating the importance of knowing where you are going when running in the mountains or if you don’t know follow someone who does!
The finishing order of other Newcastle AC runners was as follows, 13th Dominic McGreevy 1st V55 , 19th Eugene McCann, 23rd Jim Patterson, 35th Brian Wilson and 57th Paul Fegan.
Next mountain race is Glenariff on 16th March.