Newcastle hit the top of the League
Just before the Bobby Rea, Newcastle AC Junior runner Eve Kenneally represented County Down in NI and Ulster even age cross-country championship, finishing 12th to qualify for the All Ireland Cross Country championship and helping County Down win Gold in the team event.
The ‘dirty dozen’ from Newcastle & District AC journeyed to University of Ulster at Jordanstown for the annual Bobby Rea Memorial Cross-Country Races. It was the second race in the Athletics NI cross-country league, two weeks after the first race at the Billy Neil Football Centre near Dundonald.
That race was the season opener, the Comber Cup, back to its traditional slot in the calendar. Defending champions, the boys just failed to retain the title coming home one point behind North Belfast Harriers in the narrowest of finishes and vowed to go one better next time out.
The Jordanstown course was flatter than in Dundonald and conditions were still firm despite recent rain with the race over 7.6km (a bit under 5 miles in old money). The field was stronger too and testament to that was that the top ten home came from 10 different clubs. Marathon specialist and now in his thirties, St Malachy’s runner Joe McAllister emerged from the pack to win from Cian O’Reilly of Analee, County Cavan, and Stephen Duncan of Omagh Harriers.
First club man home was the ever-improving Seamie Lynch, the fastest thing out of Rathfriland since the Monaghan Twins, in 10th place. Struggling in the second half of the race with a great ‘Great Dundrum 8’ still in his legs from last weekend, David O’Flaherty came home a solid 16th. David McNeilly was next man home in 22nd with Paul Carlin hot on his tail and finishing fast in 23rd.
That made the four home ‘to count’ and the total came to 71 points – would that be good enough? City of Derry packed well with their first runner just behind Newcastle’s first runner and their last runner just after the last Newcastle runner – total points 71 as well. With Newcastle’s 4th runner home first, they sneaked the title.
That’s not the whole story, 10 points for winning and then more points up to a maximum of 6 for finishing up to 12 runners. It was a real team effort with Brendan Quail 5th man in 32nd, John (Hen) Kelly 6th man in 55th, Marty Melville 7th in 69th, Pascal Toner 8th in 93rd, the Scribe in 106th, Gary Cairns 10th man in 115th, Declan Magee 11th man in 119th and Stephen Rice 12th man in 120th – making it a maximum score.
With a perfect haul of 16 points on the day, Newcastle now top the League after two races from North Belfast with North Down in 3rd – 7 races to go with the next one this weekend in Coleraine – all hands to the pump.
The other Newcastle AC representative on the day, Sam McNeilly came home a respectable 48th in the Ladies Race, where Joanne Mills, home for the weekend running for Birmingham University, ran very strongly for 2nd place behind world-ranked triathlete, Aileen Reid.