Stormont XC 2015

Maiden Cross-Country Victory for Lynch and Newcastle & District extend their lead at the top of the NI Cross-Country League

Stormont XC 2015Results
Race 8 of 9 of the Athletics NI Cross-Country race was the NI Civil Service Cross-Country at Stormont Estate. The course was a traditional one, 1.6 miles in length with the men doing 3 laps plus a start and finish out and back making it up to just about 5 miles. There were a few small undulations and the going was muddy in places, firmer in other and gravel through the wooded area. 173 men started the race, illustrating the popularity for cross-country that has developed only over the past couple of years, probably a lot to do with the league format, only a decade ago it would not have been unusual to see a senior men’s race with only 30 runners.

Right from the gun, Newcastle & District’s Seamie Lynch was to the fore, an early photo also showed his club mate the young schoolboy Patrick Sheridan at the front as well – the exuberance of youth – good pace for him for one lap but a wee bit fast for three. Nonetheless, Patrick dug in well and still finished strongly, setting him up nicely for the re-arranged Down Schools Championships at Delamont next Wednesday. It was a record turnout for the red & yellows including one cross-country first timer, Philip Murdock and another ‘sort-of’ first-timer Stevie Wallace, who had blown off the cobwebs two weeks earlier at the cross-country in Moira in a non-league race and so was also making his league debut. In all an amazing 21 runners from the club took the start line, guaranteeing maximum points for the participation element of the scoring.

Meanwhile, Lynch was being stocked by Springwell’s (Coleraine) Neil Johnston and being vying for 3rd was his club-mate David Steele – in his second cross-country race of the season and showing that he has so far wintered well. Great packing by his team mates followed, led by David O’Flaherty, running back into great shape, Luke McMullan, making it consecutive weekends home from London to make up the scoring team, Paul Carlin, rounding into great form now that he has lost the Viking beard-look and Ian ‘it’s a bit flat and short for me’  Bailey all making it 6 Newcastle runners home inside the top 15 and guaranteeing retention of the Stormont Cross-Country team title and maximum points in the League race. So how had nearest rivals City of Derry done?

The lads gathered in the prize giving room to avail of the host’s hospitality – after the hearty soup and fresh sandwiches of last week, belly expectations were high but soon dashed as the only fayre was tray bakes and tea and coffee – on sale – on sale? Whatever happened to ‘free’? Apparently the organisers had done a risk assessment and decided that ‘free’ at Stormont is not good and fearing being dragged before the Public Accounts Committee had decided that a £ for a crispy bun or a caramel square was what it had to be. An hour later, another risk assessment had been carried out (it’s a wonder the race got started at all) and the results were declared ready for the price giving – oops not, the team results were not ready. Nonetheless the ceremony started and there seemed to be hundreds of civil service prizes before the biggest roar of the day was reserved for Seamie Lynch and his first ever cross-country victory. Eventually, the obvious winners were declared victorious in the the team race but still no word of who had come second.

Time to pause and reflect on the overall results from the 21 runners in red and yellow:

1st Seamie Lynch                    27:14
4th David Steele                     28:22
8th David O’Flaherty 28:29
10th Luke McMullan  28:44
12th Paul Carlin                      28:57
15th Ian Bailey                       29:05
23rd Patrick Sheridan 30:00
30th Brendan Quail                30:18
34th Barry McConville           30:38
46th David McNeilly  31:37
52nd John ‘Hen’ Kelly           31:45
53rd PJ McCrickard    31:49
67th Stevie Wallace    32:45
68th Brendan Donnelly          32:51
84th Paul Byrne                      33:43
92nd Richard Rodgers            34:14
94th Ryan Quigley                  34:27
122nd Philip Murdock            36:47
125th Stephen Rice     36:58
141st Donal Ward                   38:14
144th Declan Magee   38:52

It was close to midnight (no not the start of a Michael Jackson song), it was close to midnight when the NICSSA (athletics) posted the results on-line. Within seconds it became clear that behind Newcastle & District AC’s victory, Acorn AC (Magherafelt) had stormed home in 2nd with Springwell in 3rd relegating City of Derry to 4th. Newcastle’s lead at the top of the League with one race to go has been extended from 7 points to 15 points and so with double points available at the NI & Ulster Championships in two weeks in Lurgan Park, a 4th place overall would be enough to win the League. There are 24 runners from the club registered to compete and the team will be aiming for medals and to try and bring home a historic league title.