History 34 years in the making at Newcastle & District AC
The NI & Ulster Senior Cross-Country Championships took place in Lurgan Park over six 2km laps on Saturday last. With the weather being drier lately the course had firmed up compared to previous outings at the venue but still had its fair share of mud and whilst the hills are not severe there is hardly a level piece of running around the lap as a whole. Under the ongoing captainship of David McNeilly, who has marshalled and rallied the troops for the length of the season, Newcastle & District AC Men’s Team had two things on their mind, one, to secure the NI Cross-Country League Title which they had led for just about all 8 races to date but with City of Derry still snapping at their heels and two, to try and secure a team medal in the Championship race itself – something that the club had not achieved since it was formed back in 1981.
Last year, the club won the NI Intermediate & Junior title at the same venue over 6 miles, repeating its one and only victory back in 1987. Could this class of 2014 move on to greater things in 2015? The race started fast and Newcastle’a leading runner Seamie Lynch hit the front and led a large group for most of the first lap – it was an effort that he was going to pay for in the later laps but demonstrates the racing confidence that he has developed over the winter. Behind the team was grouping well with six scorers (for the Championship team event) all inside the top 30.
It was 40 years since the first Senior Cross-Country title was decided in Lurgan Park and it turned out that today would be a historic day for the County Down club. City of Derry retained the Senior Title on the one-off race with North Belfast Harriers running them close. However behind the dependable Lynch, superb runs from David Steele in 17th and in the shape of his life, fast-finishing and dogged David O’Flaherty in 20th, Luke McMullan in his 4th outing of the season commuting from London and making an invaluable contribution after missing out on the scoring 6 in last year’s victory, proving hard work pays off. Next home for the red & yellows was Paul Carlin in 24th, another relative newbie, whose belief and confidence grows with each race and Ian Bailey, rapidly getting back to his best for the hill running season, making up a very tight scoring six to bring home the Championship bronze medals – the first team medals ever for Newcastle & District AC in the Senior Cross-Country Championship – congratulations.
The other title at stake was the overall cross-country league and the club wrested the title from City of Derry having had a very consistent performance throughout the winter. In the end the club’s 3rd place in Lurgan was good enough to win the league by 11points but it did go down to the wire. What is most satisfying is that while 10 points are scored for the winning team, each club can score up to a further 6 points by getting up to 12 runners home in each race. Again the red & yellows were the most consistent throughout the season. At each of the last two races more than 20 from the club took part and across the league as a whole, 47 runners from the club participated – a brilliant performance. Congratulations again to the team – the spirit and camaraderie born out of regular Tuesday evening group sessions all winter clearly brought the club home and throughout the four months of competition so many people stepped up to the call from Captain McNeilly.
Earlier in the women’s championship race there were good performances from Sam McNeilly in 26:53 in 46th place and Paulette Thomson in 29:02 in 66th. Both of these have made great progress over the winter and the club will look to build towards a full women’s cross-country team for next winter.
Newcastle & District AC finishing positions (21 finishers):
|61st||John ‘Hen’ Kelly||44:33:00|
|75th||John ‘Butcher’ Kelly||45:38:00|
Women’s Race (Newcastle positions)
46th Sam McNeilly 26:53
66th Paulette Thomson 29:02