Newcastle AC Ladies Shine in the Ballyclare Mud
Torrential rain preceded the 81st running of the McConnell Shield Cross-Country Races in Ballyclare promoted by East Antrim Harriers. This made for conditions that were wet underfoot and as the afternoon developed became muddier and muddier.
It was a record day on many fronts for Newcastle AC’s fast-developing ladies team. Firstly, 6 runners took part, which is a record number for the club in the cross-country league. Secondly, Shalene McMurray came home for a podium finish with a very strong run for 2nd place (17:53) behind winner Banbridge AC’s Emma Mitchell (17:35). She was backed up by an excellent 4th place finish by Joanne Mills (18:36), who is returning to very strong form, along with Mari Troeng in 13th place (19:44). Thirdly, the three combined to win the team title, a first ever for the ladies in cross-country.
The first three home were very ably backed up by Patricia McKibbin in 35th place (21:55), Sam McNeilly in 36th place (21:57) and Rita Devlin in 44th place (22:18) – this represented very strong running by all six in a field of over 180 ladies.
Lynch continues to improve
Fresh (if that’s the right word) from the NIMRA Annual Dinner and Awards the evening (and early morning) before, Seamus Lynch has learned a lot about running the ‘right’ race over the past year. Ever-present in the leading bunch over the first mile of 5 (but importantly not trying to lead it out), Lynch was involved at the business end of the race for all of the energy-sapping muddy 5 miles. He came home for pretty much a best ever cross-country performance in 3rd (26:43) behind winner Newry’s Paddy Hamilton (26:29) and City of Derry’s Declan Reid (26:37). This secured Newcastle’s second podium of the day. Lynch is closing the gap all the time and looks like becoming a leading force on the country this winter.
The Newcastle AC Men’s Team is defending the Cross-Country League title from last season but are under real pressure now after 3 races. Having not made the ’16-runner quota’ at the first outing the Comber Cup, vital points were given up and despite closing the gap a little at the Bobby Rea Memorial race a fortnight ago were still 6 points behind Foyle Valley going into today’s race. A brilliant effort saw 22 red and yellow vests make the start and finish line to easily make the 16 quota. However, with Foyle also making the 16 quota easily it would be down to the sharp end to see if the club could close the gap. In a well-grouped finish in 26th, 27th and 30th, Paul Carlin, Marty Melville and David McNeilly made up the scoring four giving a points total of 86. City of Derry easily won with 39 points and the bad news was that Foyle Valley came home with 51 points well ahead of Newcastle AC and to rub salt into the wounds North Belfast picked up 3rd place with 81 points meaning the in the League overall after three races Newcastle lie 2nd but now 10 points behind Foyle Valley.
There is a break in the league for 4 weeks now but then 3 races in consecutive weekends in December; it will be over these weekends that it will become clearer if Newcastle is to be able to retain its title or not.
Newcastle AC Men’s Results from 81st McConnell Shield 5-mile Cross-Country
The Dolly’s Brae 7
The heavy rains and strong winds made conditions less than ideal for the Dolly’s Brae multi-terrain race. 25 brave warriors, some of whom had participated in the Ballyclare XC the previous day took to the line under the watchful eye of race director Frank Morgan. One or two others were suffering the effects of the post-Dublin Marathon banquet held the previous evening. Notwithstanding these difficulties the race set off at a fairly pedestrian pace and it was not until at least 15 metres from the start that Jack O’Hare made a decisive kick for home. Everyone else stood back, glad that he had gone and that all their bones were intact! O’Hare would storm away and win by the proverbial country mile in a fairly modest 43:24. He claimed to be running at 80%, which means we can guesstimate his actual time to be around 37 minutes if he had been full tilt!!!
Aidan Brown was second, remarkable in that he failed to start with his fellow competitors. However, he did have one of the best excuses ever proffered – I had to keep driving until the child fell asleep – a noble and altruistic reason. When he got going he scythed through the field, but alas O’Hare was just too far up the road.
Young Conor McCrickard completed the podium with an impressive display of climbing that had Wonderwall Gallagher suitably impressed. Sinead Murtagh, returning from her New York Marathon was first lady and was joined on the podium by Niamh O’Connell and Jackie Barbour.
Well done to everyone who competed for turning out on a day definitely not made for running. The organisers would like to thank everyone for their kind and generous donations in aid of the Northern Ireland Heartbeat Trust. With donations still coming in from athletes who were unable to make it, a total will be published in the next set of notes.
Next weekend is quieter on the racing front, with the Decathlon half marathon and 10k the only likely event for NAC runners to contemplate. One or two have suggested they might take in a Parkrun to keep the legs sharp in preparation for the Seeley Cup on 28th November.