By Muddy Fields
They say that ignorance is bliss and that was certainly the case on Saturday when the by now usual ritual of gathering up of athletic gladiators at the rendezvous point of the Upper Square in Castlewellan steeling them for the battle that lay ahead at the MUSA in Cookstown in the Acorns AC promoted Cross Country. It was a damp and dreary scene as the roll call of the assembled took place; all that were going were there. Some of those in the posse were aware of what lay ahead thanks to some inside information from Barra Best and kept this to themselves for fear of withdrawals as we needed to keep the pressure on the league leaders Foyle Valley. The whereabouts of the recently elected Soothsayer General AKA The Prophet was explained away with the response “he foretold these conditions that’s why he is not here” Information on the course conditions filtered through to the “roadies” who heard that gritting/salting operations did not take place on the course and a hastily convened Risk Assessment meeting took place and outcome was they would not be travelling, so The Boys of the Black Stuff would not be The Boys on The White Stuff. With reports of the Glenshane Pass closed due to snow would Foyle Valley’s team be depleted enough for Newcastle to make up some ground? In order to shorten the journey Hen decided to play spot the snowplough and when he was approaching double figures by the time he entered Clonoe it became obvious that today would be no “parkrun”. On arrival at the MUSA we found 3 inches of snow had fallen on top of the biblical amounts of rainfall experienced by communities west of the Bann previously in the week. A recipe for a bone chilling mudfest and so it came to pass and the proof was in the running where the mud was not ankle deep but calf deep in places. Although JP Mc Manus AKA PJ McCrickard was not there to make a qualified assessment of the going it was fair to say that not even “soft to yielding“ would come close to describing it.
Newcastle managed to travel with a men’s squad of fifteen and a ladies squad of three and that mens squad consisted of nine new personnel from the fourteen that represented the club at the Malcolm Cup in Ballyclare. The squad rotational system employed by cross country captain David McNeilly is reducing the demand on members in this busy time coming up to Christmas where three cross country events are fixtured in successive weeks.
The ladies commenced the involvement of the Newcastle AC contingent at the by now the usual type of venue for cross country a location with numerous playing fields and running around their perimeter. Leading the Newcastle Ladies home was Mari Treong in 6th place in a time of 23:30 following by Rita Devlin who had a strong run in 26:09 which gave her 14th place and backed up by Sam McNeilly finishing in 18th in a time of 26:28. A massive well done to the ladies in extremely testing conditions.
By the time the ladies race was completed the course was a bit worse for wear but with approximately 110 runners toeing the line it was going to get much better underfoot. A quick headcount of Foyle Valley runners came with the news that they had a full complement of 16 runners the snowploughs that Hen spotted did not do us any favours in our quest to retain the league title as they opened up the Glenshane Pass as Foyle valley had arrived and arrived in strength.
The imperious Seamus Lynch revelled in the snow and mud taking first place ahead of Scott Rankin of Foyle Valley to add to the Malcolm Cup last week in a time of 30:13 for the five mile course.
Martin Melville was second Newcastle man home in 12th place just ahead of Paul Carlin in 13th next up saw the battle of the Davids – O’Flaherty and Hicks with O’Flaherty getting the nod over Hicks in 18th and 20th position respectively followed directly behind by Aidan Brown in 21st more close packing saw Patrick Higgins, Colum Campbell and John Kelly cross the finish line in 24th 26th and 31st places. Paul Byrne posted a 44th place finish and vowed never to complain again about the hill on the Comber Cup course
Steady runs from Eugene McCann and Andy McMurray saw them reach the welcome sight of the marshal directing them to the timing mat for a 52nd and 56th place position.
Next to complete the by then rotovated course was the three domestiques that travelled Gary Cairns in 90th place and first Annsborian home, Declan Magee in 96th with second Annsborian home Declan Rice in 97th. Missing stalwart domestique Stevie Rice was engaged in some extra “door work” in the run up to the festive season and was last seen canting a phrase “Sorry not today Lads”
Newcastle packed well with eight runners in the top 30 and Foyle Valley having five runners in the top 30, with this Newcastle won the team prize by one point from Foyle Valley.
Next week sees the Red and Yellow clad crew head deep into enemy territory with the final 2015 cross country event in the Athletics NI League taking place in the grounds of the old Gransha Hospital in the Maiden City a full squad is needed to maintain the pressure on our rivals and set us up well for the post Christmas events. Here’s hoping for firmer ground next week and a mild dry day. Barra/The Prophet – What’s the chances?