Historic Day in Lurgan Park for Newcastle & District AC
Newcastle & District AC went to Lurgan Park on Saturday for the Northern Ireland & Ulster Cross-Country Championships full of expectation for successful outings in both the women’s and men’s race – the outcome was a best ever day on the country for the club in its 35 year history.
Senior Women’s 6k
First up was Shalene McMurray, winner three weeks ago in the Northern Ireland and Ulster Intermediate Cross-Country at Coleraine. As she did that day she set off in Lurgan with clear intent – after the initial quarter mile as they passed the ‘3 laps to go’ point she had already established a 10 metre lead over the rest of the field and she literally never looked back pulling away to win by nearly a minute. A fantastic achievement McMurray who has been putting in her first ever serious cross-county season and in winning the title emulates her club mate Kerry O’Flaherty who won the title back in 2008.
McMurray was well-supported by her team mates – Mari Troeng in 17th, Rita Devlin in 51st and Paulette Thomson in 62nd – with the team finishing in 8th place overall.
1 Shalene McMurray Newcastle & District AC 00:23:07
2 Gerrie Short Beechmount Harriers 00:24:01
3 Rebecca Henderson Dromore AC 00:24:10
17 Mari Troeng Newcastle & District AC 00:25:41
51 Rita Devlin Newcastle & District AC 00:28:49
62 Paulette Thomson Newcastle & District AC 00:29:29
Senior Men’s 12k
David McNeilly came into the club almost a decade ago declaring that he would like to be part of a Newcastle team that would win the junior/intermediate title on the cross-country. However, it was not an easy goal to realise and a few very lean years followed with the club not even fielding a team. McNeilly has been the club cross-country captain for over three years now and he has steered, encouraged and pressurised individuals and gelled them into a team that after finishing last in the junior/intermediate in 2013 went on to emulate the 1986 club-winning team to bring home the junior/intermediate title in Lurgan Park in 2014 and then to win the NI Cross-Country League in 2015 with a bronze team medal at the NI & Ulster Senior Cross-Country Championships in Lurgan Park a year ago.
The team arrived knowing that its strength in depth was the best it probably had ever been. Seamy Lynch was in the leading bunch from the off and covered every move until Spain-based City of Derry’s Aaron Doherty made a decisive break in the 4th lap of 6. Lynch gamely held on as the course continued to cut up such that by lap 6 there was mud everywhere and then more mud. Lynch came home in a brilliant 3rd place in 40:42 to secure individual bronze and arguably his best race ever.
Eoghan Totten who achieved 31:09 for 10,000m on the track nearly three years ago has had a difficult time since then. However, his natural talent is never in doubt and while in Lurgan he struggled with the early pace, he relentlessly pushed on and on to come through to an excellent 4th place only 7 seconds behind Lynch in the end. Maybe this will be the launch pad for him to make real progress going forward over 5k and 10k. New club recruit Ian Whiteside is exiled to Edinburgh (not really a bad thing) but is a regular visitor to the Mournes for racing and training with his new club mates. Whiteside had a brilliant run to come home in 6th place in 41:13.
Proving the strength in depth, David O’Flaherty made it a 4th scorer for the club in the top 10 coming home in 9th place in 41:33 – again making big progress in the second half of the race. 21st last year and with his pre-Christmas form indicating a top-30 would be a struggle, he has put in 7 weeks of consistent training and the results are dramatic with this representing his best ever race by a long way – with much more to come. 5th scorer was another new recruit David Simpson. Simpson had been talking with the club Chair (both old club mates from WIllowfield Harriers nearly 20 years ago lol) about joining the club for years and this winter he finally ‘bit the bullet’. Simpson’s fitness has been improving over recent weeks and ran superbly well to come home in 13th place in 42:09. Final scorer on the team was David Steele in 21st place in 43:30. Steele doubted his form before the race but clearly had no cause to – he ran out of his skin to come home strongly and secure the victory for the red & yellows.
As all know, it’s not just the 6 scorers that matter but the runner than finish in 7th , 8th and so on can help push the scores of rival clubs higher. David McNeilly was 7th man home in 26th in 44:19 and although a little disappointed not to make it into the top 6 was absolutely delighted that the team scored the victory. Fast improving Aidy Brown (heading to the London Marathon in March) came home a brilliant 27th in 44:26 in what was again a ‘best race ever’ for another clubman. Paul Carlin has been struggling with injury but still was 9th man home in 35th in 44:54 with Marty Melville next home in 43rd in 45:25 (another man who has made massive progress over the past 9 months). He was followed by Rathfriland’s finest, David Hicks, running strongly for 58th in 46:51 with Colum Campbell hot on his tail in 59th in 45:53 to cap off a really good season for him too.
Behind that was Patrick Higgins who pulled out all the stops to make it to Lurgan Park from morning work and ran solidly to finish in 65th in 47:40. PJ McCrickard, hot from his maiden horse race victory in Ayr this week, ran solidly for 89th (50:00) with Eugene McCann just missing out on the top 100 (101st in 51:26).
Afterwards cross-country captain McNeilly commented, “what a historic day for the club. After almost 35 years in existence we have now reached the pinnacle of the local cross-country scene. Three years ago we were last team home in the intermediate championship race and now three years on we have won the ‘premier league’ title for the first time in the club’s history. Thanks to 40 or so runners who supported us in the cross-country league when we won last year and this year where it looks like we will finish in 2nd place – the team camaraderie has been fantastic. We look forward to returning to defend the NI & Ulster cross-country title this time next year”.
1 Aaron Doherty City Of Derry Spartans 00:40:24
2 Mark McKinstry North Belfast Harriers 00:40:28
3 Seamus Lynch Newcastle & District AC 00:40:42
4 Eoghan Totten Newcastle & District AC 00:40:49
6 Iain Whiteside Newcastle & District AC 00:41:13
9 David O’Flaherty Newcastle & District AC 00:41:33
13 David Simpson Newcastle & District AC 00:42:09
21 David Steele Newcastle & District AC 00:43:30
26 David McNeilly Newcastle & District AC 00:44:19
27 Aidan Brown Newcastle & District AC 00:44:26
35 Paul Carlin Newcastle & District AC 00:44:54
43 Martin Melville Newcastle & District AC 00:45:25
58 David Hicks Newcastle & District AC 00:46:51
59 Colum Campbell Newcastle & District AC 00:46:53
65 Patrick Higgins Newcastle & District AC 00:47:40
89 PJ McCrickard Newcastle & District AC 00:50:00
98 Richard Rodgers Newcastle & District AC 00:51:06
101 Eugene McCann Newcastle & District AC 00:51:26
DNF Paul Fitzpatrick Newcastle & District AC
1st Newcastle & District AC 56
2nd North Belfast Harriers 71
3rd City of Derry Spartans 137
4th Foyle Valley AC 186
5th North Down AC 255
6th Inishowen AC 312
7th Acorns AC 378
8th Willowfield Harriers 395
9th Ballydrain Harriers 494
10th East Down AC 544
11th Orangegrove AC 598