There were significant runs from the North West contingent at a very muddy and cold Ratoath in Co. Meath on Sunday at the Senior Inter Counties Championship races.
And it was top Dublin athletes Joe Sweeney and Ava Hutchinson who swept to impressive individual wins.
Declan Reed led the Derry senior men’s squad, comprising both City of Derry Spartans and Foyle Valley athletes to the Inter County B grade team gold, and Letterkenny AC athlete Christopher Johnston surpassed expectations with a very impressive Men’s U23 individual victory.
In the supporting Juvenile championships Aoife Laverty’s effort got her Provincial team bronze with the Ulster U16 girls’ squad.
Christopher Johnston’s excellent run for 14th overall saw the Donegal man step up a gear to take the U23 title and surely confirm his place on the Irish team for next month’s European championships.
A big performance indeed as he becomes the latest International in the North West.
Joe Sweeney, the man with Dungiven connections was supreme in comfortably winning his third successive senior Inter Counties individual title, a sequence which began in 2010 on the snow bound Gransha Grounds.
Clearly ‘Big Joe’ has no problems with extremes of underfoot conditions as he went clear in the latter stages of the 10K race to win from Michael Mulhare of Laois and Sean Hehir of Clare.
The local interest was focussed on the Derry men’s squad’s attempt to win the B grade Inter County team title and they duly obliged, finishing 6th county team overall and claiming the targeted B category gold medals.
Led by the experienced Declan Reed the seven strong local squad fought all the way to overcome both the conditions and the opposition, for a well deserved and convincing win.
Reed battled heroically for 32nd and was followed home in 46th by a determined Emmett McGinty and their strong running encouraged those behind to keep close order in the medals race.
James Brown, Chris McGuinness and Pius McIntyre ran a smart race, staying together for most of the distance and finished in tight order, 61st, 65th and 66th to backbone the team challenge.
Scott Rankin found the mud a major problem but the Joe Seeley 10K bronze medallist from the previous week, nevertheless hung in for 77th, more than good enough to clinch Inter County team gold for the combined Spartans/Foyle Valley squad.
Gary Slevin stepped in late for the Oak Leaf squad to cover the missing Noel Logan, Keith Shields and Paddy Doherty and should be happy enough with finishing just outside the top 100 in such difficult conditions. Well done to all concerned, mission accomplished!
In the U14 girls race Aoife Laverty found the trying conditions tough but her 18th place finish contributed significantly to her Ulster squad’s well deserved Provincial team bronze medals.
Spartans clubmate Amy Jackson finished 15th in her classy girls U18 championship, the conditions again a negative here and she was unlucky that her Ulster squad just were not strong enough to get into the top three.
Antrim just failed to end Dublin’s domination of the Inter County team title after a dramatic struggle.
Both squads finished tied on 93 points in the six to score contest but Dublin held on to their title on count back, their final scorer placing 27th, a mere two places in front of Antrim’s Jarlath Falls who was 29th.
Terrific up front running from Stephen Scullion 5th, Joe McAlister 6th and Eddie McGinley 7th were not enough to compensate for Paul Pollock’s disappointing 22nd place finish, well below expectations if not entirely unexpected given his heavy race schedule in the past few months.
Cross Country Dominates
Cross Country continues to dominate the next few weeks race action with Ballyclare this Saturday hosting the annual Malcolm Cup promotion, an important Athletics NI winter League scoring race; Friday, December 7th it’s St. Columb’s Park and round two of the local Primary Schools cross country league; on Sunday, December 10th it’s the National Novice championship in Wexford and then on Saturday 15th it’s home to Gransha and the annual North West cross country meting with races for U13s, U15s, U17s and the main event, the Open 6K which is also an ANI and NI Masters League scoring event.
Finally mention of next year’s Walled City Marathon, an early June 2013, City of Culture event.
Details are due to be released this Wednesday evening at the Tower Hotel and no doubt the local distance running fraternity will be there in numbers to get all the low down.