LEADEN grey skies, intermittent rain and difficult underfoot conditions on a testing, undulating course, that was the challenging backdrop to Sunday’s NI/Ulster Juvenile and Novice Cross Country Championships at Fintragh Strand, Killybegs.
However, for the local Foyle Valley club there was a double golden glow as their impressive men’s and women’s squads upset the odds dramatically to snatch both novice team titles on offer.
An inspired Dolores Quinn led home the victorious Valley women’s squad in a magnificent third place and was ably supported by Rosie O’Brien 8th and Martina McMullan 10th as the Purple Vests won a tight battle from pre-race favourites, Letterkenny and Finn Valley.
The winning men’s squad was fronted by 5th placed, Scott Rankin with Cathal McLaughlin 9th, Chris McGuinness 10th and Pius McIntyre 16th as the Foyle boys on 40 points, took the title on countback from Finn Valley with Letterkenny in the bronze medal position.
Last year’s men’s team winners, City of Derry Spartans, fielding a brand new squad were a disappointing 6th, well off the pace despite a terrific individual silver medal run from teenager, JP Williamson who matched eventual winner, Connor Magill of North Belfast Harriers for all but the final lap.
The Spartans women’s team also failed to medal, finishing fourth, with the 6th placed Catherine Lilburn never getting into a serious position to challenge the leaders on the day.
However the Red Vests can take some comfort in their Juveniles performances from Girls U16 silver medallist, Aoife Laverty, U18 bronze medallist Amy Jackson and the Boys U18 quartet of Matthew Folland, Connor Doherty, Dale Kelly and Peter Melerkey who fought their way to team silver behind Finn Valley, all booking their qualifying places for the National finals.
U12 girl, Clodagh Lafferty was a terrific 4th in her race while narrowly missing the top 12 qualification spots were U14 Connor Duff, U16’s Matt Doherty and Daniel Cosgrove and U18 Tamara Boyle.
So a marvellous golden team double success for Foyle Valley keeping the men’s Novice title in the Maiden City and bridging an almost 20 year gap to their first win in this grade back in the early 1990’s, appropriately enough over the sports Complex course.
Scott Rankin as ever led from the front and wasn’t far off an individual medal in 5th at the end of the strength sapping 6K.
Cathal McLaughlin and Chris McGuinness were immense in 9th and 10th, the latter coming through the large field in the latter stages and Pius McIntyre’s vital final scoring 16th spot, just ahead of a Finn Valley runner, was crucial for the team victory on countback over their Donegal rivals.
Dolores Quinn was an equally inspirational leader in the women’s squad, her individual bronze richly deserved.
Rosie O’Brien hung in tenaciously for 8th and Martina McMullan in 10th ran a near perfect race to anchor the Valley girls success, their first ever Provincial team championship silverware and thoroughly well deserved.
The favourite, Joanne English of Letterkenny duly won the individual gold from Finn Valley’s Angela Speight, the Letterkenny athlete always out front and with a six second cushion in the end.
The Spartans scoring trio on a disappointing day were Catherine Lilburn 6th, Catherine Lagan 12th and Amy McDaid 13th for a fourth place team finish.
Dublin Success For
Meanwhile, down in Dublin at the annual Gerry Farnham cross country, which doubled as the trial race for the Irish masters squads for the upcoming Masters International, Roisin Lynch produced a terrific performance to win her F60 age group and book her place on the Irish team for Glasgow.
Jackie McGinley, already named on the NI F40 team also had a good one, fifth in her age group, taking a few quality scalps and posting a great boost to her confidence. Una Gavin was also in action and was delighted to out-run her perennial Finn Valley rival, Gloria Donaghy in the F50 category.
For the record, there was an echo of last November’s National Inter Counties championship in Gransha as the winners there, Fionuala Britton and Joe Sweeney, won again in Dublin.
Top M65 Christy McMonagle did not travel, preferring instead to finalise his Dublin marathon preparations and he still may yet get an automatic call onto the Irish Masters age group selection.