International duty for local “Masters”

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LOCAL runners were prominent at both of the wekend’s big events in Belfast and Armagh, with Anne Paul yet again grabbing a podium place at Sunday’s Armagh 10 mileS road race.

Meanwhile, Keith Shields, James Brown and Jackie McGinley led the charge at Saturday’s N. Ireland Masters Open Cross Country Championships in the Queen’s University Malone Grounds as several locals clinched places on the N. I. Masters squads for next month’s International.

Super female Masters athlete, Anne Paul, did well for the runners-up spot in Armagh, clocking 64 mins. 45 secs. behind the classy North Belfast runner Breige Connolly, who posted a very impressive 60 m. 34 s. for the win. The Spartan had to work hard to hold off a strong challenge from the unattached Ruth Hill who finished just 12 seconds adrift in third.

The men’s race was won for the fourth successive year by Joe McAllister whose 50m 01s was too good for Donore Harrier, John Travers on 52m dead and third placer, James O’Hare of Annadale Striders on 53 m. 10 s.

The first big cross country meeting of the season on Saturday attracted a good turnout to the Queen’s Grounds in Belfast’s Malone area and on a bright, sunny, crisp day the two races produced some excellent action.

First off were the women and men 65 plus and their 6 kms. race included a mix of masters and others and was run over three laps of a basic 2 kms. circuit. Mainly flat, but a few sharp inclines and some heavy sections, seriously tested the runners. Non Masters filled the first three places, North Down’s Jessica Craig winning from Sperrin Harrier, Karen Alexander and St. Anne’s Patricia O’Hagen.

Alexander will be 35 before the Masters International next month and will lead the N.I. F35 squad in Stormont where Omagh Harrier Julie Butler, 5th on Saturday, will join her.

Also making the cut was Jackie McMonagle whose 11th place finish on Saturday was good enough to grab a F40 squad spot. Jackie had a strong run and had a couple of her age group rivals in her sights throughout the race. She expects to be more competitive come November 10th in Stormont where the N.I. squad will look to repeat their medal performance from Dublin two years ago.

Hannah Shields made a welcome return to cross country and despite still not quite fully recovered from her recent serious fall on Mont Blanc, she performed well to finish 3rd F45 on the day. Paula McGilloway also had a good run and has been rewarded with a reserve place in the International F45 squad where she will join the selected Bridgeen Byrne. Bridgeen was unable to race on Saturday but was selected on her previous form for the Stormont meeting.

Una Gavin finished second F50 and duly won her Stormont team spot. Una was’nt happy with her weekend run and has vowed to up the ante come November in Stormont. The top F60 on Saturday was the evergreen Roisin Lynch and she now travels to Dublin this weekend to bid for a place on the Irish F60 squad. Roisin has medalled with the Irish squad at previous Internationals and last Saturday’s run will, hopefully, have set her up for a big effort this Sunday in the Phoenix Park trial race.

Local Male “Masters”

Do Well

M65 Christy McMonagle was an easy winner of his age group on Saturday and he too will be heading to Dublin this weekend shooting for a place on the Irish squad. Like Roisin, he will take confidence in his Belfast run and will expect to be good enough this Sunday to claim a place in what could possibly be a strong Irish M65 squad, which may well also have Letterkenny’s Kevin Toner in its ranks.

The separate men’s 8 kms. race was won after a race long tussle by Omagh Harrier Stephen Duncan, who eked out a one second margin at the line, from David Morwood of Annadale Striders. The Waterside Half marathon winner sat on his Belfast rival for all but the final few hundred metres and prevailed with an extended surge to the finish line. The classy M40 duo will now front the N.I. age group squad and they will be joined by James Brown who ran exceptionally well for 6th overall to claim a first ever International vest.

The Spartan and Foyle Valley’s Keith Shields battled together for most of the 8K and over the last lap they were challenging Paul Carroll of Annadale for the fourth place spot. Shields hit the line just two seconds in front of Brown but had to settle for fifth as the wily Carroll found a little extra in the closing stages to build a five second gap on the two battling North-West runners. However these were major runs from the Foyle Valley and City of Derry men, taking them both up a level and with Shields grabbing a M35 age group squad slot, he too will make his International debut in Stormont.

Former Sparta star Donal Gallagher, now with Sperrin Harriers finished 8th and duly made the M40 Stormont squad and on Saturday night the NI Masters selectors confirmed that Declan Reed has been called into the M35 squad alongside Shields. Cathal McLaughlin will also be in Stormont after a gutsy run for 11th overall . This gave him second M45 on the day and a guaranteed run in Stormont next month, a good early return on his recent training regime.

M50 Damien McGinty made a welcome return to cross country and it proved fruitfull as his eyecatching run got him home as third age group finisher behind Lagan Valley’s Frank Sharkey and Tommy Hughes of North Belfast.

In a hotly contested age group, McGinty ran brilliantly, finishing around 30 seconds behind the top two and with Hughes committed to the Irish M50 squad, his selection was a no brainer.

Declan McCarthy finished seventh M50 and has been named as reserve on the squad for Stormont. The local acountant started very cautiously and came through the field in the middle stages but in a very competitive group could’nt quite get in a challange to the leading six.

M65 Gerry Lynch had hoped to make a long awaited return to competitive action last weekend but these hopes were dashed by yet another injury. However, he has been named as reserve on the M65 squad and may yet get to line-out next month.

So another significant local input confirmed to the annual Masters International and more expected to be added after this weekend’s Irish trials. Eight athletes confirmed on the Northern Ireland squads, three reserves also named and with Roisin Lynch and Christy McMonagle expected to win Irish squad selections, its all looking good on the local front.

Primary Schools’ Cross

Country League this

Friday

Staying with cross country nd moving down in the age category, it’s the first round of the North-West Primary Schools’ Cross Country League this Friday at lunchtime at the Templemore Sports Complex.

Over a dozen local schools are expected to participate in this popular three round event which introduces P5, P6 and P7 pupils to the joys of cross country running.

Three separate races are scheduled for this weekend at 12.00 noon, 12.15 p.m. and 12.30 p.m. The common distance is 1 km. and details can be obtained from heather@athleticsni.org