Locals excel at classy Antrim track meet

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The inaugural Brian Downing Memorial meeting in Antrim on Wednesday night saw several local athletes line-up alongside Irish, cross channel and competitors from a number of N.I. based, African and Middle Eastern athletes en route to the London Olympics.

Connor Bradley won a hotly contested Men’s 1,500m, his 3m 51.02s effort enough to edge out Dave Proctor from Sale Harriers in Manchester, a close up second in 3m 51.73s.

Another impressive performance from the recently crowned N.I. senior champion and one matched by Amy Jackson who clocked 2m 18.54s as she raced to victory in the U17 Girls 800m.

In the Men’s B 800m Padjo Hamilton was involved in another tight finish, his 1m 54.53s clocking netting him third spot, inches behind Lagan Valley’s Patrick Monaghan, 1m 54.02s and Finn Valley’s Mark Hoy on 1m 54.22s.

In the Boys’ U17 race Diarmuid Doherty also carried the red vest to a third place finish with a 2m 11s effort and Amy McDaid produced a PB of 2m 25.5s for fourth behind Amy Jackson in the U17 Girls two lapper.

Olympian also saw good efforts from senior sprinter John Coyle who posted an 11s dead 100m clocking in the short sprint heats and a 2m 33secs 800m from young Sean McIntyre in the combined U13 Girls and Boys race.

Busy Weekend Ahead

The weekend offers no respite from the hectic action as local athletes face into International Schools and National League track & field competition in the next two days and there is also road races on offer tonight in Letterkenny and tomorrow in Dervvock, Co. Antrim.

The Churchill 5K continues the spate of North West road races tonight. It has a 7.30 p.m. start and will expect to draw the usual good turn-out.

Tomorrow (Saturday) it’s Dervock and the Kennedy Kane McArthur Festival of Running which has a 10K, Half Marathon and full Marathon to tempt the road runners.

The action kicks-off with the 10K at 10.45 a.m. and the longer events follow at 11 a.m. so the usually quiet Antrim village looks set to reverberate to hundreds of running feet tomorrow.

The event commemorates the anniversary of Dervock born McArthur who won the Olympic Marathon back in 1924 in Stockholm, running in the colours of South Africa after emigrating there from his home place.

The races conclude a week of events linked to his magnificent achievement and with the London Games imminent, the races have received a real boost.

Schools International

Four top local juvenile athletes will be in Ashford in Kent tomorrow competing for the Irish Schools squad in the prestigious annual Schools International event.

Now in its 44th year this competition brings together the best Irish, Scots, Welsh and English schools athletes and the four locals richly deserve their selections.

Shane McGowan of St Columb’s goes in the 800m and will hope to improve on his current good form with a serious shot at a podium place; St Cecelia’s Ciara Armstrong goes in the 100m and the sprint relay, fresh from a National age group medal last week; Claire Dougherty of Lumen Christi won National Triple Jump gold last weekend and will hope to better 11m tomorrow and Jenny O’Brien gets a 300m Hurdles slot after impressing all season and also medalling last weekend in Tullamore.

She will also go in the 400m relay on the Irish squad.

Crucial National

League Fixture

On Sunday the action moves to Santry Stadium and Round Two of the National League with both Olympian and City of Derry involved in the ongoing quest for the League Final qualifying positions.

The Spartans women’s squad sit on top of the Division One rankings after the Antrim round but will miss the trio involved in the Schools International.

However they do have strength in depth and have been boosted by jumper, Mary Devlin’s recovery from injury and should have enough in the locker to secure their advancement to the Tullamore Final next month.

The smaller Olympian squad have more to do and may struggle to garner points across all the scoring events.

In the Men’s competitions Olympian are chasing a top eight qualifying spot in Division One. They lie one place off that going into this weekend’s action but will look to big inputs from such as John Coyle and Lee Barlow to push them into contention.

The Spartans are also in ninth place in the Premier Division but remain right in contention to advance.

However they will need all hands on deck to maximise their points total if a trip to the Finals next month.

Coach transport for the Spartans squads departs at 7.30 a.m. sharp on Sunday morning from the usual Xtra Vision car park on the Buncrana road. It will be a long day for both local clubs.