DECLAN REED’S perfectly paced run took him to an impressive individual Malcolm Cup Cross Country success last Saturday in Ballyclare and with excellent support from Greg Roberts (3rd) Emmett McGinty (5th) and an eye catching breakthrough effort from the 7th placed Noel Logan, the Spartans added the team honours, comfortably ahead of Willowfield and North Belfast Harriers.
In unseasonly benign weather conditions and over a firm dry course, local runners were prominent in both the two major races of the afternoon, the three miles Horwill Cup for women and masters and the featured Malcolm Cup Four Miler.
In addition to the superb Malcolm Cup individual and team ‘double,’ there were masters age group wins for M50 Damien McGinty and M65 Christy McMonagle plus highly significant runs from Paul McCafferty, 4th overall in the masters race and a similar finish for Marina Campbell in the women’s race.
Foyle Valleys impressive Dolores Quinn also caught the eye with a 5th place finish in the women’s event and her club mate, Cathal McLaughlin, looked good for 6th in the masters.
Back to the Malcolm Cup and Declan Reed’s terrific performance. The Spartan showed he has fully recovered from his recent Dublin Marathon exertions where he ran a 2 hrs 29 mins PB as he trailed track star, Gareth Hill of Ballymena and Antrim, for the first three of the one mile laps. Hill’s initial 100 metres advantage was eroded steadily by the Spartan and as they took the bell, Hill succumbed to the pressure and dropped out of the contest, allowing the ‘red vest’ to stride home unchallenged for a brilliant victory.
With pole position secured, the battle was on for the next three scoring City of Derry places and Greg Roberts, another Dublin Marathon participant, was working hard and only surrendered the runners-up spot late on, to the fast finishing Willowfield U20 Ryan Holt.
North Belfast’s Alan O’Hara got clear of Emmett McGinty in a dash for the line to snatch fourth place by three seconds and the battling Noel Logan lost out in a photo finish to St Malachy’s Michael McKillop, both given the same time but the Belfast man getting the nod for sixth.
The Spartans collective total of 16 points gave them the team win well ahead of Willowfield on 51 and North Belfast with 69. North Down were next on 101, Foyle Valley 5th on 114 with Pius McIntyre 14th and Scott Rankin 22nd leading them home and Larne AC completed the top six teams with 121 points.
Athlete and coach, Colin Roberts was a good 8th, just behind Logan and McKillop, Richard Johnston, back in the red vest was 13th and Cathal Logue in 19th completed the local athletes inside the top twenty as almost eighty finishers were recorded.
Masters and Women Do Well
Promoting club, Annadale Striders, supplied the top two masters finishers in the Horwill Cup three miler, Paul Carroll and Mark Wright and North Belfast’s Neil Carty was third.
This trio got away early in the race leaving Paul McCafferty ploughing a long and lonely furrow as he maintained fourth spot almost all of the three miles. He stuck to his task tenaciously and no one got close enough to threaten his doughty effort.
Cathal McLaughlin was sixth with a strong effort and not far behind was a quartet of red vests as Eoghan Furey 9th, Sean Laverty 10th, Damien McGinty 11th and Dermot Connolly 13th finished in close order.
Christy McMonagle impressed with another M65 victory and Damien McGinty took the M50 honours with Dermot Connolly runner up in that age group. Eoghan Furey was second M35 and Sean Laverty second M45, underlining the local masters quality in the various age categories.
North Down’s Jessica Craig was a clear women’s race winner ahead of Beechmount Harrier Lorna Fitzpatrick with St. Peters A.C.‘s Patricia O’Hagan a close-up third.
Behind them were Marina Campbell, still getting over her Dublin Marathon heroics and putting in a typical gritty run to hold off Dolores Quinn and North Down’s Stephanie Hambling.
Catherine Lilburn didn’t really catch fire until the final lap and came through well for 10th as a good representation of local female runners turned out.
National Honours Weekend Target
The Curragh Racecourse in Kildare stages the National Novice Cross Country and Uneven Juvenile Championships this Sunday and there will be a sizeable local interest.
The Spartans have athletes qualified from the recent Ulster Championships at U13, 15 and 17 age groups and will travel with quiet confidence in their young talent. Amy Jackson leads the Girls U17 squad and Shane McGowan fronts the Boys U 17 team. At U15 level Aoife Laverty will line up and Mark McCloskey makes his National championship debut at U13 level.
The ‘red vests’ will contest both the men’s and women’s Novice races with Connor Bradley fronting the male squad. Marina Campbell will be a loss for the women’s squad who will now look to a big run from the in form Jackie McGinley.
Foyle Valley will contribute athletes to the composite County Derry squad who will fancy a shot at inter-county honours. The Spartans have blazed a successful trail at these Championships in recent years and with a bit of luck and a big effort 2011 could produce positive results once again.
Primary Schools’ Cross Country
The second round of the local Primary Schools’ Cross Country League was successfully staged at St. Columb’s Park on Friday last with in the region of 300 participants across the three race programme.
Primary 5, 6 and 7 pupils take part in the league and to date 15 local primary schools have been involved.
Teachers, parents and family members turned out in force to encourage the young athletes and all agreed that it was a truly inspiring event with all the runners giving it their all.
Run, for the most part, in dry conditions the course was a combination of track, pathway and grass with the testing climbs and declines in the grassy “bowl” area the most difficult section.
However, all athletes completed the course without any serious problems and they will now move onto the third and final race which is scheduled for the Templemore Sports Complex on January 21st next, following which the top three school teams and the best five individuals outside the successful teams will proceed to the N. Ireland Finals in Mallusk in mid-February.
Full results will appear in Friday’s edition of the “Derry Journal.”