LOCAL runners were prominent at last Saturday’s N. Ireland/Ulster Juvenile Cross Country Championships and Bobby Rea Open Races, staged in sunny and dry Kilbroney Park, Rostrevor, County Down.
And with nine age group qualifiers for next month’s All-Ireland Championships and team success for both the male and female City of Derry Spartans senior squads, local athletes have opened the Cross Country League in fine style.
Indeed, the long trip to Rostrevor was richly rewarded as the Spartans kept the local flag flying with an array of impressive early season performances. Amy Jackson grabbed individual bronze in a competitive Girls Under-18 race; the Laverty siblings, Cara U10, Clodagh U14 and Aoife U16 all comfortably qualified in their age groups; Kyle O’Reilly and Mary Kate Byrne came through in the U12’s and Mark McCloskey U14, Matt Doherty U16 and Michael Melarkey U18 completed the qualifiers for Ratoath, Co.Meath, next month.
After the 10 underage championship races, the action switched to the male and female Bobby Rea Open Races which both attracted top quality fields as clubs went in search of valuable first round points in the new season’s ANI Cross Country League.
First up were the women and the male masters over-60, who tackled a testing 5 kms. course. The female Spartans did very well to finish second team behind defending champions North Down A.C. and with 10 finishers they added some precious bonus points to their league challenge.
Dromore’s in form Julie Turley won a good battle with Gladys Ganiel of North Belfast Harriers at the head of affairs as Catherine Whoriskey in an excellent sixth place, led home the ‘red vests.’
Catherine was followed by Jackie McGinley who was the first F40 finisher in ninth overall; Hannah Shields looked good for 12th and was backed up by Amy McDaid 16th and birthday girl, Sarah Mahon in 17th.
Ciara Fraser, Paula McGilloway, Una Gavin, Bridgeen Canavan and Grainne Kearns completed the ‘red vests’ finishers and subject to official confirmation, the local squad have taken a narrow one point lead in the League.
Ballymena and Antrim athlete, Jarlath Falls, won an exciting men’s 8 kms. from Willowfield’s Ryan Holt and David Morwood of Annadale Striders but the team battle was between the Spartans and defending league champions, North Belfast Harriers.
The Spartans were missing many front liners but superbly led by Emmet McGinty (8th) and Cathal Logue (9th) they battled all the way to eke out a narrow two points team win from North Belfast
McGinty and Logue were chasing a top 10 finish from the off and dug in well to finish strong and inside the target. Behind them new recruit Christopher McPeake and his training partner, teenager Connor Doherty, workrd hard for 19th and 26th and this quartet combined to post a 62 points total, just two ahead of their Belfast rivals with East Down A.C. back in third spot.
Gavin Stevenson, Dara Furey, Ruari Harrigan, in his first cross country race and the tenacious Peter Lilburn, completed the scorers for the locals and again, subject to confirmation, the Spartans top the men’s league table and alongside their female counterparts will travel this coming Saturday to the McConnell Shield meeting in Ballyclare for the second round race.
Also in action in Rostrevor was Christy McMonagle who went in the 5 kms. race. A bad day at the office for the super vet who clearly had not fully shaken the previous weekend’s stomach bug and he trailed some athletes he usually leaves well behind.
However, he should be fighting fit for the Masters International in Belfast on November 10th.