McCormack leads by example in Irish Cross-Country running
ALL'S well that ends well. That was certainly the case for cross-country running in 2015, with Ireland’s women picking up team bronze at the European Cross Country Championships last weekend for the second consecutive year.
A new surname, McCormack, but the same Fionnuala, led by example taking the fourth individual spot to lead a hard-working Irish squad, including Down woman Kerry O’Flaherty, to third place ahead of the highly-regarded Spaniards.
Apart from that, it was very much a transitional year with several recommendations from the Athletics Ireland’s annual convention last Spring being put into effect. These included a switch of the national championships from February/March to the traditional date for the Inter-Counties at the end of November.
This meant that Maria McCambridge’s reign as national women’s champion only lasted a matter of months while in contrast Mick Clohisey was crowned national champion twice in the same year.
On the domestic scene City of Derry Spartan Declan Reed scored perhaps a unique treble winning the NI & Ulster Senior as well as provincial and national Masters’ titles. The 40-year-old outpaced his veteran rivals at Coleraine in January against a backcloth of frequent snow flurries.
He later added the Irish Masters’ crown before capping an unforgettable season by winning NI/Ulster Senior Men’s crown at Lurgan Park where he also led his City of Derry Spartans squad to a successful defence of their team title.
Finn Valley’s Teresa Doherty was the winner of the Senior women’s race dominated by North Belfast Harriers who claimed an easy victory in the team competition.
Glaslough Harrier Conor Duffy was the winner of the Ulster Intermediate/NI Junior title before going on to take the national Intermediate individual championship as well.
Springwell’s Laura Hasson lifted the equivalent women’s title after an absence of 14 years from the sport. North Belfast’s Louise Smith was the winner of female Masters’ championship.
The Antrim International Cross Country had a later date in the calendar than usual with the traditional January fixture not held until March. Both senior races were enthralling contests although with only a handful of spectators turned up to watch them.
Uganda’s Thomas Ayeko was a notable winner of the feature race with Ethiopia’s Birtukan Alemu proving strong for Britain’s Stephanie Twell in the women’s contest.
Mick Clohisey and Maria McCambridge claimed the major titles at National Inter-Club Cross Country Championships at Kilbroney Forest Park. Despite home advantage only two Ulster clubs entered teams in the event with participation figures reaching an all-time low. The pair returned in the autumn to defend those results but with mixed fortunes.
Paddy Robb won the Ulster Novice title and led his youthful St Malachy’s AC squad to a comfortable team victory. The women’s title went to Natalie Wood from the up and coming Acorns club in Magherafelt.
City of Lisburn’s James Edgar marked himself out as a star of the future by winning the provincial and all-Ireland U18 titles and Conor Moore’s Omagh Harriers continued to impress on the local as well as the national stage.
Cross-country stalwarts Finn Valley were also prominent in the autumn juvenile and Novice championships.
LETTERKENNY'S Mark English was the top Irish performer during the indoor season as the sport gained noticeably in popularity following the opening of the facility at Athlone Institute of Technology.
English capped a successful European Indoor Athletics Championships in Prague for the Irish with a fantastic silver medal in a high class 800m final. The race highlighted the UCD student’s growing acumen as a tactical racer after being back in only fifth place at the end of the first lap.
He was still a somewhat distant fifth at the halfway point but moved through the field to add the silver medal to a bronze won the previous year at the outdoor championships in Zurich.
John Travers was a surprise qualifier for the 1500m final where the Donore Harrier acquitted himself well by taking a credible seventh spot. The Irish 4 x 400m relay squad also put up a brave performance finishing sixth after being in fourth for the opening two legs.
Letterkenny’s Danny Mooney did well to qualify for the championships but was eliminated from the 1500m at the semi-final stage. His best race of the season came earlier in the season when he won the 1500m at the AAI Games to qualify for Prague.
Bellaghy man Adam McMullen was the revelation of the national championships with a long jump of 7.80m to send him rocketing to number two in the Irish all-time lists. Unfortunately, he failed to match that performance at the Euros failing to make the final with a best effort of 7.53m to finish in 17th place in the qualifiers.
Annadale Strider Paul Pollock was also in action in Prague recording a personal best in the heats of the 3000m but that only sufficed for a distant tenth place in the heats.
A sprinkling of world class athletes, some talented local performers and a first class facility was the perfect recipe for a thrilling night’s athletics at AIT arena in Athlone.
World Indoor high jump champion Mutaz Essa Barshim lived up to his star billing to breaking his own week-old Asian record with a 2.41m clearance. The Qatar athlete had three attempts at a World record height of 2.44m without success.
Things did not go quite to script for another global star Carmelita Jeter who had to settle for third spot behind US compatriot Tiana Bartaletta in a hot 60m sprint final which suffered a timing failure.
The men’s 60m was also controversial with some of the field pulling up thinking it was a false start.
Another American Ben Blankenship won the men’s mile in 3:56.76 for the first ever indoor sub-four minute clocking for the distance in Ireland.
ANYONE thinking of an enjoyable but active weekend away in 2016 should consider the Cara Bundoran Challenge sponsored by Cara Pharmacies and hosted by Tír Chonnaill AC.
With running and cycling events spread over the weekend of March 11-13, there is something for everyone looking for an energetic weekend and, at the same time, enjoy the attractions of the popular seaside resort.
The sixth Cara Bundoran Challenge was launched recently at a well-attended meeting in Bundoran. The event, the brainchild of current race director Paddy Donoghue, has grown annually and last year attracted over two thousand entries for the four races.
The action kicks off on the Friday night with a 5K run/walk that takes on the coastal path that fringes of the town. Saturday sees the 10K and 10 mile runs down for decision with the climax on Sunday being the 21K cycle time trial.
Apart from the unrivalled Donegal hospitality, all participants can expect chip timing, slick organisation and support plus top class refreshments served afterwards.
There is a special early bird offer for anyone who enters before the end of December 2015. Full details are available on-line at www.carabundoranrun.com
WHAT’S ON THIS WEEKEND
9.30am: Parkrun 5K - various venues
11am: Forest Run, Tullymore 10K - Tullymore Forest Park
11am: Jingle Bells 5K - Donegal town