Sport

Belfast clubs gain valuable experience at European Champion Clubs’ Cross Country in Portugal

The North Belfast Harriers of, from left, Conan McCaughey, Conal McCambridge, Matthew Lavery and Finn McNally at the European Champion Clubs’ Cross Country in Portugal
NBH The North Belfast Harriers of, from left, Conan McCaughey, Conal McCambridge, Matthew Lavery and Finn McNally at the European Champion Clubs’ Cross Country in Portugal

All seven clubs representing Ireland in the various races found the going tough in every sense at Sunday’s European Champion Clubs’ Cross Country in Portugal.

The Irish seemed to find it difficult adapting to a tough circuit comprising equally of uneven grass and concrete-hard trails.

Nevertheless Belfast clubs North Belfast Harriers and Lagan Valley, who were both making their European debuts. will come away stronger for the experience.

North Belfast Harriers, denied the services of their talisman Andrew Milligan, relied heavily on the newly-crowned NI & Ulster champion Finn McNally.

The Brighton-based athlete, shod in road-racing shoes, was in the thick of the action from the start of the 9160m contest and, although fading slightly in the later laps, came home in a more than credible 32nd place of the 114 finishers.

Matthew Lavery also had a sound run for 54th spot with Conan McCaughey completing North’s scoring trio in 79th. Conal McCambridge was 86th as North Belfast finished 18th of the 31 clubs represented, one place and seven points behind rivals Kilkenny City Harriers who also beat them in this season’s Irish championship.

“It’s a good experience but to succeed at this level you need serious, serious professional athletes,” said North team manager Seamie McCann. “

The top guys here are all professionals and there and there is serious quality in depth.”

Lagan Valley were representing Ireland in the Junior (U20) Men’s race (5620m) after winning the national team title in that age group back in November. Lughaidh Mallon, fresh from a bronze medal in the Irish Senior Indoor 1500m just seven days earlier, had another tremendous race to finish 13th. H

e was not let down either by his colleagues as Jack McCausland (29th) and Charlie Jones (31st) finished strongly to see the boys in blue grab ninth place of the 17 teams and well ahead of Clonliffe Harriers in 13th spot.

Most of the Irish interest in the Senior Women’s race (9130m) was focussed on Fionnuala McCormack who was running as an individual. The 39-year-old mother of three mixed it in the leading bunch early on before dropping back to 11th and then rallying to claim a lofty eighth at the finish line. Dublin City Harriers held down eight place in the team competition for most of the way but slipped late on to 11th of the 22 teams.

Youghal and Kilkenny City Harriers finished 9th and 10th respectively of the 14 teams in the Junior Women’s race (5620m) while Dublin City Harriers and Rathfarnham were similarly placed in the mixed relay in which only 12 teams went to the start line.

At home Donegal student Amy Greene was the winner of the women’s race at the first staging of the Dublin Inter-Varsity Cross Country at the Trinity Sports Grounds. The Finn Valley athlete was running in the colours of Dublin City University and the victory comes only two weeks after winning the National Intermediate Cross Country title in Dundalk.