As we face an indeterminate period when there will be no organised sport, it is worth looking back 100 years to 1920 when sportsmen and women were getting back into competition after a hiatus of six years due to the First World War, writes Malcolm McCausland. Of the 60 million soldiers who fought in the Great War, over 9 million were killed, or to put it another way, 14% of the combat troops or 6,000 dead soldiers per day.

Anton Hegarty who was Northern champion 100 years ago – he is to be the subject of a biography to be published later this year

Over 200,000 men from Ireland fought in the war, both in Gallipoli and the Western Front. About 30,000 serving in Irish regiments died but including those Irish men in British regiments, the total fatalities from this island approached 50,000. Spanish ‘Flu which struck the men in the trenches harder than the ordinary population on account of the conditions in which they were living, poor hygiene and no sanitation. This contributed significantly to the total particularly in 1918, the final year of the war.

Many well-known sportsmen died during the hostilities. Notable among these was Ramelton-born Dave Gallaher, captain of the All-Blacks during their tour of the British Isles in 1905, who succumbed to a head wound at the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. Rugby seemed to suffer more than most with nine Irish internationals also never returning to their native land.

Irish League side Derry Celtic lost its David Beckham of the day. Barney Donaghey was the star attraction of the team based at Celtic Park, then a soccer ground. Barney Donaghey had played for Manchester United, Burnley, and a host of Irish clubs, and he made one appearance for the Irish international team, before returning to his home town club.

He quickly settled back into the Celtic team and, despite standing only 5ft 4in (1.63m) and weighing just 10 stone (63kgs), was a tricky player whom opponents found hard to tackle. He joined up in 1914 at the start of the Great War despite having a wife and four young children. He lost his life in the mud and chaos of the Somme on July 1, 1916. His body was never found

Diamond War Memorial
Barney Donaghey’s name is on the Diamond War Memorial but is almost forgotten in his home town

In athletics France’s Jean Bouin, a silver medallist over 5000m in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, his duel with Finland’s Hannes Kolehmainen is still regarded as one of the classics in athletics history, died as a consequence of what would nowadays be called friendly fire.

Germany’s Hanns Braun, a medallist in both 1908 and 1912 Games, was a fighter pilot and died when shot down over France. He could well have been the German pilot who was depicted in the recent film 1917. He and Bouin were just two of seven athletics Olympics medallists who never came home, much less pulled on a spiked shoe.

In the absence of a large percentage of the male population, even in Ireland where there was no conscription, and at a time when there was no significant participation in sport by females, most athletics clubs struggled to maintain any level of normality.  The Irish championships, both track and field as well as cross country had been suspended from 1914; what clubs who struggled on could only organise a Saturday afternoon pack run when numbers permitted.

It was like a new dawn when hostilities finally came to a conclusion in November 1918 but it was not until early 1920 that the athletics authorities managed to restore organised competitions. The Northern Cross Country Championship in Belvoir Park at the end of February, 1920 marked the end of a six year gap and attracted a huge entry and a good crowd of spectators.

Anton Hegarty was the convincing of the race, the 27-year-old Derry man simply running away from the opposition. He had only taken up running whilst serving with the Inniskilling Fusiliers in India but found he was a natural, leading the Skins 1st battalion to success in inter-regiment competitions in 1913 and 1914. Albertville Harriers filled the next three places in Belvoir Park through Martin, Topping and Gowdy.

In a tight team race Albertville (2,3,4,11,13,25=58) narrowly defeated North Belfast Harriers (5,6,10,12,14,15=62) with Willowfield a distant third on 146 points. Duncairn, City of Derry, County Antrim, Ulsterville B and 9th Old Boys all completed teams reflecting the strength of the sport despite the lay-off. A War Memorial trophy was presented for competition by Juniors with Willowfield being the first club to put its name on its base.


“A really splendid race for the northern cross country championship took place in Belvoir Park on Saturday afternoon, and it was favoured with the very best of weather conditions. The venue proved quite an attraction in itself, for it would be difficult, if not, indeed, altogether impossible, to find a better within the whole limits of Ulster. With characteristic thoughtfulness and consideration, the park – which is beautifully undulating, and adorned in many parts by clumps of giant trees – was kindly placed at the disposal of the committee by the right honourable Sir James Johnston J.P., The present occupant, who, attending with some friends, manifested a deep interest in the contest. Trams, motor waggons, and cars carried a large crowd of spectators to the scene, and this was another distinctly encouraging feature on the side of success. No doubt was left in the mind of anyone who saw the arrangements, the admirable manner they were carried out, and the workmanlike way all went about their duties, that the officials from top to bottom of the list were sportsmen of the first water……..

“Derry club travelled specially to participate in the race, and had every reason to be gratified over their reception. A. Hegarty who created a sensation at Glasgow Gaelic sports by his work in the mile, belonged to this team, and the fine record he again established in the Northern championships at Belvoir Park made him an outstanding figure. He led all the way, improving the distance every lap, and finished magnificently. It was at once recognised that he and Crowe who had won in the junior race at Bloomfield a fortnight ago, would make fine assets for Ireland in an international contest, and it is almost certain that before long both will have their chances in this respect. Martin and Kerr, ex champions: Magill, winner of the victory inter-team shield; and McBride, the Ulster four mile champion, were also in the field…….

“Hegarty made a splendid finish, coming in strongly a good way in front of Martin. Topping romped in 100 yards behind the latter, and then followed at shorter or longer intervals – Gowdy, Crothers, McCann and Jackson, of Willowfield, and McBride, North Belfast.  The time was 34 minutes 53 seconds. This proved a new record, Hegarty improving on the former time for a somewhat shorter course, by a minute”.


They are already up and running in Donegal this new year with over 200 turning up for the opening race in the Lifford-Strabane 5K Series held in unseasonably mild conditions. Finn Valley’s Gerard Gallagher was pleased to put recent injury behind him as he moved away from the main field early on to score an easy win in 15:31. Charlie O’Donnell made the long journey from the Rosses to take second in 16:04 with Gary Gallagher edging Peter Tuohey for third with a 16:19 clocking. Ben Mellon was the leading Junior, taking 11th overall in 17:56.

The host club’s Claire McGuigan was equally impressive leading home the women in what she described as “a shock to the system” but recording a credible 17:48. Leoni Mullen was also quick out of the blocks to occupy the runner-up spot in 18:19 while Elaine Connor was well clear of the main field, in third, with a 19:08 mark.  The second race in the series is in Raphoe on January 26 with 10:30am start and concludes in Lifford on February 9.


Action from last year’s international in Dundonald.

Usually at this time of the year we are looking forward to the Belfast International Cross Country but after 42 years our local cross country classic has been gently laid to rest. Once the highlight of the winter season, it is no longer with us. And like the parrot in the Montyn Python sketch, they tell us it is merely resting but we know better. It is dead! It is no more! It has ceased to be! It is said to be the victim of a clash of dates with its more famous sibling in Scotland, the Great Edinburgh Cross Country, but one questions whether another date could not be found.  

The cross country classic was first hosted in 1977 and has gone under a variety of guises. For the 2000 and 2001 races, it was known as the Fila International Cross Country, for the 1995-1999 meetings as the Coca Cola International Cross Country; for the 1994 race, it went under the banner of the Ulster Milk Games International; for the 1992-1993 races, it became the Reebok International Cross Country; for the 1989 race, it was titled as the Brooks International Cross Country; for the 1990-1991 and 1977-1988 races, it became the Mallusk Cross Country. Many names and a few locations but consistently an opportunity to see world class performers on our own doorstep.  

The fixture has seen some of the world’s best runners compete. Waterford man Gerry Deegan was the winner of the first race with Olympic gold medallist Steve Ovett taking the laurels the following year.  The Brighton athlete returned in 1984 to lift the title for a second time but in the meantime Ireland’s two-time world champion John Treacy had prevailed over a strong field in 1982. It was shortly afterwards that the east Africans claimed ownership of the race with American Dathan Ritzenhein, in 2005, being the last non-African to cross the finish line in first place.

The women’s race was added in 1986 with Susan Tooby, now Wightman, from Wales the first winner. Running legends like Liz McColgan (1987/1988) and Paula Radcliffe (1994/1996/2000/2001) claimed multiple wins while Irish athletes have held their own in the women’s event, with Roisin Smyth (1990), Catherina McKiernan (1992/1993), Mary Cullen (2010) and Fionnuala McCormick (2012/2013) all claiming wins.

Norwegian Blue Parrot

It could be seen as purely a sop to the local followers of the sport when the Bobby Rea Memorial in November was rebranded an international. A few runners from across the water do not make an international. Many felt they were being offered a slug as a replacement for a Norwegian Blue parrot!

Johnston and mitchell exceL in greencastle

26 December 2019

Nothing trumps speed and track specialist Neil Johnston proved it once again when he was the emphatic winner of the Greencastle 5 Miles road race in Tyrone. The race confirmed its status as the number one holiday fixture with over 700 hardy runners crossing the finish line in damp and windy conditions.

Neil Johnston speeds home.

Johnston was making his debut in the race and was in a group of three, along with Scott Rankin and Mark McKinstry, who broke away from the field almost from the gun. But Johnston’s track speed told as he took an early lead on the downhill before going on to break the tape in 24 minutes and 54 seconds. Rankin held on to the runner-up spot a further 24 seconds back with 2018 winner McKinstry having to settle for third on this occasion in 25:34.

“Conditions were pretty tough there but I just went out with Scott and Mark McKinstry,” said the Coleraine man. “It’s downhill then and I started getting a bit of a lead and then Scott and myself broke off. I think I was in the lead from two miles on and built it on. But it’s a tough climb from three to four miles.”

Matthew Neill was the first U20, taking fourth in 25:50, while Eoin Hughes (26:16) and Colin Griffin (26:33) rounded off the top half dozen finishers.

Emma Mitchell completed her third consecutive victory in the women’s race it could not have been any easier for the Clonliffe Harrier who won by over three minutes in 29:21. Pauline McGurren (32:24) and April Clarke (32:32) completed the women’s podium.

The organisers set new standards in terms of the content of the goody bags both in terms of the quantity of the items included and the quality. No more plastic bottles, replaced by paper cartons and surely a first anywhere …. a pack of four free range eggs!

Results –


Many runners may be interested, if they have not seen it already, in a documentary Gamechangers produced by Academy winning director James Cameron and directed by Academy Award winner Louis Psihoyos (2009’s “The Cove” and 2015’s “Racing Extinction”). Currently available on Netflix after being released in June, the film boasts some big hitters in the entertainment and sporting world as executive producers, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Novo Djokovic and Lewis Hamilton.

The documentary may be of benefit to athletes and runners, indeed anyone who takes part in a sport, as it claims to highlight the misconceptions around eating meat to support physical prowess in sport.  James Wilks, who instructs members of the U.S. defence forces, narrates the film, based on his own personal experiences, that looked at how plant-based diets affected every part of our bodies.

Vegan diets involve completely cutting out all animal products including meat, eggs, cheese and milk. Veganism and vegetarianism have exploded in the last few years, with millions of people looking to cut out animal products for both ethical and health reasons. A report by research firm Global Data claims that veganism has seen a 600 percent increase in the last three years in the US.  Research has shown that plant-based diets, eliminating red meats and at times seafood, can lower blood pressure and risk of obesity.

The coverage showed the change plant-based diets had on the quality of athlete’s blood and the endurance they had on the field or in the gym. Arnold Schwarzenegger also weighed in on the side of a vegetarian diet, saying in his early days of bodybuilding he was a big meat eater.

“I ate a lot of meat, I ate my 10-15 eggs a day and you know had my 250g of protein a day because I weighed 250 pounds,” admitted Schwarzenegger. “But as I got older and read up on it, I recognised the fact you really don’t have to get your protein from meat or animals.”

Readers may find particularly interesting the part of the documentary that focussed on the NFC team Tennessee Titans, featuring their linebacker Derrick Morgan, who had not made the play-offs in almost a decade. Half of the team ditched animal products altogether after Morgan, who is interviewed, started reading research about plant-based food and recovery, and how eating the right foods accelerates the healing process.

Derrick’s wife started cooking him plant-based meals, and eventually the other guys wanted to try the diet as well. Not only did they love the delicious plant-based food but the Titans had their best ever season in 2017 reaching the play-offs and only going out to the New England Patriots, the eventual Superbowl champions.


  1. Protein Shortage

Meat, fish, eggs and dairy products are common sources of protein for most people. anyone who consumes these foods typically get plenty of protein in their daily diets, but Vegans need to turn to beans and nuts to get enough. The recommended daily amount is 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams daily for men. Vegans rely on tofu, beans and nuts as their sources of protein, a cup of dry beans has about 16 grams of protein, and a 100-gram serving of extra-firm tofu yields just under 10 grams.

  • Iron Deficiency

Omnivores get their iron mostly from meat, particularly red meat, so it is important for Vegans to consume iron-rich foods as well. Iron deficiency can lead to fatigue and problems with brain function. Females need 18 milligrams of iron daily, but the requirement jumps to 27 milligrams for pregnant women while surprisingly men only need 8 milligrams daily. Soya beans, white beans and spinach are good sources of iron, but Vegans may need a daily iron supplement.

  • Other Essential Minerals and Vitamins.

In the absence of dairy products in their diet, Vegans need to look elsewhere to meet their calcium requirements of 1,000 milligrams per day. Vitamin D assists the body in absorbing calcium, adults need 600 international units per day. It is almost inevitable that Vegans need to either take a vitamin D supplement or drink soy milk fortified with vitamin D. They almost certainly need to take a vitamin B12 supplement as the vitamin is almost exclusively found in animal products.

Vegan Runners is the fastest growing running club in the UK

The Vegan Society of Ireland has been promoting Ve.ganism and Animal Rights in Ireland since 2009. Its website contains lots of information for anyone thinking of practising veganism or is already a Vegan. Vegan Runners ( offer membership for just £6 per year and can provide introductions to others in the UK of a like mind.


Well done, Ireland; a country that welcomes immigrants and a nation that has waved good-bye to countless emigrants for centuries while others have stuck out at home through thick and thin. The arrivals, the departures and remainers came together in perfect synchronicity yesterday to help Ireland to its best ever day at the European Cross Country Championships in Lisbon.  Two individual and two team medals surpassed anything achieved before at a European Cross Country and bridged a four year gap since an Irish athlete trod the presentation podium.

Efrem Gidey ….from holding camp to European podium

And that welcoming attitude paid dividends when a refugee from Eritrea won a bronze medal for the country in the Junior Men’s team race. Two years ago, Efrem Gidey was languishing in the holding camp at Calais in France but yesterday he declared himself a proud Irish man standing alongside the all-conquering Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen on the medal podium of a continental championships.

Gidey was in the leading group from the opening lap and when the reigning European Senior 1500m/5000m champion Ingebrigtsen applied the pressure halfway through the 6225m event, the 19-year-old was only one of two men to respond. The Norwegian pulled away to away to seal his fourth consecutive by over half a minute while Gidey fought out the minor places with Turkey’s Ayetullah Aslanhan.

In the end the Turk won that battle by three seconds with Gidey seemingly would have been happier with a team medal than his own achievement but Ireland lost third place on countback after finishing on the same points as Portugal.

“I’m so happy,” he said. “Ireland is my country and means so much. I am doing it for Ireland because it is doing it for me. A good opportunity – I am learning English and I’m going to school.”

Gidey lives in Tyrellstown, a northern suburb of Dublin and is a member of Clonliffe Harriers. He is current Irish Schools cross country champion and recently won the Leinster Senior Men’s cross country title.  Some thought he was ill-advised in running the recent National Senior at Abbotstown but finished ninth, helping Clonliffe regain the team title.  He was sick last week and only got the all-clear to compete on Friday past when Athletics Ireland managed to secure a visa for him to enter Portugal.

Three young Irish woman who, like so many before them, went to the United States to further their education and running careers, supplied medals two and three. Cork’s Stephanie Cotter ran a well-timed race to take the individual bronze in the U23 race while further down the field the Tyrone twins, Eilish and Roisin Flanagan, battled hard to claim 9th and 17th respectively to put Ireland in the silver medal spot behind a strong Netherlands trio.

All three women attend Adams State University and agreed that they would not be where they are today were it not for the coaching and facilities made available to them in Alamosa, Colorado.

“I came off the NCAA season and I was very happy with it and I knew I was fit coming in here,” said Cotter. “I went out to win it but I knew Moller was strong, so I said I would go out in the top five and if there were any moves, I’d cover them. I think about the third lap, she put in a big surge and I wasn’t able to go with it. This season, I think Adams State has transformed me completely as a runner.”

For Eilish Flanagan, from the Tyrone hamlet of Gortin, it was her second European silver medal of the year after finishing runner-up in the U23 3000m steeplechase in the summer.

“It’s really hard to believe (two medals), it’s been a really amazing year for myself,” said Eilish Flanagan. “It’s something to bring home to Gortin, to the country and our small community. We are able to work well with our coach at Adams State and he has improved us every single year.”

There was almost a fairy-tale ending to the meeting with Fionnuala McCormack, an athlete who has plied her entire running trade at home, was narrowly beaten for the bronze medal in the Senior Women’s race. Making a woman’s record 16th appearance at these championships, the Wicklow woman was denied third spot by the fast finishing Swede Samrawit Mengsteab by a miserable two seconds.

Another stay at home advocate Ciara Mageean, in 20th, had a cracking run on a tough and hilly course to cement a surprise silver team medal for the Irish colleens. The trio was completed by another leaver Aoibhe Richardson (17th), a Kilkenny woman studying in the US. All roads now lead to Dublin for the 2020 championships when the challenge will be to equal or better the Lisbon medal total. It will need all the arrivals, departed and remainers to do that.


JUNIOR MEN (6225m): 1 J Ingebrigtsen 18:20, 2 A Aslanhan TUR 18:58, 3 E Gidey IRL 19:01; Team: 1 GBR 25, 2 NOR 38, 3 IRL (3 Efrem Gidey, 12 Darragh McElhinney, 24 Thomas McStay) 39

JUNIOR WOMEN (4225m): N Bacolcatti ITA 13:58, 2 K Lukan 14:01, 3 M Machado POR 14:10; 1 ITA 29, 2 GBR 29, 3 FRA 38, 11 IRL (46 Jodie McCann, 62 A O’Cuill, 77 Sarah Kelly) 185

 U23 MEN (8225m): J Gressier FRA 24:17, 2 E Bibic 24:25, 3 A Oukhelfen ESP 24:34; Team: 1 FRA 17, 2 ITA 29, 3 GER 45, 7 IRL (22 Brian Fay, 25 Jack O’Leary, 26 Peter Lynch) 73

U23 WOMEN (6225m): A E Moller DEN 20:30, 2 J Lau NED 21:09, 3 Stephanie Cotter IRL 21:15; Team: 1 NED 17, 2 IRL (3 Cotter, 9 Eilish Flanagan, 17 Roisin Flanagan) 29, 3 GBR 47.

MIXED RELAY: 1 GBR 17:55, 2 BELARUS 18;01, 3 FRA 18:05, 7 IRL 18:40

SENIOR MEN (10,225m): 1. R Fsiha SWE 29:59, 2 A Kaya TUR 30:10, 3 Y Crippa ITA 30:21; Team: 1 GBR 36, 2 BEL 38, 3 ESP 45, 13 IRL (18 Sean Tobin, 52 32:28, 61 Eoin Everard) 131

SENIOR WOMEN (8225m): 1 Y Can TUR 26:52, 2 K B Grovdal NOR 27:07, 3 S Mengsteab SWE 27:43; Teams: 1 GBR 26, 2 IRL (4 Fionnuala McCormack, 17 Aoibhe Richardson, 20 Ciara Mageean) 41, 3 POR 43               

NW Indoors – DECEMBER 28


                       ATHLONE INDOOR ARENA

                                                  DECEMBER 28th 2019

UNDER 12 Boys and Girls 60m, 60m Hurdles, 600m, 600m walk, shot, Long Jump, High Jump, 4 x 200m Relay

UNDER 14 Boys and Girls 60m, 60m Hurdles, 800m 1,000m walk shot, Long Jump, High Jump, 4 x 200m Relay

UNDER 16 boys and Girls 60m, 60m Hurdles, 400, 800m, 1,500m, 1,000m Walk, Long Jump, High Jump, 4x 200m Relay  

UNDER 18 Men and Women 60m, 60m Hurdles, 400m, 800m, 1,000m Walk, 1,500m, Shot, Long Jump, High jump, Triple Jump, 4 x 200m Relay

JUNIOR Men and Women 60m, 60m hurdles, 400, 800m, 1,000m Walk, 1,500m, shot, long jump, triple jump, 4 x 200m Relay

Senior Men and Women 60m, 60m hurdles, 400, 800m, 1,000m Walk, 1,500m, shot, long jump, triple jump, 4 x 200m Relay

Masters Men and Women 60m, 60m hurdles, 400, 800m, 1,000m Walk, 1,500m, shot, long jump, triple jump, 4 x 200m Relay

Entry Fees Juveniles €5 per event. Senior/Masters €8 per event. Relays €20 per team

Three athletes per club per event

ENTRIES ON AAI ON-LINE SYSTEM CLOSING AT MIDNIGHT ON DECEMBER 14Th 2019. Athletes may step up one age and compete in a maximum of three events plus a relay. Entry to the U/12 Sprint Events 60m and 60m Hurdles are confined to athletes from North West (Donegal Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Sligo, Leitrim)

All track events are time trials, only three attempts allowed in Long and Triple Jumps and Shot.

All athletes must wear club singlets.

U/12 athletes MAY use starting blocks, all other athletes MUST use blocks. IAAF false start rules will apply

Electronic timing will be in operation for all track events.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT Bernie o’ Callaghan, 20 the Waterfront, Killybegs, Co Donegal.

MOBILE 087 2375899 OR At

Jason smyth delivers again

Jason Smyth

Cometh the hour, cometh the man and sprinter Jason Smyth delivered once again, winning the T13 100m at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai. It was Ireland’s only gold medal of the meeting and Smyth’s eighth world title since he came on the scene in 2006. His time of 10.54 (+0.6 wind reading) seconds was the best time ever run in the category at a World Para Championships.

The Derry Track Club athlete had stretched his legs in the morning with a comfortable win in his heats but looked nervous as he assumed his starting position for the eight-man final. Salah Khelaifia was first out of the blocks, but Smyth was level by 30 metres before the Algerian clutched his thigh and pulled up before the halfway distance. After that it was all Smyth as he pulled away to break the tape, well clear of Australia’s Chad Perris, whom many had thought would give the Irishman a run for his money.  

Earlier in the Championships, Smyth had watched Petrucio Ferreira erase his name from the record books when the Brazilian posted the two fastest times in a 100m race of a major Para athletics championships. The Brazilian made his intentions clear in the 100m T47 morning heats blazing to a world record time of 10.42, shading Smyth’s record of 10.46 seconds set at the London Paralympics in 2012.  Ten hours later, Ferreira was just two-hundredths of second outside that mark, but it was enough to seal the gold with ease and set up a remarkable cleansweep of all three medals by his countrymen.

It is always sad to witness end of an era as was the case yesterday as the previously undefeated Michael McKillop finished out of the medals in the T38 1500m at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai. Defending champion McKillop fought hard down the final straight but could not get into a podium place as newcomer Canadian Nate Riech turned in an impressive display of tactics and power to race away with the title in 4:02.04.

McKillop found a season’s best of 4:09.07 only good enough on this occasion for fourth. Up until yesterday McKillop had been the dominant athlete in the event but new classifications and merging of T37 and T38 categories contributed to the end of his reign for the 29-year-old Randalstown resident.

Michael McKillop

Anders Lagergren sprinted into the lead from the gun and led the field through the opening lap in a swift 64 seconds. McKillop looked smooth back in the chasing pack while Ireland’s other representative David Leavy struggled to maintain contact. The Dane then faded rapidly, ending up 11th, as the favourite Riech moved to the front with two laps to go and started to open up a gap on the field.

The Canadian had ten metres to the good as the bell sounded with only Algeria’s Abdelkrim Krai looking as though he posed any danger to Riech. McKillop, in fifth, was visibly struggling with the pace. The man from British Columbia continued his relentless pace at the front to come home the most impressive of winners some 30 metres ahead of Krai as McKillop mounted a late surge to snatch fourth from another Canadian Liam Stanley.

The first three finishers were all T38, a lesser form of disability to McKillop who is a T37, meaning the former North Belfast Harrier was the leading competitor in the latter category, setting a T37 championship record. David Leavy stuck manfully to his own pace throughout to register a personal best 4:23.86 in ninth. Ireland’s other competitor yesterday, Mary Fitzgerald, finished out of the medals in the F40 shot put.

Unfortunately, there was no medal for Kerry man Jordan Lee who went into the T47 high jump second-ranked but was beaten for the bronze medal on countback after clearing 1.87m at his third attempt. India’s Nishad Kumar was the winner of the event with a 1.94m clearance on his first effort to keep a clean sheet without a failure throughout the competition.

Conor McIlveen

DTC’s Conor McIlveen acquitted himself well in the heats of the T38 400m. With only four days to acclimatise and a severe classification to endure just 48 hours before his heat, McIlveen finished seventh in 58.86 seconds.


Hundreds are expected to arrive in the Sperrins on St. Stephen’s day seeking precious metals but there will not be a single protest from the local residents. And the mass influx of visitors will have nothing to do with the controversial local mining operation but eager runners in pursuit of gold, silver and bronze awards at the 34th Greencastle 5 Miles road race. Details were announced this week of the emblematic Tyrone race that has grown to be the biggest of its kind over the festive season in the entire country.

A group of people posing for a photo

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Adults L-R Colm Devlin (Greencastle RR C’tee), Oliver McCullagh (GRRC), Patricia McElduff (GRRC), Caolán Donnelly (O’Kane’s), Brian McCullagh (O’Kane’s) with the McElduff Children.

 “The organising committee of the Annual Greencastle 5 Mile Road Run extends a warm welcome to all participants, their families and their supporters, to our many volunteers and to our sponsors,” said race director Oliver McCullagh. “It is a long time since our first race back in 1986. Back then, we had approximately 80 entrants for our first ever outing, that number has now grown to 2000 including walkers.”

Many thought that a Boxing Day would not have been popular with the running community but the exact opposite has proven to be the case with many regarding it as a penance for their excesses to the weeks leading up to Christmas. Others swear to suffering more during the ascent of Heartbreak Hill in the fourth mile of the race than a weekend spent in Lough Derg!

“Last year many travelled long distances to be part of the record field of almost 1300 running entries. As in previous years the course hosted about 700 walkers who turned out to raise sponsorship for a host of local charities,” continued McCullagh. “This year we’re pleased to welcome a new sponsor O’Kane Plumbing & Electrics and hope it will be the start of a long and mutually fruitful relationship.”

This Greencastle road race is probably unique in that it is a community day with almost everyone in the immediate area playing some part in organising and running the event. There is a very obvious collective desire to do something for the greater good of all and over the years tens of thousands of pounds have been donated to various charities. Further information is available on the website www, where registrations for the race are now being accepted.


Figure 2: Jason Smyth is looking to extend his unbeaten record.

Four Ulster athletes are included in the 11-strong team representing Ireland at the World Para Athletics Championships that started yesterday in Dubai and conclude on November 15. Standout sprinter Jason Smyth is again Ireland’s main hope to strike gold as the 32-year-old looks to continue his incredible winning streak and claim an 8th World Championship medal, his 18th major title in Paralympic sport. The Derry Track Club ace, who remains unbeaten in Paralympic competition since he entered the category some dozen years ago, runs in the T13 100m next Wednesday (Nov 13).

For Michael McKillop, it is an even longer wait until next Thursday when makes his much anticipated return to a major championships action. The Randalstown resident has battled a serious injury since his World Para Athletics Championships gold medal in London over two years ago. There are world championship debuts for both City of Lisburn’s David Leavy (T38/1500m) and Derry Track Club’s Conor McIlveen (T38 400m).  Both are latecomers to Paralympic competition but have made rapid progress in the past two years.  A place in their respective finals would represent success for both men.

Elsewhere Galway native, Alex Lee, will make history as he becomes Ireland’s first ever ‘blade runner’ when he competes for Ireland in the 100m and 200m T64 heats. World ranked number two high jumper, Jordan Lee, will also compete at his first world championships, as will shot putter, Mary Fitzgerald.  Cork’s trio of seasoned discus throwers will also compete for world championship glory as Orla Barry, Noelle Lenihan and Niamh McCarthy will all look to repeat their podium success from London 2017. European Champion T13 1500m runner, Greta Streimikyte, will hope to continue her winning streak and target the gold medal in Dubai.  The added incentive for all is the fact is that a top four finishers in each discipline will automatically secure a slot for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020.

Around 1400 athletes from 122 are expected to take part thanks to the 1100 officials and 800 volunteers who will give of their time to make the championships a success. The championships will be shown live at

STORY 3 (335)

If you wanted to run a marathon but felt you did not know where to start, do not despair because the organisers at the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon are opening applications for a new Experiment 26.2 Group. This will help, support and watch up to 15 runners cross the finish line of their first marathon next year on Sunday, May 3.

A group of people standing in front of a crowd

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Figure 3: Start of this year’s Belfast City Marathon

You could be joining around 5,000 people at the iconic Stormont Estate on Sunday 3rd May 2020 as the largest single participatory sporting event in Northern Ireland takes place for the 39th year. If you are selected for the 2020 Experiment 26.2 Group, you can expect a very comprehensive marathon training package from the event’s official sponsors and partners. As a group member, you will receive full training gear from sponsor Decathlon, a free marathon training plan and mentoring from the event’s official coach Stuart Kennedy and a full schedule of training activities inclusive of some free races such as the SPAR Craic 10K, Titanic 10K, SPAR Omagh Half Marathon and more.  Framar Health, the events official nutrition sponsor, will be providing free advice on diet, reflexology and sports massage.  Athletics NI will be offering a 12-month membership for race discounts and a 6-month membership for the Mary Peters Track.  On top of all this, the group will receive a 3-month city-wide membership with Better, the Official Gym Sponsor in 2020.  Better will also provide bespoke core and strength classes to support the group’s training. 

Experiment 26.2 will meet monthly December 2019 – April 2020 and this will include group long runs/training sessions on evenings and weekends across each month.  These should provide motivation and support for members in achieving their goal in finishing the marathon.

If you have never run a marathon before and feel you could commit your time, you can find out more about the Experiment 26.2 Group and the essential criteria required at or email All applications must be received by the deadline 4:00pm on Friday, November 15.


The second race in the award-winning Run Forest Run takes place on Saturday, November 16 on the excellent course at Drum Manor Forest Park near Cookstown.  Over 500 runners are expected from all over Ireland to the 5K and 10K races organised by the Born2Run Event Company whose motto is Great Races in Great Places.

The Run Forest Run Series consists of eight races all set in the beautiful forests of Northern Ireland. The Born2Run Event Company picked up the Gold accolade at this year’s Running Awards in London for the Best Race Series in the UK and Ireland. The series has proved extremely popular with runners in recent years as it gives them the opportunity to get off the roads over the winter months and sample trail running in some (literally) breath-taking locations.

All finishers receive a beautiful commemorative medal as well as hard-earned post race refreshments. There is also a special medal for first-timers while runners who complete six of the eight races in the series get a special edition technical t-shirt.  Online entry remains open until 11:00pm on Wednesday, November 13. For more information or to enter go to

ULster athletes brilliant in dublin

hoto: Ann-Marie McGlynn is congratulated by her husband Trevor after her runner-up position in the Irish marathon championship.

Belfast man Stephen Scullion rightly grabbed the headlines following his runner-up spot and Irish championship victory at last weekend’s KBC Dublin Marathon. Despite running in the world championships just three weeks earlier, the Clonliffe Harrier showed no sign of any after affects as he cruised to a new NI record of 2:12:01, putting himself within touching distance of a place at next year’s Olympics in Japan.

However, further down the field there were spectacular performances by two other Ulster athletes.  Newcastle’s Eoin Totten took more than ten minutes off his best with a 2:16:08 timing as City of Derry Spartan Kyle Doherty followed up his recent NI & Ulster half marathon championship title with a superb 2:22:22, that was a five minute improvement of his time in the same race 12 months earlier.

If the Ulster men sparkled, the province’s women positively dazzled taking five of the top six places in the Irish championship. It looked for a long time that Ann-Marie McGlynn was going to make it an Ulster double, only for the Strabane woman to lose out to Cork’s Aoife Cooke late in the race.

Gladys Ganiel O’Neill finished with characteristic determination to take third place in the Irish championship in a new lifetime best of 2:36:42. Catriona Jennings (2:37:57), Breege Connolly (2:38:28) and Catherine Whoriskey (2:42:39) completed the leading half dozen. (no category or team results were available from Athletics Ireland at time of writing)

Earlier on Sunday morning, Banbridge athlete Emma Mitchell helped make it a red letter day for the province’s female athletes when she finished 11th in the Trinidad Alfonso Half Marathon in Valencia. Mitchell clocked a personal best 72:28 in a race won by Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi Sora in 65:32.

Elsewhere at the Leeds Abbey Dash 10K Red Hands were also making their mark with the first three all recording personal bests. Ben Branagh crossed the finish line in 21st place with a time of 29:38, Scott Rankin (30:36) followed in 45th, John Black (30:42) in 51st while finished Chris Madden (31:07) finished 69th.

Fionnuala Ross (34:16) was the leading Ulster athlete in women’s race, claiming 17th place in a time of 34:16. She was followed home by Jessica Craig (34:40) in 23rd, Nakita Burke (35:07) in 27th and Sarah Lavery (36:12) in 41st.


Individual title winners Robyn McKee and Russell White

I love it when a plan comes together,” was the message from Dromore AC stalwart and driving force Nigel McKibbin after his club dominated the NI & Ulster Novice Cross Country Championships at Greenmount last weekend. The Down club took three of the four titles on offer, easily surpassing anything it had achieved at the meeting in the past.

Robyn McKee kicked off the day for Dromore in the best possible fashion when she paced herself perfectly, biding her time until the final lap of the 4K contest before moving away to win by 14 seconds.  Leoni Mullen and Natasha Kelly claimed the minor individual medals as well as contributing to a Finn Valley team victory.

Next up was the men’s race and Dromore runners Russell White and Daniel Dawson were quick to establish their superiority over the opposition on a fast 6K course, distancing themselves from the main field to make it an emphatic one-two finish for the black and yellow vests. Lifford-Strabane’s Alan McGinley repeated his third place of 2018 as Andrew Hicks (6th) and Mark Cornett (13th) sealed a comfortable team win to complete a memorable day for the County Down club not to mention their coach of more than 30 years, Michael McGreevy.


Conor Bradley and Edel Monaghan were the winners of the major prizes at the ninth running of the Spooktacular 5K in Enniskillen. Record numbers, over 1200 runners, took part making the Fermanagh 5K Run/Walk the largest night time event of its kind in Ireland. The numbers were swelled by the increasing number of Couch to 5K groups taking part in the event.

No Scares for Conor Bradley as he wins comfortably in Enniskillen.

Bradley rounded off the track season with impressive performances over 3000m and 5000m, breaking eight and 14 minutes for the distances. That form has continued into the winter season with him winning Marty’s Run 5K in Derry before leading home a top class field at the Autumn Classic cross country in Dublin. The City of Derry Spartan was a class apart in Enniskillen, hitting the front at halfway and cruising to victory in 15 minutes and eight seconds. Bradley’s clubmates JP Williamson and Declan Reed filled the minor podium places eleven and twelfth seconds back respectively.

Home Sweet Home for women’s winner Edel Monaghan.

A five hour bus journey home from Dublin did not deter Edel Monaghan from scoring a home victory in the women’s race with a personal best 18:24 timing. Armagh’s Natalie Foley was runner-up in 18:41 while 2018 winner Heather Foley had to settle for third on this occasion with a 19:04 timing.

Lucky 7 for Cathal McLaughlin as he finishes runner-up in M50 category.

“We have had a great response from the Couch to 5K groups and we at the club run one and it has been very popular,” said Stephen Clawson of organising club, Enniskillen Running Club. “It is about promoting running in the county for all ages and all abilities which is the club’s ethos.”


Tommy and Eoin Hughes were in record-breaking form at the weekend with the pair setting a new Guinness world mark for the combined father and son marathon time. Tommy, who represented Ireland in the 1992 Olympic marathon in Barcelona, crossed the finish line in the Frankfurt Marathon registering a time of 2:27:52 while Eoin followed shortly in 2:32:55. That gave them a combined time of 4:59:22, representing an improvement of two minutes and 50 seconds better on the previous mark of Graham and Ben Green.   Tommy’s time was also close to the M55 world best of Piet van Alphen of the Netherlands who recorded 2:25:56 in the 1986 Rotterdam Marathon.

The pair made an attempt at the Guinness world record for the fastest half-marathon by a father and son at the Belfast Half-Marathon in September 22, but came up 20 seconds short of the combined 2:20:33 goal, despite Eoin finishing second overall in 1:08:30. It was then they decided to have a go at the marathon record in Frankfurt. Now they have another target, the World Masters’ Championships in Toronto next year. Eoin enters the Masters’ grade in January when he turns 35 while his father will be 60.


Runners in next year’s Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon will be able to gain points in Abbott World Marathon Majors age group world rankings for the first time. The listings started on September 30 and run until October 11, 2020 and the Belfast event has now been included for the first time among the 175 qualifying events around the globe.

The 39th Belfast marathon will take place on Sunday, May 3 with a full line up of events to suit all levels of fitness including the marathon, team relay, 8 mile walk and fun run.  The main event will start at the Stormont Estate and take in most parts of the city before finishing in Ormeau Park.

The 175 eligible events include 30 across Asia, four in Africa, 20 in Central and South America, more than 60 in Europe, 8 in Oceania and more than 50 in North America. All races carry equal status.

There have been recent changes to the board of the Belfast City Marathon with long-time race director David Seaton standing down shortly after this year’s event while Kerry Woods and Nicola McCarthy have been appointed as directors.  

More than an Athletics Club