THE NOW DEFUNCT TRINITY HARRIERS

Trinity Harriers were formed in 1894 and operated out of the premises of the Holy Trinity Church of Ireland on the corner of Ballysillan Road and Cliftonville Roads. At the time clubs organised weekly runs (paper chases) for its members usually on a Saturday. Trinity’s first outing was to Hollywood when 63 runners turned out.

The club was quick to embrace the competitive side of the sport and on the 27 December 1894 was involved in a triangular match with Dublin club Elysian Harriers and County Down Harriers at the Oval in Ballymacarrett. According to the Freeman’s Journal a good crowd of spectators gathered to witness what was described as a six mile steeplechase.

It was a tough baptism for the green and whites with their first runner Boyd taking 9th as J Archer led Elysian (36) to a comfortable victory over County Down with Trinity, only having two finishers, unable to complete a team. Archer would take 5th in the Irish Senior Cross Country Championships a few months later with Elysian taking silver medals in the team competition behind Belfast Harriers.

Undaunted the club entered the Irish Junior Championship in early 1895 and finished a very credible sixth of the ten competing clubs. Clonliffe Harriers (92) scored a narrow one point win over Belfast Harriers. Other northern clubs were Cliftonville Harriers (4th) and County Down who failed to complete a scoring six. The club soon consolidated its position as one of the leading clubs in the Northern Branch, continuing weekly training runs. Taking advantage of public transport, the club travelled to a variety of venues. One such was Craigavad which the club visited in November 1895.

Available now £13.95/€15.95 postage paid – email antonhegartybiography@gmail.com

The Irish News and Belfast Morning News described that “the Saturday evening was all that it could be desired, as far as favourable weather is concerned, for harriers’ outings.” The club travelled to fulfil an invitation from Mr. H McCormick. The Harriers arrived on the 3:35 train and “lost no time in divesting themselves of clothing and donning the togs”.

The hares, James Boyd and James Stoupe, laid out a trail across the County Down countryside and were back in 45 minutes. The fast pack were said to be in “full cry, to the no small delight of the country folk.” Mr McCormick laid on refreshments for the 59 harriers in his home after the outing, the second time he had done so. Trinity also met frequently for Saturday runs with other clubs such as Newtownards Harriers, County Antrim Harriers and Belfast Harriers, whom they described in reports as their “friends”. 

There was further improvement in the Irish Junior the following year, moving up to sixth spot behind a crack Cork Harriers squad who won with the incredibly low score of 37 points. Belfast Harriers slipped to third but again had W Finlay in the top six while Trinity yet again did not have a finisher in the top 10.

That was rectified in 1897 when Trinity’s J Lockhart (9th) and J Alexander (10th) broke new ground for the Ballysillan men. The club did not seem to contest the 1898 championship and in review of the clubs at the time, Leveret in the Sport observed: “I cannot see what is up with Trinity. There seems a want of enthusiasm and a new Reverend R Carr required before the club can dream of success.”

Trinity returned to the fray in 1899 when no less than three Northern clubs made their way south to Dolphin’s Barn in Dublin.  The course was beside the canal, alongside the Crumlin Road and adjacent the tramline terminus. Special trams were laid on for the benefit of spectators.

The area was known as the Slob Lands and the going was generally regarded as heavy. The race marked the emergence on the national stage of the great John F Joyce from Ballinasloe Harriers who carried off all four (Junior and Senior) national titles that year. Ulsterville and County Antrim tied on 204 points for joint fourth with Trinity in sixth spot, again not providing a top ten placer.

In the first Northern Branch Championship in 1899 they lifted silver team medals behind County Antrim Harriers. Better was to follow in 1900 with William Miller taking the individual title and leading Trinity to a convincing team victory.

The Green and Whites slipped to fifth (of five) the following year as County Antrim regained their team title and Ulsterville’s J W Jefferson took the individual crown. Trinity were again out of the medals in 1902 as County Antrim successfully defended the top spot in the North and also supplied the individual winner in J McAuley.

James Ferguson

The Premiers, as they called themselves, were strengthened by the recruitment of James Ferguson from North Belfast Harriers probably later that year. The first mention found for Ferguson in the press of the day was in June 1900 when he finished second in the Mile Flat race at Downpatrick Sports in the grounds of Down Cricket Club. S Minnis of Ulsterville was the winner in 4 minutes 37 and 2/5ths seconds with

Ferguson at the time running in the colours of North Belfast Harriers. The weather was said to be “inclement” and there were numerous falls in the cycling events without anyone being injured.

In the 1901 census, he is shown as living at 6 Bray Street in the Shankill Ward of Belfast City. He shares the home with his mother Elizabeth, two sisters and a brother.  James is the youngest of the family at 23 years. Nothing much is seen of him on the track that year but he more than makes up for it in 1902 when he seems to race fairly frequently at the many local meetings.

The following year he made the switch from North Belfast Harriers to Trinity. The reasons for this switch are not known but certainly Trinity appeared to be a much more ambitious club at the time than North Belfast or maybe being of the Church of Ireland faith, he felt more at home among his own denomination.

Either way he quickly profited from the transfer by leading Trinity to the Northern Branch Cross Country Championship at Belvoir Park in March 1903. After a close battle Trinity easily prevailed over the defending champions County Antrim 33-90 with West Belfast on the 114 mark.

Contemporary newspapers report Ferguson leading at the end of the first lap of the six mile trip from County Antrim duo J. Thompson and J McAuley with another Trinity man, H Connor, and St. Gall’s H O’Neill heading up the main field.

Thompson, the defending champion, was said to have got ahead in “splendid style”, leaving McAuley far behind while Ferguson and Connor “maintained a good steady pace” to finish second and third respectively. The attendance was said to be very good despite an inter-league soccer match (League of Ireland 1 – 0 Scottish League) being held at the same time in Grosvenor Park.

Some weeks later the green and whites, as they were known, made their way south to contest the Irish Junior for the first time. It was dry but windy at Elm Park in Dublin and, on a day of controversy, both the winner of the race P J McCafferty and the winning team Cork Harriers were disqualified, Trinity failed to click and finished back in seventh place in the team listings. The race was awarded to Cavan native Hugh Muldoon who took Clonliffe Harriers to the team title as well.

However, Trinity made no mistake the following year taking home silver medals in the Irish Junior behind a strong Galway City Harriers combination. On a cold day with a blustery wind and frequent heavy showers Hugh Connor (8th), Ferguson (9th) and William Millar (10th) gave Trinity a solid start. Such were the conditions one-third of the field failed to finish including the crack Haddington Harriers who had been favourites for the team title.

West Belfast’s Sammy Lee won the individual gold and made it a double a few weeks later by adding the Northern Branch Senior title. Trinity repeated their victory of 1903, defeating Hibernian Harriers by just two points with Connor (3rd) and Ferguson (5th) their leading men.  Trinity came back to take second in 1905, tying on 114 points with Willowfield, well behind County Antrim (89) led by individual winner T McCullough.

A third spot in 1906 marked the end of a golden spell for the Ballysillan outfit and one they were never to repeat. In September of the following year a small group of Ballyclare-based runners who were members of Trinity Harriers decided to form their own club in the town. They met in a barn at the back of Baird’s public house on Main Street and chose the name East Antrim Harriers. Little did they know that from these humble beginnings they were forming what was to become one of the most successful running clubs in Northern Ireland athletics history.

There is no evidence of James Ferguson competing after 1904. He married in 1923 and, with his wife and young son, emigrated to the USA in 1925. Lisa Morse never met her grandfather as he died before she was born but she has every reason to be proud of him and his feats in our sport. We are grateful to LIsa for initiating this interesting story and for the use of her photographs.

  

POSTMAN DUFFY DELIVERS AT GREENCASTLE

20 December 2020

Conor Duffy wins in Greencastle at the third attempt.

Conor Duffy and Grace Carson were the winners of the Greencastle 5 Miles Road Race in Tyrone. The race was brought forward from its traditional St. Stephen’s Day date and the field limited to 120 runners to comply with current guidelines.

Despite the changes, the 35th edition of the race lacked none of its character as Duffy made it third time lucky after placing second and third in recent years. The Glaslough Harrier was always in control and led a group of four through the three mile mark in 14 minutes and 41 seconds. Moving away on the notorious final long climb, the Castleblayney postman was able to breast the tape with a comfortable advantage in 24:35.

NI & Ulster Senior cross country champion Neil Johnston was next home, some four seconds in arrears with Ethiopia-born Eskander Turki grabbing third spot with a 24:43 timing. Mountain specialist Zac Hanna (24:49), Conán McCaughey (25:04) and Matthew Neill (25:22) made up the top half dozen. Tommy Hughes showed no signs of fatigue from a track 10,000m the previous day as he claimed the over-60 prize in 27:55.

Grace Carson out on her own.

Grace Carson was a class apart in the women’s competition, taking advantage of the mild conditions, the Mid-Ulster athlete impressed with a 28:22 winning time. Rachel Gibson was the next women with a 30:36 timing while Pauline McGurren, in third overall with a 32:10 mark, was the leading female Master.

Full results: www.greencastle5.com

The Great Running SwizzLE

When you pay over your entry fee to a race, do you ever wonder where your money goes? Did it go where you were led to believe it would?

The Omagh Half Marathon is one of many races that people return to year after year because runners are happy with what they get for their entry fee.

Most runners at some point of the year pay over good money to enter a race. Many people go to races as often as once a week, maybe even more in the summer. Only a small percentage will get that money back in the form of prize money. That means that for most of us it is one way traffic in terms of the movement of money.

None of us mind that when we know it is going to a genuine cause. That does not necessarily mean a registered charity, many clubs rely on events that they promote for their very existence. Mostly everyone is happy with either of these situations.

Other races are organised by event companies and no-one really minds as long as the organisers are open and transparent and make this clear. Runners then enter a different scenario and, if satisfied with the product i.e. value for money, they offer no complaint.

What annoys people is when they are led to believe their money is bound for a charity or cause when in fact it is not.

BELFAST CITY MARATHON
“The Belfast City Marathon first launched in 1982 with 3021 taking part in a marathon only event.  The marathon course started at the old Maysfield Leisure Centre and Greg Hannon was the winner in a time of two hours, 20 minutes and 25 seconds.  Sue Boreham was the first woman across the line in a time of 3 hours, 11 minutes and 26 seconds.  The event would take place on May Day Bank Holiday Monday each year.
1989 – the Team Relay event was introduced for teams of 2-5 runners, generating over £1.1M annually for local charities
1997 – the 8 Mile Walk and Fun Run events were introduced making the event the largest mass sport participatory event in Northern Ireland
2013 – the Half Marathon September event was launched” – www.belfastcitymarathon.com

Initially the Belfast City Marathon was run by a company whose directors came evenly from Belfast City Council and Athletics NI. However in recent years the BCC role seems to have reduced to such an extent that it is almost wholly ANI-controlled despite the council contributing £27,000 (was £42,000) annually as well as providing other services.

It is not difficult to see that both companies share a lot in common – officers, accountants and bankers. The fact that both companies are seen as one enterprise was confirmed after separate Freedom of Information requests were sent independently for each of the two companies. The response from John Allen was surprising in that his reply covered both companies. That may suggest in his mind they were one and indivisible. But, if so, why are accounts never presented to members of ANI? Who is entitled to attend the AGM of the Belfast City Marathon? What external scrutiny is there of the income and expenditure of the company? Are the dealings of the Belfast City Marathon open and transparent? Definitely not!

Response from John Allen to separate FoI requests to ANI and Belfast City Marathon

The assertion that the FoI requests were refused following The “comprehensive legal advice” also seems fatuous when informed legal professionals assure that any organisation in receipt of funds from the public purse are required to comply with requests for Freedom of Information. It is common sense that the public has the right to know how its monies are spent.

BCM VIRTUAL MARATHON

Earlier this year the Belfast City Marathon advertised that the 2020 race would be “virtual” in response to the regulations imposed during the ongoing pandemic.

BCM promo material: “As such a virtual event has been organised in an attempt to keep people motivated and raise some much needed funds for our official nominated charity, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland.   There is an option to donate when registering and you can also donate to Cancer Focus NI via their JustGiving page”

Over 3500 people entered this at a cost of £15 each. If they wished to support the nominated charity as well a link was provided. The BCM received over £50,000 with many believing that the money was going to charity. With the event being virtual, outgoings were minimal – the tee-shirts were donated by the charity , if you wanted a race tee-shirt, you had to pay extra.

When the event was completed, BCM trumpeted that £40K had been handed over to charity. The impression taken by many was that this came from the BCM but, despite being challenged, it refused to confirm that any of this came from the entry. In the circumstances, the only conclusion to be drawn is that the £40K came from the voluntary contributions of the entrants.

In correspondence, BCM have tried to maintain this myth that they donated the money by a clever use of words. The company has also refused to make this information under a FoI request.

Hi XXXXX

Apologies for the delay but can I ask that the following information to be provided. I think the transparency will help the whole running community and offer the opportunity to present BCM in a most favourable light :

  1. How much of the £15 entry fee for the 3500 entrants (£52500) was donated to Cancer Focus NI for the 2020 Virtual race?
  2. What costs were incurred to hold a virtual race?
  3. What companies if any were used to provide the event management/consultancy and how much did this cost?
  4. How are nominated charity selected?

I look forward to a positive response to the above

The BCM has for years claimed to be raising huge monies for charity but an investigation by this website suggests the contrary. In fact, charities may have been paying BCM substantial amounts each year to garner the coveted “nominated charity” endorsement. We have seen no evidence of any BCM income ever being handed over to charity.

This is the response received to the latest request for information:

Thank you for your email and patience. Following the Board meeting I can update you on the below;

  • Over £40,000 was donated to Cancer Focus NI through the Virtual Event which was staged in May/June. The charity were overwhelmed with the support at a very uncertain time for everyone. Press release attached.
  • The running costs included purchase of medals and t-shirts, design, advertising and promotional costs, office and management costs and technical costs including health and safety plans etc
  • Like any of our events we work with a number of external partners such as Belfast City Council, Department of Infrastructure, PSNI, Grahams Traffic Management, the list is endless. I must add they are excellent and have provided much needed support to our organisation for the past 30 years.
  • To select a charity, there is an official application process. Interested parties contact the office (normally January time) and will complete an application form which is later assessed using a matrix and weighting system.
  • I hope the above answers any queries which you had and look forward to your participation and support in the events over the coming few years.

The above was followed up with a request (see below) for clarification of the £40K donation but no reponse was received – in fact BCM said that they would no longer engage in correspondence about the matter:

Thank you for the response and the press release. Your email doesn’t quite answer any of the specific questions I have raised so if I could list again below this time for a detailed response it would be appreciated.

The event entry system was held with the ability to contribute directly to charity as well as the separate entry fee for the event. So if we can please differentiate between actual individual donations and the separate BCM contribution from the entrance fees.

We can therefore from this understand how much was donated by BCM via the entrance fee and not via the donations. My questions then that remain are as follows

  1. How much of the £15 entry fee for the 3500 entrants (£52500) was donated to Cancer Focus NI for the 2020 Virtual race?
  2. What costs were incurred to hold the virtual race? Can you please provide listing of major cost centres for the virtual race (which if 40k was donated to nominated charity should equate to 12.5k)
  3. What companies if any were used to provide the event management/consultancy and how much did this cost? Again this should specifically be for the virtual event (where input from those listed in your email below would not have been needed for a virtual event) and again should be within the 12.5k figure.

We would be really grateful for the detail on this as it is causing a lot of apprehension/misgiving in the running community that hopefully you can put to rest quickly and ensure that the BCM retains the current participation and support levels from the running community.

WE HAVE SUGGESTED TO BCM THAT IN FACT NONE OF THE ENTRANCE FEES HAVE MADE THEIR WAY TO THE NOMINATED CHARITY WITHOUT RESPONSE. WE LEAVE YOU TO DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS

DERRY MAN IMPRESSES AT NORTHERN CROSS COUNTRY

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.

 CONTEMPORARY NEWSPAPER REPORT

“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”.

CARRIGANS 5k GETS NEW YEAR ROAD SEASON GOING

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.

END OF THE LINE FOR CROSS COUNTRY INTERNATIONAL

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 – http://www.greencastle5.com

TO VEGAN OR NOT TO VEGAN

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.

THE CONS

  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 www.vegan.ie contains lots of information for anyone thinking of practising veganism or is already a Vegan. Vegan Runners (www.veganrunners.org.uk) offer membership for just £6 per year and can provide introductions to others in the UK of a like mind.

IRELAND TO THE FOUR IN PORTUGAL

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.

RESULTS

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

FIFTH NORTH WEST INDOOR GAMES

                       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 bernieocallaghan@gmail.com

More than an Athletics Club