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SAD LOSS OF OLIVER MCCULLAGH

Oliver McCullagh

Hundreds of people turned out this week in County Tyrone to bid farewell to the late Oliver McCullagh. The Greencastle man’s cortege from his home to St. Patrick’s Church, Greencastle was led by lone piper Michael Kelly and representatives of clubs from all over Ulster. McCullagh was not only the originator and organiser of the Greencastle 5 Miles road race but also an influential figure in the development of the sport in mid-Ulster.

Fr. Eddie Gallagher led an emotion-charged requiem service with the following extract reading from Ecclesiastes:

There is a time for everything,

And a season for every activity under the heavens:

A time to be born and a time to die.

Oliver was heavily involved in activity but sadly his time came much too soon. He will not be forgotten and is survived by his wife Mary, daughter Olivia (Mullin), sons Pierce and Connor, their respective partners, and grandsons and granddaughters. May he rest in peace. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Lone piper Mickey Kelly leads the cortege.

IRISH MASTERS’ RECORD FOR DTC ATHLETE

David Stewart (2nd left) at the conclusion of pentathlon at European Masters’ Indoors, Braga, Portugal.

DTC athlete David Stewart set a new M55 record in finishing eighth in the pentathlon event in Barga, Portugal. David set personal bests in all five events. His best individual result came in the 1000m with a 3:20.69 timing which was worth 719 points. (results at https://emaci22.vercel.app/results)

Other DTC athletes were in action at the Buncrana parkrun where they filled the top three positions in windy conditions (four in the top ten).

  1. Adrian Boyle 18:49 (74.76%)
  2. Cathal McLaughlin 18:50 (80.88%)
  3. David Mellon 20:08 (69.37%) …9th Conor McIlveen 23:35

Across the water DTC’s Stephen Logan was second in the Beverley Westwood parkrun in 19:43 (69.23%).

FRANK FREER

By noted athletics historian Michael O’Dwyer

Frank Freer was born on 13 May 1867 at Kilcommon, Cahir, County Tipperary. He was the eldest son of John
Freer and Caroline Freer (née Abbott).

The marriage notice of his parents in the Leinster Express of 28 April 1866 reads, ‘On the 19th inst., at St. Thomas’s Church, Dublin, by the Rev. Oliver J. Tibeaudo, cousin to the bride, John G. Freer, Esq., of Ballykineen, Queen’s County, to Caroline S. Abbott, eldest daughter of G. T.
Abbott, Esq., formerly of Barnagrotty, King’s County.’

According to the 1901 census his mother was born in
County Tipperary. Her own mother, Julia Maria Abbott (née Tibeaudo), was a daughter of Joseph Oliver
Tibeaudo, of Annagh Castle, near Puckane, County Tipperary.

Although Frank Freer was born in County
Tipperary it is likely he spent a very short time there and grew up on the family farm at Ballykaneen, Clonaslee,
County Laois. The farm was later sold in 1895 and his parents moved to Timogue, Stradbally.

He entered Trinity College Dublin in 1885 and graduated on 19 December 1889 as a senior moderator, equivalent to obtaining first class honours degree of exceptional merit.

At the Irish athletics championships he won the 120
yd hurdles event in the years 1889, 1890 and 1891. He also came second in the 120 yd hurdles in 1888 and
1893, and came second in the long jump in 1891.

Frank Freer was a teacher of French and English at Foyle
College, Derry, where he directed the school games and sports. He also managed the school’s concert and
theatricals, and he revived and directed the school magazine.

After twenty years at Foyle College, Frank Freer
died during the summer holidays on 22 August 1913 at the residence of his brother-in-law in Castlecuffe,
County Laois, aged forty-six. He was survived by his wife and a young son. It was arranged by the governors of
the school with his wife that she would take boarders from the school into her home, and they provided her with
beds and furnishings, so that she would be able to make a living.

Titles Won at Senior National Championships:
(Irish Amateur Athletic Association)

1889 120 yd Hurdles 17.0
1890 120 yd Hurdles 16.6
1891 120 yd Hurdles 16.6

ADAM headlines a busy weekend

Adam Kirk-Smith

21 November 2021 – Adam Kirk-Smith headlined a busy weekend for DTC athletes with a fine 24th place in the National Senior Cross Country, making him the first Ulster-based athlete across the finish line. Good news also is that AKS has committed himself to DTC for 2022 becoming our first contract athlete for the year.

22 Andrew Coscoran Star of the Sea A.C. 31:52
23 David Mansfield Clonmel 31:53
24 Adam Kirk-Smith Derry Track Club 32:02
25 James Dunne (U23) Tullamore Hrs 32:04

David Mellon

Elsewhere David Mellon scored his second consecutive (third in all) win at the Buncrana parkrun, coming home in windy conditions with a 20:22 clocking. David hopes to complete his Malcolm McCausland recorded 24:55.

Mark Quigley showed a continued improvement since joining DTC with a runner-up spot at the Derry City (5.3km) parkrun.

“Tough course!,” said Mark. “Came through 5K at 19:23 so happy enough with that, 20:41 and second place overall.”

Our Paralympic T13 100m champion Jason Smyth has recently received a civic reception in his home village of Eglinton, Co. Derry/Londonderry. Here is the newspaper report https://www.derrynow.com/news/athletics/691993/eglinton-welcomes-six-time-local-paralympic-gold-hero-home.html

We also welcome Stephen Logan as a new member. The NI man is based in South Yorkshire but will be running for us in the NI & Ulster Masters’ XC Champs at the end of January

Stephen Logan

Finally, DTC would also like to welcome Carly Chestnutt who is currently on trial with the club. First impressions are very positive.



FITZSIMONS WINS BOBBY FARREN MEMORIAL 800M

Alex Bell lived up to top billing in the Belfast IMC Meeting at the Mary Peters track with the fifth fastest women’s 800m seen in the world this year. But that was just one highlight in an incredible afternoon of world class performances with records and best times being scattered like tenpins. The event was the best of its kind seen at the venue for decades and excellently organised by meeting director Eamonn Christie and his team.

While many athletes are frantically running all over the USA and Europe in search of qualifying times and points, Alex Bell decided to return to Belfast where she had won in 2016. Running on what she describes as her “lucky track”, the Pudsey & Bramley athlete went through the halfway point on the heels of pacemaker Sinead Denny in a swift 58 seconds.

Left on her own at the front and with Georgie Hartigan on her heels, she ploughed on in the lead until the final bend when she managed to distance her pursuer. Showing typical Yorkshire grit, Bell kept the pressure on in the homestraight to break the tape in 1:58.52, an IMC record and fifth fastest in the world in 2021. Behind her Hartigan recorded 2:00.18 for a personal best and, more importantly to her, a family record edging out her mother Bev’s 2:00.39.  

John Fitzsimons (right) gets home of Harry Purcell (24) and Roland Surlis (21)

The Bobby Farren Memorial 800m was also a cracker even in the absence of Irish number one Mark English who opted for races on the continent this week. Kieran Kelly took the pace, taking the field to the 400m mark in 52 seconds when John Fitzsimons took up the running from Harry Purcell and Cavan man Roland Surlis.  

You could have thrown a blanket over the trio right the way to the line with the Kildare man getting the decision by thousands of a second over Purcell, both sharing the same 1:46.53 timing. Surlis was a close-up third in 1:46.74 as the first seven men all recorded personal bests.

Another world class mark came from Phil Healy in the women’s 400m. The Cork woman’s 51.50 clocking put her in the global top 40, but she had to work hard to shake off an inspired Sophie Becker who went under 53 seconds for the first time with a 52.32 mark. Healy had warmed up earlier with a fast 200m in 23.29 (-0.4), to strengthen her claims to a place in the shorter event in Tokyo this August. Cillin Greene led another host of personal bests in the men’s 400m stopping the clocking 46.45.

Another Olympics-bound sprinter Marcus Lawler showed that lockdowns in the Republic had done him no harm as he stretched out to an impressive 20.99 clocking in the men’s 200m. Jacob Olatunde set a new national U23 record in the 100m, stopping the clock at 10.61 in almost still conditions. Molly Scott made short work of the opposition in the 100m with a promising early season 11.91 timing.

The men’s 1500m saw the first three men all record new bests with Darragh McElhinney a clear winner in 3:43.87. Similarly, Carla Sweeney had plenty to spare in the women’s metric mile clocking 4:17.57. Lisnaskea’s Masters’ champion Denise Toner impressed in third with a 4:20.80 mark.

Earlier Michelle Finn had opened the programme with a 9:39.44 3000m steeplechase to consolidate her Olympics ranking and new recruit to Ireland’s distance squad Tonusa Hiko impressed with the fastest 5000m (13:36.71) seen in Belfast for some years.

Jason takes sixth paralympic gold


Jason Smyth

The legend just continues to grow as Jason Smyth adds another Paralympic gold medal. The 34-year-old Eglinton sprinter breasted the tape yesterday for victory in the T13 100m at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics after what was the tightest race of his career. It was his sixth gold Paralympic gold medal in a career that stretches back to Seoul in 2008 and he remains unbeaten in that period. 

However, never before did he have to dip so frantically as he did on this occasion with Algeria’s Skander Djamil Athmani closing down the Irish man’s advantage in the final phase of the race. 

Unlike the sluggish start in his heat earlier in the morning, Smyth was out of the blocks like a bullet in the final, gaining a two metre advantage on Athmani, who is the national able-bodied record holder of Algeria with a 10.29 second mark. 

After that it was a case on clinging on and the Derry Track Club sprinter did just that, straining every last sinew in his body, as Athmani gained by the stride.

A last desperate lunge at the line saw Smyth home by the finest of margins, one-hundredth of a second, in a new Paralympic record of 10.53 seconds. Mission accomplished! And it was a relieved and happy Smyth, draped in a tricolour, who spoke after the event.

“Delighted, obviously an extremely close race. I knew coming into it that the Algerian had run quick in the heats, and he’s run very quick this year – quicker than I have,” he said with obvious relief. 

“So, I knew I was up against it. If I reflect back on the year I’ve had, it’s probably one of the toughest years I’ve had in quite a while with injuries. Nine months ago, I was wondering if this was me done. Three months ago, I was wondering would I be at the Games and to be able to be at this level. But we got things right and we came together right at the right time.”

ALAS NO BOSTON MARATHON …. AGAIN!

This week was Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts. For athletics followers, Patriots’ Day is synonymous with the Boston Marathon but unfortunately the event did not go ahead on its usual date for the second consecutive year.

The first Boston took place in 1897 and was inspired by the marathon race in the previous year’s Summer Olympics in Greece. Its course goes from Hopkinton in southern Middlesex County to Copley Square in Boston and had run without interruption until the cancellation of the 2020 event.

That inaugural event only attracted 15 starters, but more recent editions have seen around 30,000 registered participants each year. The Centennial Boston Marathon in 1996 established a record as the world’s largest marathon with 38,708 entrants, 36,748 starters, and 35,868 finishers. Apart from the active participants, the event attracts 500,000 spectators each year as well as a worldwide television viewership.

Winner of the first race was Irish-American John J. McDermott who covered the 24.5 mile course in 2:55:10. The event was scheduled for the then recently established holiday of Patriots’ Day, linking the race with the Athenian and American struggles for liberty. The race, which became known as the Boston Marathon, has been held every year since then, even during the World War years & the Great Depression, until 2020.

In 1924, the starting line was moved from Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland to Hopkinton Green and the course was lengthened to 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 km) to conform to the standard set by the 1908 Summer Olympics and codified by the IAAF in 1921.

Probably the most unfortunate Boston Marathon was in 2013 which was still in progress when two homemade bombs were set off about 180 metres yards apart on Boylston Street, in approximately the last 200m of the course. The race was halted, preventing many from finishing, but not before three spectators were killed and an estimated 264 were injured.

The last Ireland-born athlete* to win Boston was Niall Cusack. The Limerick man entered the 1974 race as an unknown entity with New Yorker Tom Fleming the favourite. His university East Tennessee paid his way to the race but Cusack, on an impulse, decided to pin a shamrock to his fishnet vest. Little did he know how important an element that shamrock was to play in his win.

Niall Cusack winning the 1972 NCAA Cross Country

Cusack started conservatively, he did not hit the front until 10km and was never headed thereafter. At the halfway mark he was one minute ahead of Fleming. And cruised home 46 seconds ahead of the tearful American in a time of 2:13.39, the second fastest winning effort up to that point. Finishing well down the field was an up and coming Bill Rogers, who subsequently became synonymous with Boston and New York.

He started the race not quite an unknown, despite having won the NCAA cross country two years earlier but crossed the finish line as an international star. “I didn’t realise how big this event was until I crossed the line,” said the former St. Munchin’s College student. “It was bedlam. The Irish in Boston went mad – they were stuffing ten and twenty dollar bills into my bag. I was the toast of Boston.”

Cusack had represented Ireland at the 1972 Olympics in the 10,000m and went on to a second Games in Montreal 1976, finishing 55th in the marathon. He later won the 1981 Dublin City Marathon but never managed to scale the heights of his triumph in Boston 47 years ago this week.

  • *Contrary to popular belief Niall Cusack is not the only Irishman to win Boston. Jimmy Duffy (born Sligo 1 May 1890 – 23 April 1915) was the winner of the 1914 Boston. Two years earlier, representing Canada he was fifth in the Olympic Marathon won by Co. Antrim’s Ken McArthur representing South Africa – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Duffy