Derry Track Club had another successful weekend at the North Down Festival of Cross Country in which they won very impressively, writes team manager Conor McIlveen.
The team of Darragh Crossan (club captain), Matt Doherty, Conor Doherty and Cathal McLaughlin completed the 2 x 1300m lap race in fantastic fashion.
The four men took on a very tough course which consisted of some very soft ground and numerous hills that would drain the legs of any athlete.
The race started off with Club Captain Darragh Crossan taking the 1st leg of the relay race and did fantastically well. Right from the start Darragh took the lead but was overhauled close to home by a Newcastle runner.
Matt followed Darragh in great style by sticking with the leader from Newcastle AC to which he had a tussle with down the back straight of the opening lap and from that the Newcastle man could not handle the pace of the talented Derry Track Runner.
Matt then opened a large gap between Derry Track Club and Newcastle to which he handed over to his brother Conor Doherty.
Right from the word go Conor took the lead off his brother and did not waste time of opening up a larger gap for Derry Track Club and did it so comfortably.
Whilst running around the 2 lap course he looked composed and in complete control to which was key in a tough course. He then passed over to Cathal McLaughlin.
Cathal coming off a silver medal from British & Irish Masters’ Cross Country International in Dublin last weekend followed on by running a fantastic last leg.
The last runner for Newcastle AC worked extremely hard to close the gap but did no such thing as Cathal ran extremely well and build on the work from all of our 3 previous runners to run and complete a fantastic win for Derry Track Club.
Elsewhere Lily Toorish was caught out by the fast start at the National Juvenile Even Age Groups Championships in Dublin. After being back in the fifties, she ran strongly to move through to 34th at the finish line. That put her sixth of the Ulster runners who finished 3rd in the Inter-Provincial match.
Another weekend and more success for Derry Track Club with Cathal McLaughlin helping Northern Ireland to silver medals at the British & Irish Masters’ Cross Country International, podium places at the second round of the Sperrin Harriers Winter League and Hannah McGowan running well at the Irish Universities’ Road Relays.
Cathal McLaughlin was the only Derry Track Club athlete in action at the British & Irish Masters’ Cross Country International in Dublin. Despite not having had a warm-up race over the country, McLaughlin made light of the muddy underfoot conditions to finish fifteenth in the M45 category.
That was good enough for the fourth and final scorer spot for the NI team which took a surprise runner-up place behind England.
“The conditions were awful with most of the course under water due to the heavy rain,” said McLaughlin. “I ran well on the opening lap but struggled a bit mid-race. I was pleased to be able to pick it up again toward the end and I’m delighted to pick up a second international medal this year after my silver in the European Indoors last March.”
Meanwhile DTC runners were performing well at the second fixture of the Sperrin Harriers Winter League at Lough Fea. The shorter 5K distance suited the Derry speedsters as Conor Doherty took a solid second spot behind Ballymena Runners’ James Hamilton who clocked 16 minutes and 17 seconds.
Doherty was only four seconds back at the line with younger brother Matt hot on his heels in third place with a 16:27 clocking. Darragh Crossan got back to his best form to take fifth in 16:38 and give Derry City Track Club three finishers in the top five.
Robert Bigger turned in his usual consistent best to top the M55 age group listings in 19:08. He was followed shortly by Shaun Deery (19:42), Conor McIlveen (20:33) and Malcolm McCausland (21:09).
Ben Mellon finished strongly to win the Junior Men’s category in 21:37 – not bad for a 13-year-old competing in an U20 age group! Kayla McLaughlin got the better of Lily Toorish on the run-in after both girls had used the race as part of their training for more important upcoming fixtures.
Earlier Hannah McGowan was in action for Dublin City University at the Irish Universities’ Road Relays in Maynooth. The Eglinton woman had finished fifth in the Ulster Novice Cross Country the previous weekend but was happy to be back on the firmer surface of the Kildare roads.
Running the third leg for the DCU B squad, McGowan clocked 12 minutes and 52 seconds for the two mile distance. That helped the north Dublin outfit to eighth place overall of the 26 competing teams.
The DTC youngsters were back in action again on Tuesday claiming three victories at the Oakgrove School Cross Country Invitational. Lily Toorish ran away from the opposition in the Year 9 race with Kayla McLaughlin also showing a clean pair of heels to the Year 10 girls’ field.
Another DTC young athlete Sean McIntyre was first in the Intermediate Boys’ race while Ben Mellon showed no any after affects of his great run three days previously by taking 6th in the Year 9 Boys’ contest.M
Amy McDaid showed she was back to her best with a battling silver medal at the Ulster Novice Cross Country Championships in Stranorlar. The Creggan woman only returned to the sport in recentafter a year in Australia and was the only athlete from the city to pick up an individual medal.
Amy started cautiously in the four kilometre race held on a demanding muddy circuit around the playing fields of the Finn Valley Leisure Centre. While team mate Hannah McGowan cut out the pace at the front of the field, the Derry Track Club captain was content to sit back in fifth position.
Hannah continued to lead going into the second and final circuit but the gap that was once 40 metres was now down to five. Behind her, Amy had improved to third, hot on the heels of Acorns AC runner Natalie Hall. As the brave Hannah started to fade back through the field, it came down to a straight head to head between Hall and McDaid.
In the end, Hall prevailed due to a superior endurance that had taken her to a 3:12 marathon in September. Nevertheless Amy was delighted with her runner-up spot, just 14 seconds behind the winner, and her first Ulster medal at this level.
Although slipping back to fifth at the finish line, Hannah can also take consolation from a brave display and showing character that will no doubt reap its reward in the very near future.
Derry Track Club was also represented for the first time in the men’s race, taking sixth place behind a talented quartet from St. Malachy’s in Belfast. No one excelled but all six runners did a sound job in the sticky conditions.
Club captain Darragh Crossan led the squad home in 24th, followed closely by Adrian Boyle in 28th. Tim Shiels (37th) and Kevin Connolly (40th) completed the scoring quartet while Zac McGowan (47th) and Shaun Deery (50th) provided valuable back up support.
There were three DTC athletes in action in the juvenile races. Matt Doherty was disappointed with his tenth place in the U19 race after deciding to go to the front from the gun; Brandon Connolly never got to grips with the going in the U17 race, finishing 59th, and Sean McIntyre was 22nd in the U15 contest.
Earlier a contingent of the club’s athletes were in action at the Derry City parkrun (all small letters) on Saturday morning. Conor Doherty took the opportunity to stretch his legs in competition after putting in a solid block of speedwork and was rewarded with a new parkrun record of 16:18.
Clubmate Cathal McLaughlin was next across the line in 17:30 as he prepares for this weekend’s British & Irish Cross Country International in Dublin. The Derry Track young lions also showed their teeth with 13-year-old Ben Mellon chopped over two minutes from his best with a 20:53 timing.
Lily Toorish, one year younger than Ben, cruised to a 21:13 and another 13-year-old Kayla McLaughlin also impressed with a 22:07 on her parkrun debut. Robert Bigger (19:17) and Malcolm McCausland (21:23) also turned in valuable training runs.
Derry Track Club is pleased to welcome Conan McCaughey to its ranks. The Enniskillen man has caught the eye of DTC coach Malcolm McCausland for the past few years and sees him developing into one of the top middle/long distance athletes in the country.
“Conan first impressed me when he won the Ulster Novice title in Derry two years ago,” said McCausland. “He showed a lot of determination in getting the win that day. I’ve watched him a lot since then and he has never failed to bring his best game to his racing no matter what distance he tackles.
“Tommy Farrell has done a great job getting him to this level and will continue to look after him. We at DTC will be doing our utmost to expand his competitive opportunities and he will supplement the other talented young athletes we are developing at the moment.”
“I’m looking forward to pulling on the green DTC vest,” said McCaughey who will make his debut in the next few weeks.
Derry Track Club athlete Jason Smyth struck gold again at the IPC World Athletics Championships in Qatar. Despite carrying the weight of favoritism on his shoulders, he turned in a clinical performance to add another world championship gold medal to their already impressive list of successes.
For Smyth, it was as much a race against time as the opposition with his wife expecting their first baby any day now. Immediately after Saturday’s final he was on his way to the airport to arrive home in time for the birth.
The Derry Track Club athlete had qualified confidently from his heat on Friday with a 10.78 seconds timing but still looked nervous as he lined up for the eight-man final in the Suhaim Bin Hamad Stadium. He was sluggish out of the blocks as Bulgaria’s Radoslav Zlatanov was first to show.
However, Smyth was quickly into his running and had hit the front by halfway before going on to break the electronic beam in a more than credible 10.62 seconds. Brazil’s Gustavo Araujo came through to take a distant second place in 10.90 with Chad Peris of Australia nabbing the bronze in 10.96 as the Bulgarian slipped back to fifth.
It was the fifth World IPC Championships gold for Smyth to add to his four Paralympic gold medals.
“It was great to get out there and start competing. It’s been a couple of years since the world championships, so it’s just great to be here and thankfully cross the line first. I am very happy with my time, obviously you always want to be quicker but at the end of the day I got gold and that’s all that matters for me.”
The Eglinton man arrived back at his London home the early hours of last Sunday morning but is still (at time of writing, awaiting the arrival of the baby.
“It’s a weight off my shoulders getting back from Doha with a gold medal,” Smyth said. “I didn’t want to make anything of it at the time but I went into hospital in January for an operation on my knee and the recuperation took much longer than expected.
“I’ve been under pressure all summer to get back in shape for the championships. Luckily they were held in October because if it had been earlier I wouldn’t have been able to compete. I can now relax a while before getting back in training and working toward Rio. It’s a big year coming up!”
Meanwhile Smyth’s Derry Track Club colleagues were competing at the Bobby Rea Cross Country Meeting at the University of Ulster Jordanstown last weekend. And it was the ladies who stole the show with Lily Toorish racing to a fine sixth place finish in the U14 Ulster championship and Amy McDaid showing in the senior women’s race she is back to her best after a year out of the sport.
The St. Cecilia’s pupil started cautiously but soon moved through the field to lie in sixth place with 800m to run. A strong charge down the final hill took Lily up to fourth but she ran out of steam and slipped back to sixth at the line.
That was good enough to take her through to the Irish final at Santry Demesne, Dublin on November 22. Kayla McLaughlin ran well to take 43rd on her debut at this level and will improve with experience.
Amy McDaid caught the eye with an 18th spot in the senior women’s race. After a year out of the sport, the young woman from the Creggan is getting back to her very best and should go well in the upcoming Ulster Novice championship.
Ben Mellon ran well in the boys’ U14 race without ever getting involved. The St. Columb’s College pupil crossed the line in 67th which is no reflection of his ability.
Sean McIntyre was running up a year in boys’ U16 race but impressed with a 30th place finish. Brandon Connolly was also pitted against opponents of up to 16 months older than himself in the U18 boys’ contest but shrugged off the disadvantage to also take 30th.
Conor Doherty was the first Derry Track Club athlete home in the senior men’s race with a good run for 21st spot in a field of almost 200 . Conor’s younger brother Matt also impressed with a dogged display for 34th. Darragh Crossan completed the DTC scoring trio in 54th to give the green and blacks a sixth place of the competing 20 clubs.
Kevin Connolly (97th), Shaun Deery (114th) and Conor McIlveen (115th) all stuck gamefully to their task to complete the testing eight kilometre course.
Elsewhere British Masters’ 800m indoor champion Tim Shiels showed he is wintering well with a win in the Portrush parkrun. Behind him Robert Bigger also impressed with a third place finish.