26 August 2018

Tafelta Athletics Club may be only two years in existence, but it looks like it could be organising the top race in the mid Ulster area this autumn.  The club was founded in Magherafelt by respected coach Francis Purvis with the assistance of, among others, Rosemary Hargan, Katrina Davis and David Seffen. It now boasts a membership fast approaching 100.

The Tafelta 10 Miles goes ahead on Saturday, September 15 and follows a course in and around Magherafelt. The main sponsor is O’Neill’s sportswear company who this year are celebrating their centenary since setting up a manufacturer of gaelic footballs in 1918. They are now the largest producer of sportswear in Ireland.

“We’re looking forward to hosting our race next month,” said Purvis. “We decided to go for the ten miles because it’s a distance that used to be very popular but now rarely appears on the racing calendar. Sub 50 minutes clockings for the distance used to be quite common in Cookstown and other places and it would be nice to see someone run that fast on September 15.”

Kilronan School in Magherafelt is set to benefit financially from the race. Kilronan looks after children from age 3 to 19 years with severe learning difficulties and prides itself on providing each individual with a range of learning opportunities to meet their own needs and abilities. All money received from the race will be put to meeting this objective particularly when the government purse strings are growing tighter by the day.

Entry is currently open for the Tafelta “10” on the Athletics NI website. There are event tee-shirts for the first 200 entrants with Championchip Ireland providing accurate times for all the finishers. For more information contact Francis Purvis on 07597595831, or alternatively via email: francispurvis@hotmail.co.uk. The event website is www.klubfunder.com/clubs/tafelta_ac


26 August 2018

It looks as though it is going to be another busy winter season with a jam-packed cross country calendar announced this week. The season opens up earlier than usual on September 30 with a new fixture in Armagh where the local club will host the T J McElmeel Cup.

180822 Cross Country Fixture List_

October sees three important fixtures with the Masters’ Trial followed by the Comber Cup and Bobby Rea Memorial that incorporates the first half of the provincial juvenile championships. The Autumn International also returns at the Abbotstown course in north Dublin.

November promises to be a hectic month with one of the oldest races on the calendar, the McConnell Shield, kicking off the action. It also includes one of the most competitive races of the winter season, the Ulster Novice Championships which this year is allocated to Scotstown in Co. Monaghan. That fixture also includes the second part of the provincial juvenile finals. The national senior championships fall soon afterwards and hopefully, without a clashing road race north of the border, more Ulster clubs will field teams.

There is no respite in December as the European cross country championships will capture the interest while at home there are Acorns AC and Northwest Cross Country championships. The novices and juveniles take centre stage nationally with their championships down for decision just nine days before Christmas.

No venue is yet listed for the IAAF Permit Meeting previously held at Antrim but rumoured to be moving to the Billy Neill Soccer Centre in Dundonald. The meeting has a later date than usual in January. The biennial World Cross Country takes place in Aarhus, Denmark at the end of March with the organisers promising a return to traditional cross country. Nobody will complain about that.


18 August 2018

Derry Track Club’s Masters were in form at the National Masters’ Track & Field Championships in Tullamore.  Robert Bigger notched up an impressive 800m/1500m double in the M60 age group while Cathal McLaughlin pounced late for the M50 800m gold.

DTC Masters (L-R): Elaine Connor, Mal McCausland, Cathal McLaughlin and Robert Bigger) Missing: Richie Kelly

There were two third places for Richie Kelly over 200m and 400m in the  M75 age group while Elaine Connor picked up her first national medal with a third place in the F40 400m.

Northern athletes picked up their share of titles at the midland venue on a dry but humid day.

St. Anne’s athlete Paddy Crossan continued to inspire. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a few years ago, while many would have retreated to the sofa, the Belfast man has fought against the symptoms to such a degree that he won the 200m in the M55 age group before missing out on the 400m gold medal by just two-hundredths of a second.

City of Derry octogenarian Frank Stewart, a high jumper in his heyday, rolled back the years with a record in the shot putt and other victories in the 100m and javelin. His younger clubmate Peter Friar added the M35 high jump title for the northwest club.

Aidan Gillespie was rewarded for the long journey from the west of Donegal by taking a hat-trick of gold medals in the M45 age group. The Rosses clubman excelled in the high hurdles, long and high jumps for the second consecutive years.  Strabane man Damian Crawford went through a series of manoeuvres in the field netting him two gold, one silver and one bronze.

Others to shine in the humid conditions were Lagan Valley’s Joe Frey in the M60 200m, Clones cyclone Denise Toner who led home Beechmount Harrier Catherine Diver for a rare northern 1-2 in the F40 1500m.

Earlier the DTC Masters had lifted nine gold medals at the NIMAA Track & Field Championships held at the Mary Peters Track.  Star of the show had to be Robert Bigger who won the 400/800/1500/300mH in the M60 age group.

DTC Masters (L-R): Robert Bigger, Elaine Connor, Richie Kelly, Cathal McLaughlin and Mal McCausland.

Cathal McLaughlin did the 400/800m double in the M50 category while there were titles for Elaine Connor (400m), Richie Kelly (100m) and Mal McCausland (1500m). Marina Murphy also chipped in with a silver medal in the 3000m.



24 August 2018

Orla Comerford brought Ireland’s total medal haul to eight with her second bronze on the penultimate day of the World Para Athletics European Championships in Berlin. Ireland now only has one competitor left, Niamh McCarthy who competes in the F40/F41 discus final on Sunday afternoon.

The Raheny Shamrock athlete pipped German Janne Sophie Engeleiter for third place in the T13 100m final by a mere one hundredth of a second. Comerford finished in 12.82, behind winner Leilia Adzhametova of the Ukraine (11.93) and Portugal’s Carolina Duarte (12.59). The trio had finished in the same order in Wednesday’s 200m final.

The 20-year-old, who also competed in Rio 2016 and last year’s world championships in London, has the same degenerative eye condition Stargardt disease as double gold-medallist Jason Smyth.  Comerford’s contribution means Ireland now has five gold and three bronze medals with McCarthy likely to add to that total on Sunday and that from a team of just ten athletes.

Jason Smyth’s two golds in Berlin continued his streak of winning at every major championships he has attended since lining up at his first Europeans in 2005.  His victory in the 100m on Thursday evening brought his tally of major gold medals to 17.

“It’s like every major event, it’s very important to do well,” said the Eglinton man. “That’s what it all comes down to and what you’re remembered for; what everything during the whole year is geared towards – performing at that major championships.

Smyth’s time of 10.46 at London 2012 is the quickest time ever in Paralympic competition, but the Derry Track Club sprinter believes that he is still capable of going faster after one of his best seasons for some years.

“I think to be honest in the next couple of years I’ll run faster than I have. That’s me being honest about it. Up until London 2012 I was running my fastest. In 2013 I ended up getting an injury which took two years to figure out, and I had to get surgery in 2015.

“I’ve really found in the last couple of years – probably this year especially – that I’ve got back to a point where a lot of the base, the strength and the foundation to be able to put in the training load has come back. Maybe in the next few years I’ll be able to fine tune that.”

Ballykelly woman Sally Brown, competing in British colours, finished fifth in the T47 100m yesterday recording 13.56 seconds. She competes in the 200m final this afternoon.





23 August 2018

Another day and another gold medal for Jason Smyth as the Eglinton man stormed to his second victory this week at the World Para Athletics European Championships in Berlin.

Smyth was again a different class from the opposition in the morning as he clocked a championship record in his T13 100m heat of 10.86 seconds. He returned in the evening to reduce that to 10.66 seconds despite running into a fresh breeze.

The result was never in doubt from the second the Derry Track Club athlete sprung from his blocks until he crossed triumphantly across the finish line. Behind him Poland’s Mateusz Michalski (10.99) and Jakub Nicpon (11.33) won the scrap for the minor placings without ever threatening the Paralympic king of sprints.

The win means that Smyth is now the reigning T13 100m champion at Olympic, World and European level as well as breaking the championship record when winning the T13 200m on Tuesday.

Earlier, teenager Jordan Lee added to the Irish medal haul with a bronze medal in the men’s T47 high jump. The Kerryman was making his debut at this level after concentrating on basketball.

He jumped consistently throughout and cleared 1.75 metres to finish in third place. He attempted but failed 1.78m which could have gained him the silver medal.  France’s Alexandre Dipoko-Iwane set a championship record of 1.89m to take gold. Lee’s bronze brought the Irish total to seven, five gold and two bronze, putting Ireland into eighth place in the medal table at the end of day four.

It was tougher baptism for another debutante David Leavy in the T38 1500m as he faded to seventh after contesting the bronze medal for much of the distance. The Belfast man represented Great Britain in seven-a-side football at last year’s world championships before switching to Ireland and athletics. Leavy was just outside his seasonal best with a 4:28.72 mark behind runaway winner Redouane Hennouni (4:13.12) of France

Kildare’s Paddy Monahan was also outside the medals finishing fourth in the T53 800m recording 1:51.76 as France’s Pierre Fairbank completed a 400m/800m double.  Bangor teenager Eve Walsh Dann will also have benefitted from the experience of competing in the T36 200m, taking sixth place in 30.74 seconds. Winner of the race was her team colleague Britain’s Sophie Hahn in a sharp 26.51.





22 August 2018

Jason Smyth

Jason Smyth added further to his already impressive laurels on the second day of the 2018 European Paralympic Athletics Championships in Berlin. The Eglinton sprinter flew to the T13 200m title in a championships record. It was a memorable day for the Irish with Grete Streimikyte and Orla Barry also striking gold while Paul Keogan had a near miss in his event.

Smyth was first out of the blocks and had caught Mateusz Michalski in lane five by the crown of the bend. The Derry Track Club athlete kept the pressure on and entered the home straight with an advantage of five metres over Michalski. The Pole fought back and looked to be closing the gap slightly but Smyth maintained his form well to cross the line for an impressive victory in a meeting record 21.44 seconds. Michalski, in second, was just outside his personal best with a 21.87 timing.

Earlier Grete Streimikyte had been the first Irish athlete in action at these championships and it was a golden debut for the DCU student in the T13 1500m. Streimikyte took the initiative from the gun in the field of only four competitors and led through opening laps of 75 and 77 seconds. That put her well clear of her nearest pursuer, Izas Oses Ayucar of Spain, at the 800 metres mark.

The 22-year-old kept her foot solidly on the gas to come through three laps in 3:49 before crossing the finish line in 4:48.54. The Spaniard was a clear second in 4:59.31 with Turkey’s Asli Adali a distant third in 5:18.21.

Streimikyte, who has limited vision, is one of triplets and came to Ireland with her family some years ago from her native Lithuania. She becomes the latest immigrant to bring success to this country this season with immigrants and the offspring of immigrants featuring heavily in the sprints at international championships during the summer.

Orla Barry justified her position as favourite in the F57 discus with a faultless performance. Last of the six competitors to throw, the Cork woman exerted her authority from the outset. Her best throw of 28.76m came in round two and that was good enough for victory by a massive eight metres.

Fate played a cruel trick on Paul Keogan in the T37 400m.  After a fast start the Meath man was in a medal position at the halfway point but faded around the final bend to enter the straight in fourth. He looked well out of the contention until France’s Valentin Bertrand, who was in third, fell with 50 metres remaining.

It looked like Keogan would take the bronze medal until France’s Renaud Clerc finished like a TGV to snatch the third spot on the line from the unfortunate Cushinstown athlete. A mere 16 hundredths of a second denied Keogan his first international medal. However, he will be satisfied with a season’s best 56.48 behind the winner Poland’s Michal Kotkowski who was timed at 53.31 seconds.

Four Irish competitors enter the fray today with Noelle Lenihan in the F38 discus this morning. She is followed by Orla Comerford in the T13 200m heats and hopefully final later this evening. Paul Keogan runs the T37 200m final and Patrick Monahan should complete the Irish interest for the day in the T53 (wheelchair) 400m.



20 August 2018

Jason Smyth is set to add to his laurels at the Berlin 2018 World Para Athletics European Championships that started in Berlin yesterday. Fifteen finals were decided on Monday but Smyth is among the first of the Irish to go into action later today.

Jason Smyth

It is no exaggeration that the Derry Track Club man is unrivalled in Irish sport in terms of his achievements on the international stage. Aside from a collection of 16 world, Paralympics and European medals, Smyth is also the fastest paralympian on the planet, with a personal best time of 10.22 seconds set in 2012.

Now 31, the Eglinton man has competed at the top level for over a decade and still remains unbeaten in his disability class but he feels underappreciated by the general sporting public.

Last year, he complained of getting “more British media coverage than I did in Ireland”. He believes that similar achievements in a higher profile sport would have seen him set financially for life instead of looking for a new career path when retirement from the track beckons.

“If I had achieved what I have but in another sport… if I’m in not in Para Athletics, I’m just in athletics, I’m in boxing, you name the sport, I wouldn’t have to look at what job I’m going to be doing the minute I finished,” said Smyth when he was an ambassador for the World Para Swimming in Dublin last week.

“I can just continue to perform and continue to be the best and maybe it does change in time. You need people who are going to pave the way and push the sport forward to get the recognition it deserves.”

It has not always been plain-sailing for Smyth who had ongoing back trouble after his golden double in 2012 London Paralympics.  But he still won the 100m and 200m at the world championships in Lyon the following year before taking the gold at the Rio Paralympics in 2016 where he was confined to running just the 100m.

Looking forward to Berlin, he is confident about his chances of maintaining his unbeaten record and returning with another two gold medals. He would be disappointed with anything less after running a season’s best last week.

“The reality is a lot of people can go to work and feel 80% and get through the day and feel able to be able to do what they need to do. But in sport and at this level of performing, you’ve got to be 100% or very close to it, otherwise it can have a massive impact,” concluded Smyth.

Smyth goes in the T13 200m final this evening. He is preceded into the arena by Irish athletes Grete Streimikyte in the T12/13 1500m final, Paul Keogan in the T37 400m final and Orla Barry in the F56/57 discus final.


15 August 2018

England emerged as winners at the third Manchester International on a damp, blustery night in SportCity that nonetheless delivered a fantastic night of athletics.

Adam Kirk-Smith

The men’s race saw Northern Ireland’s Adam Kirk-Smith (Club: Woodford Green Essex Ladies/Derry Track Club) take on the running. He pushed hard at the front, and although he couldn’t shake England’s Chris Perry,  his small lead remained through to the finish as he clocked 8:53.47. Perry kept pace well to finish second in 8:55.19, with Daniel Eckersley (BAL) in third.

In a combined 3000m race walk field of 26 starters, there was a meeting record for Kate Veale, of West Waterford. The Irishwoman looked strong from the gun, shadowing the men before powering to finish in 12:49.11. Second was England’s Erika Kelly, while Ana Garcia, representing the BAL team, finished in third.

As part of the night England Athletics signed the ‘Time to Change’ pledge, committing the organization to battling the stigma of mental illness. By signing the Time to Change pledge, England Athletics is committing to change the way we all think and act about mental health in the workplace.

England Athletics is committed to developing a culture that supports and empowers its employees to talk about Mental Health. Included in the pledge is a commitment to train all Managers and Mental Health Champions to support our employees to look after their mental wellbeing and challenge the attitudes and negative behaviours around Mental Health.



England: 157
GB Juniors: 99
Scotland: 80
Wales: 72
Northern Ireland and Ulster: 43

Marina Retains NI 10,000m Title

5 August 2018

Marina ticking off the 25 laps.

Marina Murphy was back to her best as she easily defended her NI & Ulster 10,000m senior women’s title at Meadowbank Arena in Magherafelt.  The DTC star lapped like a metronome to come home well clear of the opposition in 39:33.34.

Disappointingly, only nine athletes turned up for the event although this was an improvement on other years. In contrast, earlier in the day almost 400 had turned out in the Féile 10K despite an early Sunday morning start.

As it was both men’s and women’s titles went over the Glenshane Pass with Claudy man Scott Rankin winning the men’s race in 31:42.51 and Derry Track Club’s Marina Murphy successfully defending her women’s crown in a time of 39:33.34.

The men’s podium.

Second place in the men’s race went Omagh PE teacher Barney McCullagh who is based in Doha where he works out with the training group of former two-times world champion Liz McColgan and her husband former British international John Nuttall. Orangegrove’s Andrew McIntyre took the bronze medal while further down the field distinguished Masters Norman Mawhinney, 60, and Terry Eakin, 68, impressed with their endurance.

The women’s medallists.

The women’s silver medallist was none other than mother of eight Noreen Fegan. Many will remember that Noreen’s daughter Danielle Fegan was the winner of the national Novice and Intermediate cross country titles a few years ago. Now in her fifties Noreen is now carving out her own career in the Armagh AC singlet with a provincial silver medal just the latest in her burgeoning collection of awards.

In third place Aisling Murray broke new ground by bringing the first senior women’s medal back to the Carrickmore-based Carmen club that appears to be going from strength to strength.

Big Dawg (105) in action in the 100m.

DTC’s men were also in action at Meadowbank consolidating their place in the standings. Conor McIlveen, Cathal McLaughlin, John McQuade and Robert Bigger all performed well in windy conditions.