McKenna Strikes Gold in Larne

Vincent McKenna scored his first major road race victory when he finished strongly to take the honours in the AES Larne Half Marathon held in cool conditions on Saturday morning. The Acorns AC runner crossed the line in a personal best 69 minutes and 40 seconds after turning in a strong second half of the race.

Vincent McKenna at NI Road Relays

The QUB graduate, whose previous best of 71:08 came at last year’s Belfast Half Marathon, was in second spot at the halfway point which he reached in 34:51 as Foyle Valley’s Gary Slevin cut out the pace up front. McKenna quickly closed the gap in front on the way home and had 18 seconds to spare over the Derry man at the finish line.

The consistent North Belfast Harrier John Black took third in 71:01, seeing off the challenges of Foyle Valley’s Craig Simpson (72:05) and the leading Master athlete Pierce McCullagh who completed the top five in 72:15.  The apparently indestructible Tommy Hughes, 59, set a new Irish Masters’ M55-59 record with a 72:36 mark in seventh place overall.

In the women’s race, Laura Graham continued an impressive return to racing after months out of competition on account of a lingering Achilles injury. The Mourne Runners’ athlete, who made her comeback with a second place in Jimmy’s 10K on St. Patrick’s Day, was timed at a credible 75:46.

Laura Graham back to her best.

North Belfast Harrier Gladys Ganiel was second woman across the line in 76:06 as North Down’s former NI & Ulster cross country champion Jessica Craig impressed over the longer distance by taking third in 79:25. Springwell’s Ciara Toner (79:37) and Karen Alexander (82:30) made up the leading five ladies. Results –

In other road race action, James McFadden was the winner of the Hugh Gallagher Memorial 5K in Milford, Co. Donegal on Friday night with a respectable 15:58 clocking on a tough circuit. John McFadden (16:22) and Ivan Toner (16:26) occupied the minor places on the presentation podium. Fionnuala Diver led the women home with a 18:59 timing from Denise Ward (19:14) and Gemma McGinty (19:20).

Meanwhile Ireland finished third overall behind England and Scotland at the SIAB Home Countries Schools International in Dublin. England won all four individual and team races as well as the inaugural mixed relay. Ireland failed to pick up an individual medal but took runner-up spot in the Intermediate Boys’ team competition and the relay.

Jack McCausland

RBAI’s Jack McCausland and Michael Morgan, from Summerhill College in Sligo, shared the distinction of being the top Irish competitors with fifth place finishes in the Junior and Intermediate Boys’ races respectively. Ireland led the relay for the first three legs but were overhauled by England on the final straight.