It was honours even at the end of the inaugural Derry City Track Club Invitational Road Relay held on the Waterside Greenway with each of the competing clubs claiming a victory in the three races.
Foyle Valley turned out a strong quartet in the Senior Men’s 4 x 2 Mile with Adrian McGowan (split time: 10:31) running an impressive first leg to bring the purple vests home in third place as Darragh Crossan (10:11) cut out the early pace for the host club.
Marty Gallagher (10:33) put Foyle Valley into a 20 seconds lead on the second leg with Derry City now second through Shaun Deery (11:13) and Acorns taking closer order thanks to a sound run from Francis McDaid (10:50).
Dean Toland made a premature turn on the third leg missing out at least 400m of running to leave Foyle Valley well clear of Derry City at the last changeover despite a valiant effort from Matt Doherty (10:06) who turned in the fastest split of the evening.
The last leg was a mere formality for Stephen Connor (10:25) as he cruised to comfortable win for Foyle Valley. Sixteen-year-old Brandon Connolly (11:59) showed a cool head as he held off Acorns, anchored by Cathaoir Purvis (11:27), by almost a minute to take the runner-up spot.
The Masters’ relay was contested over the same distance with Acorns top gun Darrell McKee (10:17) putting the Magherafelt outfit into an early lead. Adrian Boyle (10:53) brought Derry City home in second and Foyle Valley in third.
Acorns still led through Martin Loughran (11:06) at the halfway point althought he gap was down to just 11 seconds over Derry City after Tim Shiels (10:41) showed a fine turn of speed.
Acorns clung on to a mere four second advantage at the start of the final leg despite Diarmuid O’Kane (11:54) going slightly off course. Behind him Robert Bigger (11:47) looked to have put Derry City in a winning position with the club’s best runner Cathal McLaughlin to come.
However, there’s many a slip between cup and lip. And never was this truer when the European silver medallist Cathal McLaughlin took what seemed an asthma attack shortly after setting out. After stopping briefly McLaughlin (13:29) bravely made it to the finish in a time more than three minutes slower than what he was expected to produce.
Meantime Acorns’ final runner Pat Grugan (11:56) had been able to make his way home and claim a solid victory for the County Derry men. Tom Doherty (13:04) brought Foyle Valley home to the bronze medal position.
The women’s relay contested over three legs of two miles was another tight affair. Hannah McGowan (12:22) ran the fastest split of the night on the opening leg to give Derry City a lead they were never to lose.
Rachel Doherty (14:00) ate into the Derry City advantage on the second leg despite Lily Toorish (14:22) making a valuable contribution.
Acorns were now well out of the contest as Amy McDaid set out with a healthy lead. Foyle Valley’s Martina McMullen (11:38) did her best but the green vests still had a 44 seconds advantage when Amy broke the tape to claim the first win by a Derry City Track Club ladies team at any level.
.Meanwhile Conor McIlveen wound up his best ever season with a gold and silver medal at the British Paralympic Championships in Nottingham. McIlveen claimed a comfortable victory in the 800m where he waited until the final homestraight before going up through the gears to break the tape first in 2:18.
Earlier the Derry City Track Club athlete had seen his blocks slip at the start of the 200m that meant he had to settle for second spot. The All-State employed will now start his winter training with the target of qualifying for next year’s Paralympics in Rio.