The Weekly News- 29/01/18


Last Tuesday morning Round 3 of the Flahavans Porridge Primary School XC Series was held in surprisingly good conditions in Donard Park, as following the weekend which preceded it there was high expectation that this fixture might also succumb to the weather.

But the young up and coming stars of tomorrow showed they were made of stern stuff, by turning out in their hundreds and enjoying what seemed to be the end of the monsoons.


Jodi Foster was once again the top East Down performer as she maintained her recent good form to take 2nd place with her younger sister Kari 17th, with Ella Telford 83rd. Erin Moore also ran unofficially as a late addition and while not counting toward any team she got a taste of the event for next year.


Ollie Robinson placed 9th, Callum Kent 12th  and  Alex Robinson 35th in the Boys race. As a result of their performances across the 3 rounds Jodi, Ollie and Callum qualify as individuals for the NI finals at Mallusk on 21st Feb.


Gavin McConvey had a go at this novel event from SANTA’S COTTAGE to Rostrevor  on Friday Night. He said afterwards it was “a warm evening with only a light wind, a good course and plenty of muck and gutters”  so he reckons that every one should at least try it once.


This is the fixture which all of East Down AC (well certainly I have for sure) has been waiting for since last year’s cross country season ended. Optimism was high that following some top quality results on the grass over the past few months, the Club would come close to winning some silverware, especially the women who are presently lying 4th  in the League table. However fate in the shape of some serious injuries to many of the Club’s top runners, conspired to reduce that optimism to mildly hopeful, perhaps.

Conditions were absolutely awful underfoot as heavy overnight rain, virtually swamped the course and it was only the quick thinking Davie Seaton, who on seeing the amount of surface water, re-routed a small section of the course, when it seemed almost inevitable that the whole fixture would have to be cancelled. The sheer volume of water which lay on or just below the surface of the ground was always going to be a difficulty, for runners and officials alike, irrespective of which route was chosen.


The Junior Cross Country

The Junior Cross Country

The first race of the afternoon would ensure that the Masters’ Ladies got the best of the going, though after 2 laps of the 2K circuit, it was fair to say that none of the subsequent runners would have any problem in following the course, such was the effect of almost 100 pairs of feet on the sodden ground. Liquid mud all the way round would not have done it a disservice. East Down didn’t have a team of four, due to injury and illness, but the trio who managed to make it to the start line, certainly gave an excellent account of themselves and indeed proved inspirational for their club mates in the subsequent races. Led home by Clare Carson in 63rd place, the other two didn’t disappoint, with double debutante Alison Graham making her first Club appearance and experiencing her first cross country race, rising to the challenge to not only stay upright but also to take a commendable 70th  place, while Carmel Tumelty as usual chipped in with a very worthwhile 74th.


The Junior Cross Country

The Junior Cross Country

Like the Ladies though, the Men’s team was hard hit by injuries and went to post with little more than hope of avoiding embarrassment. However, under Dee Murray’s astute guidance and leadership, the Club could be more than satisfied with their 10th place overall. With Martin Willcox, working his socks off to stay in contact with his opponents, and eventually made his way through the field to take 27th place. Also running strongly, and clearly enjoying the conditions, was Paul Burns who filled 52nd place, just ahead of  Dee in 57th.  Davy Foster was less than a minute behind and Gavin Hynds making up the quintet who eventually took the final Top Ten Team place.


The Junior Cross Country

The Junior Cross Country

This was undoubtedly billed as the race of the day, and didn’t disappoint except perhaps only in that East Down’s team was depleted by the absence of several of its top runners and effectively they only had the bare minimum 4 runners to count as a team. So with falls a common feature in the mud,  fingers were crossed that all would finish safely. As is her normal method of taking on the opposition, Deirdre Weatherall was prominent from the start and maintained her position throughout the 2 laps, picking up a couple of places on the run in to finish 8th. There was a disappointingly low turnout in this race which resulted in some gaps developing and leaving runners isolated in sections of the course. This makes it difficult for many to concentrate, so it is to their credit that East Down’s runners managed to bridge the gaps they found themselves in and to maintain their form and focus, with Joanne Foster battling to 13th place and Aoife Cochrane to 16th, almost a minute behind.


It was then all down to the their 4th runner, Ella Carroll, to finish irrespective of her place, to enable them to count as a team. It says a lot for her character and strength of purpose that she battled through the mud and the isolation of her position to cross the line in 21st place but more significantly to post a score for her team – which gave them 2nd place overall and the Silver medals. She thus was the most important person in the team on Saturday and a prime example of the oft repeated demand by coaches and supporters to “Finish Your Race”. Her Dad Paul who ran superbly in the Masters race to take 5th place just before Ella’s race,  was just as pleased with her performance as his own.


The last event of the day was the “Blue Riband” Intermediate Men’s race, which was to prove a test of strength and stamina for every runner as the course by that stage was a sea of mud with very little chance of finding any unspoilt ground for better going.  East Down unfortunately had only one runner as injuries to several of its key players had removed any chance of the hoped for big team showing. But Aaron McGrady is no mean performer and he took on the best that Ulster could offer, going off with the leading group, which included pre – race favourite Scott Rankin from Foyle Valley, his clubmates Chris McGuiness and Roy McGilloway, Newcastle AC’s Zak Hanna and North Down’s Craig McMeechan. This group stayed together for 2 and a half laps before McMeechan started to pull away and before long it became a battle for the minor places, with McGuiness eventually proving superior to Rankin and McGilloway over the final kilometre. Hanna and McGrady recent partners in the Cracker pairs race fought all the way to the line for 5th and 6th places with Hanna just prevailing by 4 seconds.  Well done to all concerned for providing a thrilling and keenly fought encounter in horrible conditions. The consolation for Aaron and Zak is that the 4 athletes who finished ahead of them are ineligible next year so with a bit of luck and some team back up from their club mates, they should be in contention for the top spot again.

Well done to Newcastle AC who finished a commendable 3rd placed team. So Roll on 2019!!


It’s the Stormont Cross Country meeting next Saturday and with this event back on the League Fixture List again and with just 2 rounds to go all the Clubs will be back on the trail for points as the titles are about to be decided. East Down will be out in force to grab as many as possible.


Joe Quinn

29 January 2018