The Weekly News – 26/02/2018


The snow of 2 weeks ago had disappeared by the time Wednesday morning came along and so the City of Belfast Playing Fields at Mallusk had assumed their more traditional  green hue as the Finals of this year’s Flahavan’s Cross Country Series were held, with record numbers of Boys and Girls taking part. East Down AC’s Jodi Foster representing Spa Primary School, was somewhat disappointed at “only finishing 7th ” after her sterling efforts in the earlier qualifying rounds. There’s certainly nothing wrong with finishing 7th Jodi, considering there were over 250 runners in your race!

Similarly in the Boys race a huge field of similar size to the Girls, saw Oliver Robinson and Callum Kent lucky to finish unscathed as there was a virtual stampede at the start and Ollie did well to battle back to 22nd  with Callum 67th.

Oliver Robinson and Calum Kent - Flahavan’s Primary Race

Oliver Robinson and Calum Kent – Flahavan’s Primary Race


At the same venue the Mini Girls race saw East Down’s Lauren Madine triumph ahead of clubmates  Anna Gardiner who took 3rd place and Lucy Foster 5th out of 110 finishers. Unfortunately there are no All Ireland championships at Mini level, so this formidable trio will have to wait until they are at least one year older for their chance.

Lauren Madine - 1st Mini Girls at Ulster Schools Cross Country

Lauren Madine – 1st Mini Girls at Ulster Schools Cross Country

Anna Gardiner - 3rd Mini Girls at Ulster Schools Cross Country

Anna Gardiner – 3rd Mini Girls at Ulster Schools Cross Country


Kirsti Foster ran exceptionally well to finish 5th out of 108  to qualify for the All Ireland Finals and she has been given a slot in the London Mini Marathon, so Her Mum Joanne won’t be lonely when she travels to the capital city in April to run in the Marathon.

Lucy, Kirsti and Jodi Foster - racing at 3 levels - Mini, Minor and Primary respectively at Ulster Schools Cross Country

Lucy, Kirsti and Jodi Foster – racing at 3 levels – Mini, Minor and Primary respectively at Ulster Schools Cross Country


As we have come to expect  Aoife Cochrane ran her heart out in the Senior Girls race to take an excellent 16th place out of 63.


Edie Carroll in 17th  and Niamh McBratney 44th out of 83 finishers, though outside the individual medal places,  both helped their school Down High, qualify for the All Ireland Finals.

Edie Carroll and Aoife Cochrane - Inter and Senior Girls’ Races at Ulster Schools Cross Country

Edie Carroll and Aoife Cochrane – Inter and Senior Girls’ Races at Ulster Schools Cross Country


All the waiting and talking and wondering was over and all that remained was the actual race itself. The first time that East Down AC’s Ladies had assembled in such numbers since the 30th Anniversary Dinner  and ever for a competitive fixture, with the prize a possible podium place in the Cross Country League. Having only taken up the challenge of the 2017/18 League competition seriously this season, some sterling performances in the earlier rounds had left the Ladies in 4th place going into the final round on Saturday in Lurgan Park, some 10 points behind their 3rd placed rivals Acorns AC. Unfortunately Niamh Kellett, one of the most consistent points scorers in earlier rounds, was unable to run due to injury but was there in spirit.  With double points being awarded to every finisher up to 16th then it was imperative that East Down matched their much stronger numerically rivals, in the hope that with nearly all their top runners in the field, they could gain a team placing at least 10 points better than Acorns. And so with much cajoling, pleading, threatening and promises to everyone who was likely to be free to run, and even to some who were not, I rubbed my eyes in surprise and delight as the requisite 16 made their way to the start.  All so far so good but they all had to finish to realise maximum points. Off they went and at the end of the first lap of 3, Catherine O’Connor was the first East Down lady to appear, in the first dozen or so followed by Caroline O’Hare and Deirdre Weatherall. Fourth and fifth  places were filled by Edie Carroll and Aoife Cochrane with Joanne Foster the 6th East Downer and all inside the top 40 . I tried to work out how we stood and could only conclude in the absence of any Acorns runners in the top 50 that we were on course for a great result.


But there were two laps – 4K – still to run and the concern was for the 16 who had passed me at the end of lap 1, would do so again twice more. However, I needn’t have worried.  These Ladies are made of stern stuff and having started there was no way that any of them contemplated dropping out. Catherine, Caroline and Deirdre were meantime not only consolidating but improving their positions as they picked off those in front of them. By the time the final lap got under way I was not only counting the East Down runners but trying to calculate what the effects on our overall League position would be.


I reckoned that the East Down ladies were 3rd overall but when I heard the official announcement it revealed that Lagan Valley with 68 points and Beechmount Harriers with 71 points were respectively 2nd and 3rd.  Even worse was the revelation that East Down had been beaten for that 3rd spot by a single point!

However the despondency was short lived as news that Acorns AC, while the largest represented team in terms of its participation numbers, were outside the top 8 scoring teams on the day, leaving East Down the 3rd overall team in the final League tables.


The Super Sixteen who took part in this historic day were Catherine O’Connor, 7th place, really looking back to her best and in contention all the way, Caroline O’Hare, 10th place, a brave decision and game performance as she recovers from injury, Deirdre Weatherall, 23rd place, find of the season, fearless in combat and whose best has still to come,


Edie Carroll, a developing talent who has come up through the Juniors and who has taken on a new confidence since joining the seniors, she clearly thrives on running in large packs and she was a super 4th team scorer in 32nd place, on Saturday. She ran 3 times this week, in the Ulster Schools on Tuesday, in the Senior Championships as described here on Saturday and on Sunday in Tollymore Park where she was successful in the final round of the McGrady’s Financial Services Junior Cross Country Series. Edie always has a smile on her face and always lifts the mood of those around her. I predict a big future for her and she will achieve a lot more.

Another to make the transition from Junior ranks and who seems to have found her niche is Aoife Cochrane, 38th place, who goes from strength to strength and made another significant contribution to the team effort on Saturday. Her best has still to come too.


Every team depends on its strength in depth, the good solid performers who turn out week in week out and are always there to answer the call.

Leading example of this is the pocket powerhouse Joanne Foster 37th place, who has had a few injury scares but always turns out and never lets the side down, ably assisted by the enthusiastic Cheryl Denvir 68th place, who will improve much for next season, and of course those who do the coaxing, cajoling, possibly even the threatening? mentioned in the opening paragraph, Alison Carroll, 91st place, who is a prime mover in getting members to the start line.  Adding to her enthusiasm for the cross country genre is the fact that she feels immensely proud of running in the same team as her 2 daughters.  In addition to Edie’s exploits Ella, 101st place has contributed mightily to the success of the team over the season, not least in clinching 3rd place in the recent Intermediate Championships in Comber. Club Captain Janine Murray, 140th place, led by example as she filled in despite being only just over a recent illness. Clare Carson 96th place, too has been a stalwart all season and Lisa Milligan 117th place, took to the grass with enthusiasm and plenty of smiles. The ever dependable Carmel Tumelty, 135th place, who turns up everywhere was soon joined by new converts Alison Graham,  132nd place, and Catherine Gilchrist 118th place, both adding their unique take on running around muddy parkland. Finally it was indeed fitting that long time club stalwart Roisin Gaffney, 141st place, should be the one to make up the 16 and she confessed afterwards to having enjoyed her first ever cross country immensely.

EDAC Ladies and Men at Lurgan Park - NI&Ulster Senior XC Championships

EDAC Ladies at Lurgan Park – NI&Ulster Senior XC Championships


As every runner knows there is nothing to keep you going like a friendly word of encouragement and a smile and it is appropriate to add a word or two of thanks to Deirdre’s Mum Mary who attended every race and cancelled other commitments to be there on Saturday and Oonagh Cochrane who has done the hard miles to fulfil the role of cheerleaders. I have to add that there is no one associated with the Club who is prouder of this squad than I am and I know they can go onto win this and many other titles in the coming years. Not all the watery eyes on Saturday were caused by the wind!


Although forced to take a back seat to the Ladies on Saturday, East Down’s men also fielded a 5 man team on Saturday with the ever consistent Martin Willcox 48th , leading the way home as he has done for much of the season, followed by intra club combatants Dee Murray 79th place and Paul Burns 81st place, followed by Davy Foster, 96th place and the final club scorer. Fifth man to finish was Gavin Hynds in 143rd place. He was reportedly concerned about recent rumours of him having been involved with performance enhancing batteries but reckons that his best defence against the accusations would be to prove it on the field of play. Let them see that the batteries are clearly not working Gavin!!

Unfortunately the men have been more reluctant to field any thing like the numbers required to make a sustained bid for League success, but by virtue of their potential, and with the added incentive of envy for their female counterparts achievements, I believe that under Dee Murray’s guidance, the men will strike back next year.. So there’s the challenge Men –  Are you up for it?

EDAC Ladies and Men at Lurgan Park - NI&Ulster Senior XC Championships

EDAC Ladies Men at Lurgan Park – NI&Ulster Senior XC Championships


On Sunday in conditions not too far removed from those prevailing at the Winter Olympics in South Korea, the final round of races in the McGrady  McGrady’s Financial Services Junior Cross Country Series was held.-Full  reports are being provided by Newcastle but the East Down officials whe were present wish to say that everyone who turned out deserves huge respect.


Joe Quinn & Alison Carroll

26 February 2018

The Weekly News – 19/02/2018


 Declan Teague made a welcome re-appearance in the St Valentine’s Day 6 Hour Challenge another in the East Antrim Marathon Series (EAMS) and placed 2nd out of 15 who took part in the marathon distance in 3.55, which, after a bout of flu and a calf injury, he found more than far enough, considering the 50mph winds which turned out in force to welcome him back. He should check with the Met Office beforehand in future!
Linda Cunningham and Jacqueline Moore and Paula McKibbin all completed the Lusk Marathon on Saturday the latest in the East of Ireland Marathon Series, finishing in close proximity to each other in 5.33.

On a bitterly cold night East Down’s Robinson brothers certainly warmed up the spectators with 2 red hot displays in the Primary School races at the Armagh International events on Tuesday. Alex won a prize for his top ten placing in a field of almost 200 children, while Olly just missed out on a similar placing, finishing 12th in another huge field. Both boys were representing St Mary’s Primary School, Newcastle so well done to them.

Ollie and Alex Robinson - Armagh Primary Race

Ollie and Alex Robinson – Armagh Primary Race



The only EDAC senior to attend was Catherine O’Connor. She is to be commended for putting herself on the line in this high profile event as it is not for the faint hearted due to the standard of the field and the resultant hair raising pace. She acquitted herself admirably coming 48/132 in a sprightly time of 10.24 for the 3k event.

Lara and Keira Proctor-Amos were racing in Scotland this weekend representing their Cadet Wing – Lara’s team have qualified as a result for next stage and while Keira’s team did not qualify she was pleased to be the first NI cadet across the line in her Age
Group. Well Done girls.

The 2018 edition of Last One Standing was a very different proposition than last year what with a totally new 4.2 miles route and the now much more experienced attitude of virtually all the participants. For the most part, all of the runners showed a quietly confident demeanour, as indeed well they might, given that most of them were by now hardened participants having taken part in at least one of the many ultra type runs which have begun to dominate the fixtures.

 Keith Reilly at Last One Standing Event in Castleward.

Keith Reilly at Last One Standing Event in Castleward.

Basically the format is that everyone starts at 12 noon and runs or walks or both a 4.2 miles circuit in and around the beautiful surroundings of the Castleward Estate. Then everyone has to be on the start line again at 1.00pm to repeat the route again, and every hour thereafter. It is not a distance race. It is purely and simply a test of endurance stamina, bloody mindedness and an ability to tell the time! No exceptions would be made for anyone who did not cross the finish line within 60 minutes or who failed to cross the start line again at the beginning of the next hour. And so on while there was still more than one runner who met the criteria.

Joe Quinn and Michael Cultra before the start of the Last One Standing on Saturday

Joe Quinn and Michael Cultra before the start of the Last One Standing on Saturday

I started with all the other hopefuls, intending to do 1 lap or 2 at most, whether I was timed out or not. In fact I managed the first one in 53.30, I wasn’t last and had actually overtaken Ballydrain’s Richard Coey who went on to complete 16 laps, halfway round. He was walking and deep in conversation with a fellow competitor at the time, though that’s irrelevant. He eventually overtook me again and posted his opening round at 51.35 against mine of 53.30. Fellow club men who also started , Michael Cultra recorded 51.19 his slowest lap apart from his last one out of the 15 (63 miles) he completed before simply opting out and going home and Keith Reilly 47.35, his fastest lap out of the 9 (37.8 miles) he completed before stomach pains forced him to retire. He said he was “hugely disappointed as the 12 hour mark was my minimum target and that this event continues to toy with me” However Keith, don’t worry about it 9 laps is still a tremendous achievement and there will be plenty more opportunities to slay your demons, in the future.
To put things in perspective I only managed another lap, as despite my best efforts I could only manage to finish it in 62 minutes and was timed out. However as I had decided that 2 would be my absolute maximum anyway I was happy to pack it in and head for the food tent. In the course of that second lap, poor deluded fool that I was I actually got to thinking that as I was the last one out there and was still standing (or standing still I suppose would be a better description) I could conceivably lay claim to the title of Last One. Standing. But that would require a lot of persuasion and the insertion of a strategic full stop or comma in the wording on the trophy! No chance.

LOS vs 24 HOUR
I believe it is much more difficult to undertake this type of event than a 24 hour race which challenges participants to run as far as they can in a 24 hour period. In that contest runners have control of when and how far and at what pace they run, when and for how long they rest, when they eat etc. whereas in the LOS challenge the necessity is to maintain a pace, which enables the runner to complete the 4.2 miles lap inside 60 minutes and then to get back onto the start line on the next hour and repeat that every hour for as long as it takes until you’re the only one left – and then if you are that person you have to complete 1 lap alone and finish inside the 60 minutes to claim your trophy. It also goes without saying that it is more difficult to train for the LOS type of event.

Pre – race favourite and 2016 winner Bobbie Irvine (Seapark AC) was the epitome of cool beforehand, relaxed and at ease, while chatting with all and sundry, others just sat and relaxed, partaking of all sorts of energy enhancing foodstuffs and washing them down with copious amounts of water as staying hydrated is the most important part of the preparations.
And what a battle he put up for the title once again, keeping going for 34 laps (142.8 miles) before being timed out, leaving the tough as nails Peter Cromie Roe Valley Cycles to complete lap 35 (147 miles) alone and in a speedy 42 minutes, nearly his fastest time time of all he had done before.
Louise Smart Co Antrim Harriers was the Last Lady Standing, completing 25 laps (105 Miles) before she was timed out.

Saturday morning brought near perfect conditions which augured well for the near 100 strong field competing for the title Last one Standing (LOS). Meantime Matthew McGrattan, fresh from his success last weekend in Athlone were he was crowned NI and Ulster Indoor 400 metres Champion upped his distance though clearly not his tempo, this time to take second place over the 1 lap opening race in 29.32 while his Mum Eithne and Bernice McCann also tested out the underfoot conditions but were glad they hadn’t entered the 2 lap option or the LOS itself. Gavin McConvey also ran the 1 lap, finishing in 42.56 after taking part in the Tollymore Night Run on Friday night, completing the 10K in just over 60 minutes.

Next Saturday in Lurgan Park the Cross Country season reaches its climax with the Senior Mens and Womens Championships to be decided. As an additional incentive there are double points on offer for the final round of the League and East Down Ladies’ team are determined to battle all the way for enough points for a podium place.  They are set to make history by fielding a full team of 16 all being well. Good luck to them and to their Male counterparts who can only look back ruefully on what might have been. Next Year??

Last Monday saw the launch of the Rollercoaster Races (10 March) which this year is being supported by Phoenix Natural Gas. The day for the photo shoot showed the superb venue off in all its glory and some of our young athletes got a chance to test the route. Read all about the event to see what is in store – the fuelling station set up by Phoenix is sure to be a big hit! Entries can be made on the day but schools can enter in advance as in previous years.

Launch of Rollercoaster Races in association with Phoenix Natural Gas - Tom McClean (Chairman EDAC) Jonathan Martindale (Phoenix Natural Gas) Joe Quinn (Race Director EDAC) and EDAC juniors at the Downpatrick Race Course venue for the event 10 March.

Launch of Rollercoaster Races in association with Phoenix Natural Gas – Tom McClean (Chairman EDAC) Jonathan Martindale (Phoenix Natural Gas) Joe Quinn (Race Director EDAC) and EDAC juniors at the Downpatrick Race Course venue for the event 10 March.

Mia and Lena Proctor-Amos and Oliver Robinson try out the course

Mia and Lena Proctor-Amos and Oliver Robinson try out the course

Also time is ticking if you are planning to take part in Jimmy’s Ten on 18 March. Entries are flying in. Every year in the week before the race we are inundated with desperate pleas and it is hard to say no but we have to stick with our quota so  – get on to the entry portal at ANI before it’s too late!

Joe Quinn
19 February 2018

The Weekly News – 12/02/2018


It seems as if the young guns of East Down are hardier than their more senior counterparts, if weekend events are anything to go by.
On Saturday, for instance, at the second running of the North Down Cross Country Festival in Castle Park Bangor, only the juniors turned out. Admittedly they performed well enough to outshine anything that the seniors might have done anyway, with Jodi Foster winning the primary school race AND sister Kari in 7th place and Kieran Trainor claiming 11th in the Boys Primary School race. Inspired no doubt by these performances, two of the older Foster girls, Kirsti and Lucy then went out to take 2nd and 3rd in the Under 14 Girls race.

Jodi Foster (left) Zophia Quigley and Chloe Kenny (both Ballyholme Primary)

Jodi Foster (left) Zophia Quigley and Chloe Kenny (both Ballyholme Primary)

Kieran Trainor - Festival of XC Bangor

Kieran Trainor – Festival of XC Bangor

Lucy Foster, Kirsti Foster (left) Tara McDonough (North Down AC)

Lucy Foster, Kirsti Foster (left) Tara McDonough (North Down AC)

If they think things are tough in South Korea, battling with sub zero temperatures, gale force winds and falling snow, (though it is after all the Winter Olympics which tends to need at least 2 out of these 3 conditions as a prerequisite anyway) then they should have been in Mallusk on Sunday morning.
It’s a long time since I was at the Belfast Playing fields at Mallusk, probably more than 20years, but my memories of it as open, mucky, cold and windy proved a little wide of the mark. It was worse than that, as there was snow and frozen ice to contend with on Sunday as well.
The occasion was Mallusk Harriers staging of the Mathieson Cup and Shield team cross country races, in honour of the lovely Mags Mathieson, who supports every event in the running calendar and is an inspiration to everyone connected with running.

Joe Quinn and Mags Mathieson

Joe Quinn and Mags Mathieson

Again it was the Juniors who braved the elements, all girls this time, with Anna Kearney 4th, Erin Moore 5th and Caragh Moore 8th in the Primary School race which got proceedings under way, into what were described as really tough conditions, as the falling snow was driven into the faces of the runners. And to their credit everyone finished, 17 Boys and 12 Girls.

Things got even better when Lauren Madine followed up with victory in the Under 13 Girls race, finishing ahead of the only boy runner into the bargain.

Lauren Madine, Erin Moore, Anna Kearney, Caragh Moore

Lauren Madine, Erin Moore, Anna Kearney, Caragh Moore

Edie Carrol continued her recent good form, with victory in the Under 17 Girls Race which was run in Arctic conditions, only slightly better than the younger girls had experienced.

 Edie Carroll - U17

Edie Carroll – U17

I have to pay special tribute to all the girls who took part on Sunday and finished their races. I gave it a go too but didn’t quite make it to the finish line. Quite frankly conditions were the worst I ever experienced during a race. I opted for a warm woollen hat instead of the usual peaked baseball type and as the snow thickened and the wind rose how I regretted that decision. I was practically blinded as the freezing flakes hit my eyes. Amazingly there were marshals standing at remote points of the course, only known to me because I heard their shouts of encouragement to me and all the runners as we staggered past. My thanks to them. I decided that I would pack it in when I reached the end of lap one of the scheduled three, if I could find out where that was? Then out of the whirling blizzard I heard voices saying “you’ve done enough, come and have some tea or soup, we’re not letting you go any further” Were these angels from heaven coming to my rescue or was I simply hallucinating? The former is the answer as the voices belonged to Mags and Alison, two ladies not to be argued with. And so, faced with a choice between clambering up the steep, slippery bank leading to the higher level of pitches and off on a second lap and the steely determination in the angels voices, it took me almost half a second to surrender to their “advice” If truth was told I actually believe I was standing in the refreshment tent, halfway through my first cup of soup, before I realised the decision had been made, by which time the thought of carrying on was long since buried.

In case you think that all the seniors had a day off at the weekend I discovered that at least 3 of them took part in the Dune half marathon on Sunday. Gavin Hynds was more than pleased with 123rd place in 1.36 while Clare Carson was delighted with her 1.51 on what she described as a challenging course, due to the weather and the hills and Kevin Kelly 1.59 even more so, to duck under the 2 hour mark considering he has just recovered from a bout of flu. Well done everyone.

Gavin Hynds - Dune Half Marathon

Gavin Hynds – Dune Half Marathon

The races will start this year at the earlier time of 11.00am and with an exciting new sponsor on board all the school kids are in for a special treat. Don’t miss this one. More details next week.

A huge entry has already been received for this year’s event on 18 March and anyone intending to run is encouraged to enter now at as there will be a limit on the number and it is unlikely that entries will be taken on the day.

Joe Quinn
12 February 2018

The Weekly News – 05/02/18

On Saturday both East Down seniors and Juniors were in action at Stormont, one of the most popular venues in the cross country season and happily reinstated as a Cross Country League fixture.

East Down juniors contributed significantly to the huge numbers in the primary school races which set the programme of races in motion. With 106 boys in the Boys race Ollie Robinson did well to take 19th place, while still recovering from a bout of flu, with younger brother Alex and Kieran Trainor providing excellent support in 28th and 36th places respectively.


Erin Moore, Kari Foster and Jodi Foster - Primary Girls’ Team - (missing Emily Burns)

Erin Moore, Kari Foster and Jodi Foster – Primary Girls’ Team – (missing Emily Burns)

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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

The Weekly News – 22/01/18


Sunday was to have been the 4th round of the McGrady’s Financial Services Junior Cross Country League in Delamont.  And on Saturday the course was relatively soft but perfectly usable, even if it was going to take a bit of creative accounting to ensure proper route could be found around the underwater sections and with a dry, sunny day already evident it seemed that nothing could prevent another enjoyable day of competition.

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The Weekly News – 15/01/18


The Mighty Oaks Cross Country League fixture, postponed from early December, allegedly because the course was not soft enough, finally took place on Saturday at the Mid – Ulster Sports Arena Playing Fields in Cookstown. There were certainly no complaints about the hardness of the conditions on this occasion, for although it didn’t rain while the races were taking place, the course was practically waterlogged from the overnight rain, which had in fact lasted for several days.

Evidence of the conditions!

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