City of Derry Spartans Aaron Doherty strode to a very impressive victory at Saturday’s NI&Ulster senior men’s cross country championships in Lurgan, replicating his injured team mate Declan Reed’s 2015 success. A terrific surge at the 8K mark broke the challenge of nearest rivals Mark McKinstry and Seamus Lynch, and he moved away for a famous victory in the strength sapping 12K race.
Neither the North Belfast nor Newcastle athletes could respond and had to settle in the end for the minor podium places as the man in the red vest glided smoothly through the last two laps for his most significant ever success. Disappointing runs in this race in recent years were finally wiped away by Saturday’s magnificent effort and it was a smiling Doherty who crossed the finish line, arms aloft, to claim a well deserved Provincial senior cross country title, to make the trip back home from his teaching job in Madrid a richly rewarding one!
Arnie as he is known, knew he was in good shape, his performances in his Spanish training group and races all pointed to something significant and he duly delivered on Saturday.
” It was a long time coming ” he said post race, ” and I am delighted that all the hard work finally paid off ” He added that he was ” really looking forward to some decent road and track competition in spring and summer ”
There was disappointment too however as a badly depleted Spartans squad surrendered their team title to impressive new champions Newcastle AC. North Belfast took team silver for the second successive year and the Spartans settled for bronze as their hopes of a historic three in a row was never a goer with several key men missing from their line up.
Allan Bogle 11th, Colin Roberts 23rd, Dermot McElhinney 28th, John Lenehan 32nd and Kieran Hurley 41st, completed the City of Derry scorers and in 10th spot was Scott Rankin, individual bronze medallist last year, leading his Foyle Valley squad to a battling fourth team finish. Roy McGilloway, Jonathan Canning, Martin Gallagher, Aidan McGowan and Matthew McLaughlin were the other Valley scorers.
They too were below full strength but their gritty performance looks good enough to keep them clear at the top of the ANI XC League despite Newcastle clawing back some points with their win. Another notable run came from the National M50 Masters champion Pauric McKinney of Inishowen AC, his 7th place finish a great effort indeed!
In the Women’s championship 6K there was a runaway win for Newcastle’s Shalene McMurray and the female Foyle Valley squad did well for fourth place behind Beechmount Harriers, Dromore AC and Lagan Valley. That was good enough to consolidate their lead in the Women’s League standings as closest rivals Acorns AC and North Down both performed poorly on the day.
The Valley scoring quartet were Martina McMullan, Gemma Mahon, Sarah Lindsay and Denise Ward, good packing delivering important League points. With the final League race this weekend in Stormont it looks like a well deserved Foyle Valley double is on the cards.
Pictures courtesy of Keith McClure