A total of 25 young Lifford AC athletes made the trek to Magherafelt last weekend for the Ulster Juvenile Indoor Track and Field Championships. They returned home on Sunday evening with a total of 27 medals – 12 gold, 7 silver and 8 bronze. This was apt reward for what the club has done over the past couple of years in laying down solid coaching structures in combination with expert coaching and top class facilities, as the foundation for the development and nurturing of these young athletes.
Many of these athletes travelled to Ulster Juvenile Championships in the past and while not achieving podium finishes, nonetheless gained invaluable experience and personal best performances. This time was different, however, as Lifford AC’s young cubs came of age and mounted the podium a total of 27 times over the weekend – to the fore in all age groups and in all events.
Saturday’s haul alone was 7 gold medals, 3 silver and 2 bronze. An incredible afternoon on the track saw the border club dominate in the sprints, relays and middle distance events.
Niall Quinn had a unique double in winning the u14 Boys 60m in a time of 8.22 seconds and then later on Saturday, winning a very tactical 800m in a time of 2mins 26.51secs. Tom Mullen made it a sprint double for Lifford AC by taking gold in the u15 Boys 60m in a time of 7.85 seconds while in the final event of Saturday’s competition, Quinn and Mullen teamed up with Conor McGinley and Stephen McCallion to take a magnificent gold medal for the red and white vests in the u15 Boys 4 x 200m relay.
Indeed McCallion had earlier in the day won a silver medal in the u15 Boys Long Jump with a leap of 4.85m while Mullen took bronze in the u15 Boys Shot Putt with a throw of 11.33m.
The border club’s domination of the middle distance events continued apace meanwhile with Alan McGinley taking gold in the u16 Boys 800m in a time of 2mins 13.41secs, Karen Gallagher taking gold in the u18 Girls 800m in a time of 2mins 25.13secs, Conor McGinley taking an outstanding silver in the u15 Boys 800m in 2mins 22.15secs, Shannon Craig running the race of her life in her first ever 1500m to take silver in the u16 Girls in a time 5mins 32.39secs, while Karen Gallagher ran a brilliant new personal best of 5mins 09.72secs to take bronze in the u18 Girls 1500m.
With the u15 Boys taking victory in the 4 x 200m relay on the Saturday, Sunday was the turn of the u13 Boys 4 x 100m and u16 Boys 4 x 200m relay teams to top the podium. The u13 Boys team was made up of Ryan Stewart, Wilson Craig, Aaron McGrath and Lennon Lafferty while the u16 Boys team made up of Alan McGinley, Brandon Connolly, Brendan O’Donnell and Tom Mullen won out in one of the races of the day to cross the line victorious in a time of 1min 45.79secs from Mid Ulster AC in second place.
There was success too for Lifford AC in the 60m Hurdle events with Brandon Connolly taking victory in the u16 Boys in a time of 9.46 seconds while Conor Breslin took bronze in the u15 event in a time of 11.14 seconds. Conor McKinney added a silver in the u18 Boys in a time of 9.72 seconds and followed this up with silver in the u18 Boys High Jump with 1.65m and bronze in the Triple Jump with 11.80m.
Darragh McCauley started athletics just a few short months ago but the talented Strabane athlete was not overawed by the occasion taking a jumps double by winning the u19 Long Jump with 6.23m and the u19 Triple Jump with a hop, step and jump of 12.48m.
Eoin Breslin won a hard fought victory in the u12 Boys High Jump with a new personal best of 1.20m while there was a personal best too for Natasha McCallion when taking bronze in the u18 Girls High Jump with 1.40m. Shannon Craig maintained her early season good form in taking silver in the u16 Girls High Jump with a leap of 1.45m while Conor Lynch had the competition of his life to jump a new personal best of 1.60m to take silver in the u16 Boys High Jump, missing narrowly at 1.65m.
Claudia Cuskelly took silver in the Girls u15 1000m Walk in 6mins 27.27secs – a good performance from the Carrigans lass in just her second year at this event.
In the throws, there were bronze medals in the Shot Putt from Brendan O’Donnell in the u16 Boys with a fine personal best throw of 11.62m and Ryan Stewart in the u13 Boys with a putt of 8.56m to add to Tom Mullen’s bronze in the u15 event.
These were the medallists but the haul could have been even greater. There were fine 4th place finishes for Charlie McElwaine in the u15 Boys 800m and Alan McGinley in the u16 Boys 1500m while Shane O’Donnell lay in bronze medal position up until the final round of the u14 Boys Shot Putt before settling for a fine 4th position. There was a fine 4th position too for Raphoe girl, Kathleen Craig in the u18 Girls 200m while Aaron McGrath also took 4th in the u13 Boys High Jump after a fine 6th place finish in the final of the u13 Boys 60m.
Good runs from Wilson Craig in the u13 Boys 600m and Fionntan Moore in the u15 Boys 800m and a fine Long Jump from David Shaw in the u16 event topped off a most memorable weekend for the red and white vests of Lifford AC. The club now look forward with confidence to the All Ireland Juvenile Indoor Championships in Athlone at the end of March while preparations continue apace for the outdoor track and field season which begins in April.