Double European Cross Country Champion Fionnuala Britton was the star attraction on Monday at the Official Opening of the Ben O’Donnell Athletics Stadium in Lifford.
The Irish international who was the first woman to defend a European Cross Country Championship in 2012 led a star studded field in the womens 3,000m which also included her international team mates at the 2013 Europeans, Lifford AC’s Ann Marie McGlynn and Ciara Durkan from Skerries.
While Britton was the headline act, there were was a host of other top class athletes on show, with many athletes travelling from across the country to be involved. Indeed, it was a local athlete, John Kelly who also made the headlines, throwing the Shot out to 15.46m to set a new Donegal record, with qualification for the World Juniors in Oregon firmly in his sights.
In the mens 3,000m, Foyle Valley’s Scott Rankin led from the gun and was involved in a battle with Glaslough’s Conor Duffy and Declan Reid from the City of Derry club. However, Rankin looked very impressive, running on to victory in a personal best time of 8.31.88, ahead of Duffy and Reid. The womens 3,000m race was also a keenly fought contest with the aforementioned Fionnuala Britton using the race as preparation for an international meet in England next week. The Kilcoole athlete looked every part the class act she is running to victory in 9.15.02 with Lifford AC’s Ann Marie McGlynn also showing her class coming home second in 9.21.96, with Ciara Durkan third in 9.26.67, Clonliffe’s Becky Woods in fourth and Annalee’s Clodagh O’Reilly in fifth.
The first race of the day, the 400m Hurdles saw Tir Chonaill athlete Kate McGowan chase a European Youth Olympic standard, but just missed out by a second winning in 63.54. In the mens 400m Hurdles, where Lifford AC’s Liam Doherty reigned supreme in Ireland during the 1970’s, St. Peter’s athlete Mark Rogers was victorious in a time of 59.48s. Several other athletes from around the country had made the trip to Lifford in the hope of securing qualification for the European Youth Olympic Trials in Baku, Azerbaijan. In the mens 800m, three athletes were targeting the 1.54 European qualification standard Dunleer Ac’s Garry Campbell, Sligo’s Cian McBride and Le Cheile AC’s Conall Hayes. Campbell led the field home in 1.55.79, just outside the standard, followed by McBride 1.56.91 and Hayes in third in 1.59.63. In the womens 800m, Clones AC’s Denise Toner was an impressive winner and had seven seconds to spare over St. Coca’s athlete Emily Milner, with Mullingar’s Elizabeth Carr in third.
In the mens 400m, Dundrum South Dublin’s Brian Masterson went agonisingly close to hitting the European standard winning the race in 49.91, just 0.51s short of the target, with Strabane’s Conor McLaughlin second in 51.48s and Derry City Track Club’s Aaron Carlyle third in 51.71.
The mens 100m was fought out over two races, with Ballymena and Antrim’s Jonathan Browning winning in 11.00s followed by City of Derry’s Mark McGarvey and Strabane’s Conor Mclaughlin in third. In the sprint hurdles, St. Peter’s AC athlete Niamh Fussey was impressive winning the race in 16.57s ahead of City of Derry’s Emma McCay in second, and Lifford AC’s Isabella Breslin in third. In the 110m Hurdles, Garbhan McKenna was targeting a World Youth standard, narrowly missing out by just a few tenths of a second, winning in 14.89 ahead of Mark McGarvey.
In a week that remembers the 60th anniversary of Roger Bannisters four minute mile, the mile race in Lifford was won by City of Derry’s Noel Logan in 4.42. The Masters mile was a closely fought race, with former club athlete Pauric McKinney determined to make his mark on an historic day for the club, winning in 4.50.47, just ahead of City of Derry’s Eoghan Furey and Derry City Track Club’s Robert Bigger in third.
The final races of the day were the 200m, and again, both the womens and mens races saw young athletes from around the country trying to achieve qualification standards. With the rain starting to come down, City of Lisburns Roseanna McGuckian led the womens race home in 24.99s ahead of DSD’s Mollie O’Reilly in 25.48s. While McGuckian was just 0.19s outside her standard, she broke a 38 year old Stadium record previously held by Louise McGettigan set back in 1976. In the final 200m race of the day, Donore Harriers athlete Sean Lawlor was victorious in 22.39s, just 0.29s outside the European qualification standard, leading home Sligo’s Colm Bourke and Jack Tillon.
In the field events, St. Peters athlete Mark Rogers won the high jump with a 1.83m leap, with Tir Chonaill’s Caolan O’Callaghan second in a new pb of 1.80m and Lifford AC’s Conor McKinney third with 1.75m. In the mens javelin, Strabane Track Club’s Sean McBride won with a throw of 49.76m followed by team mate Darryl Crawford, 45.82m and Lifford AC’s Mark Doherty third with a throw of 38.56m. In the womens high jump, City of Derry’s Emma McCay won with a jump of 1.50m with Lifford AC’s Isabella Breslin second with 1.40m. In the mens Long Jump, Sligo AC’s Colm Bourke jumped to 6.60m ahead of Rosses AC’s Aidan Gillespie 5.91m, Lifford AC’s Gary Gallagher third with 5.27m.
John Kelly’s County record breaking throw of 15.46m broke Cruit Island’s John Gallagher’s long time standing Senior record in the county, with Lifford AC’s Mark Doherty second in the event, 10.54m and St Peter’s athlete Thomas McGrane third with 10.05m
Earlier in the day, clubs from across the North West took part in an action packed juvenile track and field competition to mark the Official Opening of the new Stadium with many fine performances recorded.
On an historic day for the Lifford club, the new track is yet another milestone reached for the successful border club, and with top class competition held on the track for the opening, they can look forward to many more top class events being held there into the future.