The Mary Peters Track in Belfast played host to the Ulster Senior and Ulster Juvenile Track and Field Championships on Saturday and Sunday last.
The bronze statue of the famous Olympic Pentathlon champion from the Munich Games in 1972 watched over the proceedings on what were two splendid days of competition.
In Monsoon-like conditions on the Saturday, Mark Doherty was Lifford AC’s sole senior athlete in action. The St. Johnston native, a relative newcomer to the sport of athletics, has put in a heavy winter’s training and the fruits of this were evident in Belfast as he launched the shot to 10.16m to claim a silver medal behind winner, Matthew O’Reilly of Springwell AC. This was a just reward for the dedicated Doherty who later in the day took a fine 5th place in the Men’s Javelin with a throw of 37.04m
Karen Gallagher took to the starting line in the u18 Girls 800m after her exploits in the Irish Schools Championships the week before where she had finished in an excellent 5th position. In what was possibly Gallagher’s best ever 800m in a Lifford vest, the Belfast track proved to be fast underfoot as the Killygordon lass crossed the line in an exceptional 2 minutes 22.76 seconds, knocking a full three seconds off her previous best time, but more importantly adding an Ulster silver medal to her ever-growing collection.
With the decision made on Saturday afternoon to postpone all the High Jump competitions because of the torrential rain, Conor McKinney was able to concentrate on his second event, the u18 Boys Triple Jump. An All-Ireland medallist at this event in 2013, McKinney had a fine hop, step and jump of 11.72m to claim 3rd place behind winner Caolan O’Callaghan of Tír Chonaill AC (12.60m).
Sunday proved to be a much better day for good performances with the sun making a welcome appearance in the Belfast sky for the duration of the day. Niall Quinn was one of many Lifford AC athletes in action and had the distinction of striking gold in both the u14 Boys 80m and u14 Boys 800m. After winning the 800m with ease early on Sunday, Quinn showed maturity beyond his years to blitz the field in the final of the 80m to storm home in a time of 10.41 seconds ahead of a fast finishing Reece McMurray of Beechmount Harriers in second place.
Alan McGinley showed that the Lifford AC dominance at juvenile middle distance level continues unabated by taking the border club’s third 800m gold of the weekend, this time in the u16 Boys event. McGinley led from start to finish to cross the finish line in a fine time of 2 minutes 05.94 seconds, ahead of Eoin McCann of St. Malachy’s AC in Belfast, three seconds further back. On this form, McGinley is certainly capable of taking a national medal in Tullamore at the All Ireland Championships next month.
There was gold too for Stephen McCallion in the u15 Boys Triple Jump. The Strabane lad got out to 10.63m, a distance which will certainly put him in the mix for national honours in July.
Claudia Cuskelly was Lifford AC’s sole representative in the walks events. The Carrigans girl dominated the field throughout knocking an exceptional 2 minutes off her previous best time to take gold in the u15 Girls 2000m Walk in a time of 13 minutes 43.04 seconds.
Letterkenny lad, Shane O’Donnell was another to double medal for the Lifford club, by taking two silver medals – firstly in the u14 Boys Hammer with a throw of 23.24m and later in the day, in the u14 Boys Discus with a throw of 17.03m behind Ryan Smith of Innyvale AC in Cavan.
Tom Mullen had an exceptional run to take silver in the u15 Boys 250m Hurdles in a time of 36.01 seconds, a time which will surely put him on the podium were he to repeat it at the national championships. Mullen had to settle for second best behind the brilliant Bradley Mulholland of City of Lisburn AC who crossed the line in a super-quick 33.91 seconds. The multi-talented Mullen also claimed a bronze medal in the u15 Boys Shot Putt with a throw of 11.90m, an event won by Finn Valley’s, James Kelly with 13.13m.
Conor Breslin had the misfortune of having three no throws out of four in the u15 Boys Hammer but still managed a fine second place with his one legal throw of 25.83m. Breslin has shown great ability since taking up the event just a year ago and on his day is well capable of putting himself in the mix for national honours. The affable Ballindrait lad added a bronze medal in the u15 Boys 80m Hurdles when taking third behind Ethan McIlroy of City of Lisburn AC.
Having watched older brother Alan take gold in the u16 Boys 800m, it would have been easy for younger brother Conor McGinley to feel more than a little pressure when running in the u15 version of the same event. There were no nerves, however, as the younger McGinley ran the race of his life to finish a magnificent 3rd place in a new personal best time of 2 mins 15.36 seconds. Charlie McElwaine was another Lifford AC athlete involved in the race for honours in the same event and despite he too running a new personal best time of 2 mins 19.37 seconds, had to be content with a still highly commendable 5th place.
Ellie Green was Lifford AC’s final athlete in action in Belfast and ran a great race in the final of the u15 Girls 80m Hurdles to come home in 5th place in a time of 15.55 seconds
So fourteen Ulster juvenile medals over the weekend – five gold, five silver and four bronze – to add to Mark Doherty’s senior medal. Another great haul for the Lifford club with the final day of the Ulster Juvenile Championships to take place at the Antrim Forum, tomorrow, Saturday, this time for u16 and u17 athletes.