Lifford AC juvenile athletes took home another twelve medals from the final day’s action of the Ulster Juvenile Track and Field Championships held in a hot and humid Antrim Forum last Saturday.
Saturday was the turn of the u16 and u17 crop of athletes to enter the cauldron of competition at Ulster level this summer and they didn’t disappoint – maintaining the high standards set by those competing in other age-groups in Belfast and Cavan over the past few weeks. A total of three gold, six silver and three bronze medals was a fantastic return for the team of nine Lifford AC athletes in action at the Antrim venue.
Brendan O’Donnell, fresh from his selection for the Ulster Schools team which competes this weekend at the Tailteann Games Interprovincial at Santry Stadium in Dublin, dominated proceedings in the Boys u16 Hammer by taking his fourth Ulster title in this event with yet another enormous throw, this time sending the hammer out to 57.87m. O’Donnell followed this up later in the day by taking silver in the Discus with a throw of 36.69m and a silver in the Shot Putt (10.40m). The St. Eunan’s College student has been showing exceptional form of late, culminating in his recent victory in the Hammer and silver in the Discus at the Irish Schools Track and Field Championships in Tullamore. While savouring the sweet taste of Irish Schools success , O’Donnell’s focus is now solely on the Tailteann Games this weekend, the reward being a place on the Irish Schools team which competes in the Schools International against England, Scotland and Wales in Cardiff next month.
Alan McGinley, recently crowned Ulster u16 Boys 800m champion, was in action in the Boys u16 250m Hurdles where he ran a brilliant race to take victory in a time of 35.32 seconds from club-mate, Brandon Connolly (36.23 seconds) in second. McGinley, a silver medallist in this event at last year’s National Juvenile Track and Field Championships led from gun to tape despite the close attention of Connolly throughout. Connolly, nursing a slight calf strain, had earlier in the day taken silver in the Boys u16 100m Hurdles in a very fast time of 15.89 seconds behind Oliver Wakefield of North Down AC. On this form, both McGinley and Connolly can be confident of putting themselves in the frame for honours at next month’s national championships.
Shannon Craig topped the podium in the u16 Girls High Jump with a jump of 1.50m. Craig has been excelling in training lately and an Ulster title was well deserved for the young Raphoe girl who has high hopes of topping 1.60m before the end of the season.
Conor Lynch has been an ever present on the High Jump medal podium both provincially and nationally over the past five years. On Saturday, the young St. Johnston lad cleared 1.55m in the u16 Boys event to claim a bronze medal. Such are the standards that Lynch now sets himself, however, that despite expressing disappointment afterwards, the Deele College student has vowed to come back stronger from the experience and hopes to go over 1.70m before the end of the summer.
Stephen Gibson from Ballindrait was another to have a good outing at the Antrim Forum. Specialising in the throws events, Gibson had an impressive medal haul of one silver and two bronze – the silver coming in the u17 Boys Discus (22.98m), with the bronze coming in the Shot Putt (9.11m) and Hammer (25.28m).
Shannon Russell, a relative newcomer to the sport of athletics, has shown great potential over the hurdles in recent months. On Saturday, Russell claimed her first ever Ulster medal when taking a well-deserved silver medal in the u17 Girls 300m Hurdles (50.16 seconds) behind the exceptional Aine Brady of Annalee AC, Cavan.
Nicole Cuskelly had a fine jump of 1.40m in the u17 Girls High Jump to take a very creditable 4th place and followed this up in the final event of the day with a personal best jump of 9.28m in the Triple Jump. The Carrigans girl has had to forego her training regime of late to concentrate on her Junior Cert exams but in spite of this, still performed admirably and will be well pleased with her performance on the Ulster stage.
The final Lifford AC athlete in action was Fionntan Moore, another newcomer to the sport, who ran a new personal best of 5 mins 15 seconds in the u15 Boys 1500m. With another season behind him, young Moore will come back stronger next year and put himself in contention for a medal place.
And so with the dust settled on the Ulster Juvenile Track and Field Championships for another year, the Lifford club features highly on the overall medal table in Ulster, with 26 medals making their way to the border town – 8 gold, 12 silver and 6 bronze. The next major target for these young athletes will be the All Ireland Championships in Tullamore in July where no doubt, the red and white vests will once again feature prominently.