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North Down take the Honours in NI & Ulster Champs


North Down Athletic Club were in celebratory mood at the weekend’s ChampionChip Ireland NI & Ulster Junior/Inter/Masters cross country races at Stormont when they created history with their first ever win in the Junior event.
They enjoyed a crushing team victory and also had the satisfaction of providing the individual winner in Niall Robinson who once again added to his list of recent excellent performances.

As predicted the final stages of the 10k event were marked by an exciting tussle between Robinson and arch rival Jarlath Falls of Ballymena. Up to then the pair had been joined by surprise contender Robin Brown of the Bangor club. North Down had persuaded him to interrupt his Cambridge studies for the day such was their determination to take the team title.

However with 1k remaining the medical student drifted back when teammate Robinson forced the pace in a successful atempt to break away from Falls. At the line he had a 30 metres victory margin over the Ballymena man with Brown a commendable 3rd. He was followed by North Belfast’s Connor Magill, fast finishing Ryan Holt of Willowfield and Ballymena’s Johnny Steede.

North Down scored an historic team victory on 72 points from Willowfield on 95 points.

Afterwards a satisfied Robinson said that despite his track background he did not want to risk a sprint finish with Falls. He now plans to race over 800/1500 metres in next month’s Birningham Indoor Games.

In the Men’s Masters 8k event there was another close dual between last year’s bronze medallist David Morwood of Annadale and City of Derry’s Declan Reed. In the early stages they were joined by Annadale’s Paul Carroll who dropped back but battled on to finish 3rd.

The determined Morwood forced the pace in the closing stages and almost dropped Reed. Reed afterwards admitted he had to dig deep to hold Morwood before he drew level and forged a small lead in the final 400 metres. At the line Reed had a mere 3 secs winning margin over Morwood followed by Carroll some 33 secs later.

City of Derry’s Colin Roberts took 4th ahead of Letterkenny’s Pauric McKinney who came from a long way back. Annadale’s Wright completed the first 6 finishers and helped his club to retain their team title with 31 points from City of Derry on 45 points.

Hottest favourite of the day was North Belfast’s Cathy McCourt in the Masters event and she did not disappoint in her quest to achieve a hat trick of victories. With 1k remaining her only rival was Intermediate Lauren Scott of North Down who was having the race of her life.

From then on McCourt pressed the accelerator with apparent ease and eventually finished some 80 metres ahead of Scott who was a clear Intermediate winner. North Down’s Roberta Dornan was 3rd and ensured her club completed a highly successful day with victory in the Master’s event by 2 points from North Belfast. Ballymena’s Eimear Black 5th place earned her the Junior title.

Full results available.

[Pictured: Niall Robinson (North Down) holds the impressive Junior trophy presented by Athletics NI President John Glover]