For club athletes, the annual track and field league is an annual highlight, usually consisting of two qualifying rounds and a final.

Although fielding a full team is tough, and the competition now includes county teams as well as clubs, there’s nothing like the league for bringing club members together and helping create team spirit.

This year, the competition was back, although reduced only to a premier division final which was held in Tullamore on Sunday (August 15).

Defending champions were the Clonliffe men and the Dundrum South Dublin women, both of both of them with ten league titles to their credit.

In the men’s competition, Clonliffe Harriers, who have dominated for the past six years, again proved unbeatable, picking up points across all the events and notching up eight wins in all, plus a further three second places . Their final total was 128 points in total.

In a triple whammy for Dublin-based clubs, Raheny Shamrock AC and Dundrum South Dublin AC, battled it out for second place, with Raheny on 99 points beating DSD by three points.

Highlight of an eventful day was a thrilling men’s 1500m, where Cillian Kirwan of Raheny Shamrock just held off Jonny Whan of Clonliffe for victory with Paul O’Donnell of Dundrum South Dublin a close third; their times were 3:52.41, 3:52.48 and 3:54.22. Later in the afternoon, O’Donnell was a classy winner of the men’s 5000m in 14:38.61, while Kirwan – crucially – won the 800m for a vital seven points.

Close fought affair in women’s competition

In the women’s competition, Kildare County beat Dundrum South Dublin by just three points; their totals were 105 points to 102 points. With DSD missing a few athletes, wins for Kildare in the 400m, javelin, triple jump and pole vault proved decisive.

Finishing third was the Galway County team on 92 points, followed by Tipperary County and Raheny Shamrock.

A day earlier, at the final weekend of the National Juvenile Championships, also in Tullamore, 3000m European U20 champion Nicholas Griggs of Mid-Ulster AC won the U18 men’s 1500m title in a championship best time of time of 3:50.85. A week earlier, Griggs had won the 3000m in 8:19.76, also a championship best time.

Winning the U19 1500m in 4:01.82 was Sean McGinley of FinnValley AC, who had taken gold in both the 800m and 3000m steeplechase a week earlier.

In a hard-fought the women’s U19 1500m, Cara Laverty of Finn Valley AC, who was pushed all the way by Jane Buckley of Leevale AC, came out on top with a time of 4:38.89.

Photo: James Rhodes

Kirk keeps on improving

Katie Kirk ran a personal best time of 2:02.10 when finishing second behind Ellie Baker in the women’s 800m at the BMC Eltham Grand Prix on Saturday (August 14).

It was a second personal best in three days for Kirk, who had broken 2 mins 3 secs for the first time three days earlier at the BMNC meet in Watford.

In an exceptionally competitive race, the top six finishers all broke 2 mins 3 secs. Finishing sixth in 2:0277 was Jenna Bromell of Emerald AC while tenth in 2:0495 was Alanna Lally of UCD AC. In the B race, Robin McKee Annadale Striders finished second in 2:11.00.

On a good day for Irish female athletes, Georgie Hartigan of Dundrum South Dublin AC and Birchfield Harriers was a clear winner of the women’s A 1500m in 4:11.65. Louise Shanahan of Leevale AC was second in 4:15.63, Maisy O’Sullivan of St Abban’s AC third in 4:16.53, Carla Sweeney of Rathfarnham WSAF AC sixth in 4:19.01,Ellie Hartnett of UCD and Cirencester AC seventh in 4:19.05 and Cheryl Nolan of St Abban’s AC tenth in 4:25.81.

John Fitzsimons of Kildare AC finished fourth in the men’s A 1500m with a time of 3:41.66. Mark Hanrahan of Ennis TC was fourth in the B race, clocking 3:49.5.

In the men’s 5000m, Mitchell Byrne of Rathfarnham WSAF AC, finished second in 14:08.79, followed in third place by Ben Branagh of St Malachy’s AC in 14:17.48. Thomas Moran of Stockport AC was fourth in 14:18.77 and junior athlete Scott Fagan of Metro St Brigid’s AC ninth in 14:46.98.

In the women’s 5000m, Grace Carson of Mid-Ulster AC was fifth in 16:19.95 and Caitlin Harvey of Lagan Valley AC sixth in 16:51.84. Both athletes are under 23.

Road racing is returning

Eogain McGinley of Letterkenny AC made it a home win at the Danny McDaid 15km in Letterkenny held on Sunday morning (August 15).

McGinley’s time was 50 mins 32 secs, which put him comfortably clear of Gary Scully of Nenagh Olympic AC, who was second and first M40 in 51:36. Milford AC’s Marty Lynch was third in 52:32.

Making it a Letterkenny double with victory in the women’s race was Eimear Gormley who finished in 61:53. Her clubmate Monica McGranaghan was second woman and first W40 in 62:32, with Ciara Cunningham of Killybegs AC third in 68:49.

Jimmy Sloan of East Down AC was the winner of the Dambusters 10-Mile in Silent Valley Mountain Park on Saturday (August 14).

Sloan finished in 57 mins 6 secs, with his clubmate Gordy Graham a close second in 57:11 and Daniel Gallagher of Omagh Harriers third in 59:54. Fifth and first woman was Gladys Ganiel of North Belfast Harriers in 60:08. Fiona McFall of Jog Lisburn RC was second woman in 69:26 and Amanda Perry of Ballydrain Harries third in 71:01.

Winners of the 10km race were Jordan Lavery of Jog Lisburn RC in 35:44 and Alice Brear Clarkson in 43.18. In the 5km, Fionn Kerry of Holmfirth Harriers was first home in 17:18 with Stephney Girvan of City of Lisburn AC first woman in 23:44.

Does exactly what it says in the tin

Also on Saturday, Owen Carleton won the off-road Prosecco 5km in 17 mins 16 secs. Maol Larkin of Ballygalget AC was second in 18:57 and Alasdair Mair of North Down AC third in 19:32. Vera Hunter was first woman in 21:48, followed by Vicky McVeigh of Jog Lisburn RC in 22:43 and Lisa Rodha-Boyd of Ormeau Runners in 25:01.

The race was held at Castle Ward in Strangford, Co Down, and all finishers got a bottle of – guess what? – Prosecco!

In Roscommon, Kevin Donagher of Rathfarnham WSAF AC won the opening round of the Roscommon Harriers 5km series on Saturday (August 14) in 16 mins 10 secs. Paddy O’Toole of Westport AC was second in 16:22 and Paul Conlon on Ferbane AC third on 16:48. Fourth and first M40 was Adrian Smith of Roscommon AC in 16.53.

Then came something of a gap back to the next three runners, all of them in the over 50 category. First home was local athlete John Fitzmaurice in 18:45 followed by Oliver Gethins in 19:24 and Athletics Ireland local organsier Bashir Hussain, of Athlone IT AC in 19:57.

First woman was Anne Marie O’Dowd of Athlone IT AC in 21:47, who was also first W40. On a good night for over 50 athletes, Maura Dervin of Mullingar Harriers finished second woman in 21:58, with Susan Gannon third in 22:15.

Lucky Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th proved lucky for Steven McAlary of City of Derry Spartans who was a clear winner of the Connswater 5-Mile from CS Lewis Square, Belfast in 24 mins 43 secs. Almost a minute behind in 25:39 was Patrick McNiff of Newcastle AC, with Stephen Connolly of Annadale Striders third in 25:58.

Dearbhla Cox of was first woman in 31.07, with her Annadale Striders clubmate Roseann Spence second in 32:47 and Kelley Haniver of Willowfield third and first W40 in 33.00.

Also on Friday, the fifth round of the Wicklow 5km Series took place at Avondale House, Rathdrum with Sean Hehir of Metro St Brigid’s AC again the winner in 16 mins 7 secs. Patrick Kinsella of local club Parnell AC was second in 18:03 and Brian Maher of Kilkenny City Harriers third and first M45 in 18:28.

Sheila O’Byrne of Parnell AC was seventh overall and first woman in 20:09, with Sonya McConnon of Dundrum South Dublin AC second in 20:51 and Nessa Smyth of Love to Run AC third in 22:32.

Midweek action doesn’t disappoint

At the Crawfordsburn 5km trail race on Wednesday (August 11) Craig McMeechan of North Down AC had a comfortable victory in 16 mins 8 secs, with Timothy Johnston of Mourne Runners second in 16:25 second and Sean McLaughlin of North Down AC third in 17:03.

In fifth place, Gary Scully of Nenagh Olympic AC, who spends his summers in Ulster, was first M40 in 17:24.

Junior athlete Mac Eager of North Down AC was first woman in 20:52. Kathryn Sheridan of Belfast Running Club was second woman in 21:42 and Gemma Blake of Orangegrove AC third woman and first W40 in 22:52.

A total of 140 ran in what was a welcome step back towards normality for the local running community.

At the Castlepollard 5km on Wednesday (August 11), Ben Brunton of St Brigid’s AC beat Raheny Shamrock’s Kieran Kelly in a sprint for the line with Bruton timed at 14:58 and Kelly a second behind. Third was Sean Doran of Clonliffe Harriers in 15:20.

Rose Finnegan of UCD AC was first woman in 17:01, with Fiona Gettings of Longford AC second and first W40 in 18.00 and Sinead Whitelaw of Mullingar Harriers third in 18:11.

A close battle up in the hills

Former Irish international mountain runners Ian Conroy and Barry Minnock battled it out at the Howth Summer hill race on Wednesday (August 11).

Conroy came home first in 56 mins 48 secs, with Minnock five seconds behind for second in 56:53 and Jonatas Jocius of Crusaders AC a close third in 56:58.

First woman was Sarah Brady in 64 mins 25 secs, with Maeve Maher-McWilliams second in 65:49 and Eimear O’Brien third in 66:39

 Any excuse to use this picture of the Belfast Marathon with the chap in full Brazil football kit on the front row. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. 2016 Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon

Belfast to host national marathon

In other news, the Belfast City Marathon on Sunday, October 3, will incorporate the All Ireland National Marathon Championships, with an entry limit of a hundred men and a hundred women.

No national championships were held last year following the cancellation of both Dublin and Belfast marathons.

Since places are limited, anyone interested in running must register with Athletics Ireland here before Thursday next, August 19.

While the British and Irish Masters Cross-Country scheduled for Santry, Dublin, in November is cancelled for another year, the good news is that the annual Anglo Celtic Plate 50km and 100km will go ahead as planned although English Athletics have not entered a team.

The date is Saturday, August 21 and the venue the Mondello motor racing track outside Naas in Co Kildare.