From the Horseshoe to the Horseshoe Bar a Symmetric Evening Atloughshannagh

From the Horseshoe to the Horseshoe Bar a Symmetric Evening Atloughshannagh

From the Horseshoe to the Horseshoe Bar – a symmetric evening atLoughshannagh

Hill and Dale Race 7 by Bogusboy

Ian Bailey declared his intentions to mount a serious challenge for a fourth consecutive Slieve Donard victory with a commanding display in comfortably winning the sixth race of the 2016 Hill and Dale series, the Loughshannagh Horseshoe. Bailey shared the early pace with the young pretender and rapidly improving Zak Hanna over the first two peaks. Both men passed the summit marshals on Ott inside 5 minutes and were cresting Loughshannagh within 12 minutes – fantastic running by anyone’s standards. Age and experience would triumph over youth and exuberance as Bailey took command by the top of Doan and was too strong for Hanna up the last steep climb to Carn, before making a lightning dash for home. Bailey would end up winning by almost two minutes. The finish marshals would observe that he seemed to have a good bit left in the tank and this will undoubtedly inspire and motivate him as the real object of his desire looms ever closer – a hat-trick of wins on Donard. Hanna is to be congratulated on another fine performance; finishing second to Bailey and beating the likes of Hicks, Murtagh and Carty is no mean achievement. At the ripe young age of 20 – though of course he looks a lot younger - he will undoubtedly win many races in the future. Hicks would hold off the faster finishing Murtagh by 20 seconds to claim a well-deserved podium spot, while Murtagh was a very gallant fourth, recording the third fastest time from Doan to the finish. Murtagh’s sprint to the line was inspired by a foul and vicious rumour that Mary Margaret’s had a limited supply of stout and the big man wanted to make sure he got his rightful quota! The top 5 was rounded of by Timothy Johnston of Mourne Runners, who had an excellent run.

5 through 10

Alex Brennan showed what a fierce competitor he is by finishing 6th, just ahead of the perennial bridesmaid Neil Carty who ran strongly. Patrick Higgins was a very credible 9th, sandwiched by two juniors, Ballydrain’s Scott McKeag (8th) and Springwell’s Oisin Brennan (10th). With three ‘young turks’ making the top 10, the future is looking good for NI Mountain running. The challenge is for other clubs to recognise the potential in their younger athletes for this highly specialised form of racing.

Wilson tightens her grip while Wilson salutes his fans

Dromore AC’s Diane Wilson tightened her grip on the ladies title with another commanding performance that would see her finish 24th overall in 50:22, 3 minutes 13 seconds clear of her nearest challenger Moire Sullivan. The ever-competitive Shileen O’Kane was third lady, a further 16 seconds back and almost caught Sullivan who had almost a minute’s lead as the pair summited Doan. Wilson was little more than 30 seconds ahead of both at the third summit, but made light work of the incredibly challenging climb to the top of Carn, before driving home her advantage in the closing stages. Undoubtedly, Wilson is one of the most well-known and easiest recognisable athletes in NI fell-running circles. Consequently, it was no surprise when fans circled the team Wilson bus as it moored at the registration point. Incredulously, it was the lesser-known Wilson, Brian that was the subject of the admiration of a horde of adoring male and female fans. Un-phased by this Brian scribbled a few autographs and waved to his ever-growing entourage like he was royalty. Eventually the crowd dispersed, leaving the race officials scratching their heads, wondering how the strange events could be explained. Eventually, all become clear when one athlete remarked upon signing in, ‘I never knew until tonight that Jarlath Burns did Hill & Dale races!’ Even more incredibly, the race director who has known Mr Burns for longer than he has known Mr Wilson had never made the connection and was left fuming that he could have been keeping Wilson going about his doppelganger for years had he been astute enough to note the obvious physical similarities at an earlier date. The little bit of adulation did Jarlath, I mean Brian, no harm and he ran extremely well, finishing 37th in a very credible 52:41. Later, in the pub, when asked to predict a winner between Tyrone and Derry, he smiled and give a politically correct response, ‘draw’.

Could be a case of ‘Never the Sunday Run’

In previous reports the internal rumblings and discontent among that fine body of athletes known as NTSR have been well documented. There have been developments on several fronts. Firstly, Suffern has reclaimed his rightful place in the pecking having recorded back to back wins over De Courcy-Wheeler, albeit by the narrow margin of 13 seconds. However, more significantly, the latter was officially measured up for his new club vest at Loughshannagh. What cannot speak cannot lie and the evidence has been printed for all to see! Once again, Henry McLaughlin was unavailable to comment on this significant turn of events.

No room at the Inn

With all safely off the mountains, it was time to retire to Mary Margaret’s for the once traditional sandwiches. In days of yore, one of the most important tasks of a race director was to dragoon a malleable bunch of club members to ‘make a few rounds of sandwiches’. Invariably, these came in all shapes and sizes and some of the contents were difficult to determine and digest! Nonetheless, they were always scoffed by the ravenous mob of starving athletes. This tradition was re-ignited with some aplomb as a range of finely hand-cut ‘craft’ sandwiches with an eclectic variety of delicate treats emerged from the kitchen of the Horseshoe Bar. The Directors had called a ‘Bun Run’ whip and the NAC Committee had weighed in as well to ensure that a veritable feast was on offer. Wonderwall had called in a firm of outside caterers! The Landlady herself chipped and proffered scones, ginger cake and enough tay to launch a ship. At one point, there were more people in the kitchen that there were in the bar and the bar was packed! Despite the spurious allegations that he never cooks at home, Paddy McCartan was very much in command of the kitchen and proved to be a dab hand with a bread-knife,insisting that each sandwich platter had enough variety to meet the heterogeneous tastes of the assembled masses. In fact, he even went as far as recalling one platter which he declared to be ‘over-represented with tuna and underwhelmed with egg.’ Darragh McCrickard was sent home with a bag that will service QUB for the rest of his undergraduate days! By the end of the evening there were enough scraps to feed Hugh John’s hens for a fortnight. Thanks to all who contributed to this, particularly Paul Fitzpatrick.

Happy Birthday to her!

Speeches were made, mugs were given out and the evening ended with the singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ to Kathryn Aiken from Dromore who was making her season’s debut, having worked hard to recover to make the start line in celebration of her 35th birthday – she was rewarded with a much sought after Hill & Dale mug. Another worthy recipient of one of these final rivals to Dresden china was young Callan McCloy, son of seasoned campaigner Jonathan. The young man had been as good as gold throughout the race from the secure vantage point of a bespoke carrying pouch. Despite the wind and occasional spits of rain, he was unflustered and wins the ‘supporter of the night award’.


Once again we thank the unsung heroes from our own club and the NI Mountain Rescue who stand to post at registration, on a mountain top or at the finish every Thursday to ensure the safety and well-being of all our participants. Thanks to John Trainor for a job well done as sweeper and to Tony Steele for magnificently calculating the best angle to get the trailer into position to minimise wind turbulence – they were millimetre perfect! Mary Knight and Frank Morgan were there as usual; it wouldn’t be Hill & Dale if they didn’t come – though Mary was less than happy when instructed not to bring the refreshments. Having said that, she was more than happy when she saw the goodies brought by both race directors – such was the quality that Shona Murray (aka Mrs Doyle) would have been apoplectic with shock! Needless to say that when the athletes departed the caravan was rocking and the party was in full swing; for many watching Morgan manage the eating of a particularly large snowball was the high point of the evening. On most evenings that would be the strangest event, but late reports, unconfirmed at present, suggest that Frank Cunningham was taken home in the dog cage of the Spartan’s van – nothing would surprise me anymore! During the down time between the start and the finish one of the race directors was almost tempted to take a bet of former champion Stephen Cunningham over the outcome of Slieve Donard. In the end they agreed to differ and wait to see what the race brings before one will have earned the right to declare, ‘told you so!

Slieve Donard

Race 7 of the series is Slieve Donard at 2pm on Saturday 28th May. Entries will be taken at the Newcastle Centre and the race, marking 70 years since the inaugural running in 1946 is part of the NIMRA Championship – see separate preview. Good luck to all taking part.