Local stars come good to claim gold in Coleraine

Declan Reed
Declan Reed

Laura Hassan, Louise Smith, Declan Reed and Conor Duffy all struck gold at the Northern Ireland and Ulster Intermediate and Masters Cross Country Championships which were sponsored by ChampionChip Ireland at a snowy University of Ulster, Coleraine.

The Intermediate and Masters Women were on the track at the same time and after one circuit it was Laura Hassan and Lauren Quee interchanging the lead with top Masters Louise Smith and Fionnuala Diver just behind.

Laura made her effort on the penultimate circuit and increased her advantage to cross the line fourteen seconds before Lauren who in turn was just clear of Louise and defending Masters champion Fionnuala. Anne Linden took bronze in the Inters with Claire Connor doing the same in the Masters.

It was an amazing comeback for Laura who as a pupil at Coleraine High defeated the cream of local Seniors at the same venue in 1999 before competing in the Euro Juniors. She has only raced very occasionally since.

City of Derry led by Aoife Laverty and Angeline McShane won the Intermediate team prize by just one point from Finn Valley and Springwell with Ballydrain headed by Debbie Matchett taking the Masters two points ahead of Lagan Valley and City of Derry.

Declan Reed led for every step of the way in the Mens Masters. The reigning All Ireland champion went straight into the lead with former champion Pauric McKinney chasing ahead of the North Belfast trio of Alan O’Hara, Eamon White and Neil Carty.

Reed had opened a gap over McKinney after the third of the five laps with White closing on O’Hara for third and Carty being hounded by Ivan Toner.

Reed was now on his own and came to the line thirty seven seconds before McKinney with White just clinching bronze in a dip finish over O’Hara.

Toner came next with Carty and the impressive Nigel McKibbin following next.

North Belfast with Laurence Johnston joining White, O’Hara and Carty took the team title comfortably from Inishowen and Finn Valley.

The final event of the day was the Mens Intermediate which proved to be very hotly contested.

European U23 representative Conor Duffy was always prominent in the lead group which included Scott Rankin, Conan McGaughey, Stephen Prentice, Mark McKinstry and Conal McCambridge.

After three of the seven circuits three men were away with Duffy, McGaughey and Prentice all looking good. Rankin and the improving McKinstry were disputing fourth.

Duffy raised the pace in the fifth lap and moved away to win by twenty five seconds from McGaughey with Prentice a further twelve seconds back. McKinstry got the better of Rankin for fourth with Chris Madden, Noel Logan and top Junior Connor Christie next.

North Belfast spearheaded by McKinstry completed a double by taking the team prize ahead of Acorns led by Darrell McKee who improved steadily throughout the race. City of Derry were third.

Terry Eakin followed his international success with another impressive victory in the M65 contest coming in before Davy Nicholson and Barry Morris.

Paul Barbour and Karen Alexander had runaway victories in the third round of the Sperrin series at Drum Manor. Paul from Omagh was over a minute in front of Neil Weir and Gavin Coyle while Karen from Acorns had a two minutes cushion over Charlene Abraham and Natalie Hall.