Run Through History in this Year’s Greencastle “5”

10 November 2017

A Run Through History is the theme for this year’s Greencastle “5” Mile Road Race on St. Stephen’s Day. It’s the 32nd year of the Tyrone classic that has firmly established itself as the top event of its kind over the Christmas holiday period with well over 1500 runners turning out last year.

Greencastle 5 Organisers Oliver McCullagh (left) and Colm Devlin with Kenyan athlete Gideon Kipsang

This year, race director Oliver McCullagh is laying emphasis on the outstanding depth of history associated with the five mile route on the foothills of the Sperrins.  From the start close by an Ogham stone to the finish along an old coach road once terrorised by a notorious local highwayman, the area is steeped in history and prehistory.

The Aghascrebagh Ogham stone is the only of its kind in Tyrone and is overlooked by Dun Ruadh, a large circular burial cairn constructed 4000 years ago, and clearly visible in the opening mile of the race.

As the course enters the second mile Formil Hill come into view.  According to the Annals of the Four Masters, the Cinel Eoghain (O’Neills) routed the Cinel Conaill (O’Donnells) here in 965 after killing the Donegal men’s leader Maelisa O’Cannon and Moriarty O’Taidhg, heir to the kingdom of Connaught.1 comment awaiting moderation

Historic Sites around Greencastle

The two mile marker sees the field turn on to the Crockanboy Road and head back toward the hamlet of Greencastle, formerly known as Sheskinshule (the moving bog) until the mid-nineteenth century.

The three mile point follows shortly afterwards but it is the right hand turn onto the Mullydoo Road when most runners believe they pass through a portal into another world – of pain and punishment – as they climb the steep 800 metre ascent up to the summit of Crockanboy.

From there it’s all the way downhill to the finish along the road once frequented by the notorious local highwayman and used by Hugh O’Neill as he made his way to Rathmullan for his flight to mainland Europe along with Hugh O’Donnell in 1607.

Most of the roads along the course have been resurfaced in the past 12 months and McCullagh is hopeful that he might see a new race record this year.

“We’re hoping Paul Pollock will be back to go for a four-in-a-row,” said McCullagh.  “He ran well in Leeds last weekend and he could go close to his race record of 24:07 he set three years ago. The road has been fixed and should provide good fast going for everyone looking to improve their times for the race.”

The race will start an hour earlier this year at 12:00 midday but no entries will be accepted on the morning of the race.  Race entry is now open to the 2017 Greencastle “5” at and will close at midnight on December 23.

Gideon Wins 83rd McConnell Shield

4 November 2017

Derry Track Club’s Gideon Kipsang, Laura Bickerstaff and Matt Shields were the outstanding competitors at the 83rd McConnell Shield cross country meeting hosted by East Antrim Harriers at Ballyclare. Despite being dropped from the ANI Cross Country League at the eleventh hour, the fixture still drew a healthy entry from northern clubs.

Gideon Bides His Time.

Kipsang was in a group of five that broke away from the main field as early as the first mile lap of five. Recent Masters’ trial winner Allan Bogle was setting the pace while Conor Duffy, Mark McKinstry and Paralympic star James Hamilton were all looking comfortable in his wake.

Nothing changed until the fourth lap when Kipsang made his move taking Duffy with him. The Kenyan kept the pressure on throughout the last lap but the tenacious Glaslough Harrier stuck to his task and kept the Kenyan’s winning margin down to eight seconds at the finish line. The consistent McKinstry took third ahead of Hamilton, Bogle and a strong finishing John Black.

DTC’s representatives acquitted themselves admirably.  Shane McGowan returned from a long spell of inactivity following injury by taking 14th, followed by 16-year-old Sean McIntyre in 43rd and Conor McIlveen in 82nd.

The DTC juveniles also impressed in the under age races.  New recruit Sé Heaney was 3rd in the Boys’ U16 race followed by Ben Mellon in sixth.   Kayla McLaughlin was fourth in the Girls’ U16 contest.

Dromore’s Laura Bickerstaff was a clear winner of the women’s race with Sarah Lindsay and Paula Worthington filling the other podium places.  Derry Track Club’s Elaine Connor had another impressive performance over the country finishing fourth in the F40 category.

Matt Shields was the winner of the Over 60 and above Master’s Men race and the worthy first recipient of the Bertie Grimason Cup in memory of the host club’s president who passed away earlier this year.  DTC’s Mal McCausland picked up the prize for first M65,


McConnell Shield Cross Country

Senior Men: 1 Gideon Kipsang Derry Track Club 26:40, 2 Conor Duffy Glaslough Hrs 26:48, 3 Mark McKinstry North Belfast Hrs 27:27, 4 James Hamilton Ballymena Runners 28:01, 5 Allan Bogle (M35) City of Derry Spartans 29:16, 6 John Black NBH 28:31; M40: Michael Bennett Ballymena Runners 30:16, M45: Eamon White NBH 28:32, M50: Duncan Bell Willowfield 29:49, M55: Noel Connor Ballymena Runners 30:40; Team: NBH

Senior Women: 1 Laura Bickerstaff Dromore 28:15, 2 Sarah Lindsay North Down 18:34, 3 Paula Worthington Ballymena Runners 19:03, 4 Jodi Smith (F35) North Down 19:07, 5 Catherine O’Connor East Down 19:25, 6 Sarah-Jane Guiney (F35) U/A 19:35; F40: Jenny Black VP & Connswater 20:14, F45: Martina McMullen Foyle Valley 19:41, F50: Debbie Matchett Ballydrain Hrs 19:50, F55: Anne Paul City of Derry Spartans 20:21.

Masters Men: M60: Matt Shields NBH 18:29, M65: M McCausland Derry Track Club 21:12, M70: Jim Patterson Newcastle 20:18, M75: Jim Platt Springwell

Spooktacular Night for DTC in Enniskillen.

27 October 2017

Gideon Kipsang was an impressive winner of the Spooktacular 5K in Enniskillen from a field of 1500 plus runners.  DTC’s adopted Kenyan broke the take in a record 14:32 to add to an impressive list of victories this autumn.

Gideon added another victory in Enniskillen

Conán McCaughey  showed he was also getting back into top shape with a fifth place in 15:26 despite being misdirected by a marshall along the route.

Sean McIntyre was an excellent 12th overall in 17:25 to claim the U18 prize with 15-year-old Ben Mellon continuing to improve with an 18:23.  Conor (Big Dawg) McIlveen also broke new ground with a 15:02 clocking.

New recruit Dylan Doherty impressed with a 19:51 posting.  David Mellon was close to his best mark ever with a 20:22 while Mal McCausland picked up the first M60 prize with a 21:26 timing.  Kayla McLaughlin rounded off an excellent evening for the green and blacks with 22:00 clocking for second U18 girl.


Full Results Spooktacular 5K 2017

29 October 2017

John McQuade

John McQuade was the only DTC senior in action at the Bobby Rea Cross Country in Kilbroney.  The Omagh man opned his season with a fine 31st place.  The Haigneys were involved in the NI & Ulster Even Age Groups championships with Dan (U16 Boys) and Enya (U18 Girls) both finishing 13th in their respective races while Tomás made a welcome comeback to competition after an appendectomy with a 24th spot in the U14 Boys’ contest.

Two DTC Athletes on the Podium in Dublin

22 October 2017

Ethiopian Tiko Tonosa was the winner of the Athletics Ireland’s Autumn Classic Cross Country at Abbotstown, Dublin. Running in the colours of the Dundrum South Dublin club, the 13:31 5000m man made a break on the penultimate lap that was to prove decisive. Derry Track Club’s Kenyan Gideon Kipsang mounted a late challenge but ended up three seconds in arrears at the tape as club colleague Adam Kirk-Smith filled the last place on the podium another four seconds back.

Gideon and Adam on the medal dais.

Slieve Gullion’s Paddy Hamilton was the first Master to finish with City of Derry’s Declan Reed in the runner-up spot. North Down’s Craig McMeechan and Newcastle’s Patrick McNiff were sixth and seventh resepctively in the Junior race won by Bantry’s Darragh McElhinney.

Kerry’s reigning national champion Shona Heaslip was a convincing winner of the women’s event by 20 seconds from Scotland’s Mhairi MacLennan with Leevale’s Olympic steeplechaser Michelle Finn back in third spot. Cathy McCourt, in ninth, was first northern finisher in the Masters’ race.

A day earlier Allan Bogle and Catherine Diver had dominated their respective Northern Ireland Masters’ Cross Country trials at Upper Malone. Over 130 hardy veterans turned up in the hope of gaining a place on NI teams for next month’s British & Irish Cross Country International to be held in Derry.

Bogle struck the front from the gun in ideal running conditions and had already put 40 metres between himself and Chris McGuinness by the end of the first lap. Omagh’s Marty Cox in third was leading the main field.  The City of Derry Spartan kept the pressure on during the second lap and had doubled his advantage by the halfway point with McGuinness equally safe in second as a battle raged for the bronze medal position.

Bogle did not falter over the final two laps of the soft and giving surface to come home in glorious isolation a massive 40 seconds ahead of the Foyle Valley man who in turn had a ten second over Enniskillen’s Stephen Cassidy who finished strongly for third.  North Belfast Harrier Eamon White, in fifth overall, was the leading M45 while clubmate Andrew Considine, in tenth, was the first M40.  Willowfield’s Duncan Bell was the leading M50 with another North man David Clarke taking the M55 accolade and English visitor Peter Gray the M60 top spot.

Catherine Diver was equally impressive in the women’s race, holding off the reigning provincial Masters’ champion Amy Bulman to seize a narrow but emphatic victory by six seconds. The Willowfield Harrier in turn had a six second buffer over Gerrie Short who continued a rich vein off form to ensure two of the three podium places went to Beechmount Harriers ladies.

Diver was the first F40 while Bulman had the consolation of being leading F35. Ballydrain Harrier was the top F45 just ahead of clubmate Amanda Perry who led home the F50s. City of Derry’s Anne Paul was top of the F55s and Lagan Valley’s Kate Montgomery won the F60 category.

Newcastle’s Jim Patterson warmed up for a defence of his M70 title in Derry with a solid win in the M65 and above race where Terry Eakin made a welcome comeback to win the M65 age group. Springwell’s Jim Platt was first home in a surprisingly competitive M75 race.



15 October 2017
Derry Track Club’s Conan McCaughey impressed today with a podium finish at the Carrera de San Fulgencia 10k in Spain.

Conán turns up the heat in Spain.

The Enniskillen man bounced back to form after the Laganside 10K where he was disappointed with his fourth place by finishing in runner-up spot for a testing and hilly route.
Conán’s time of 32:27 was excellent given the severity of the difficult two-lap course and the scorching temperatures.
“I’m delighted with second place in the Carrera de San Fulgencio 10k today! It’s been a while since I’ve been happy after a race but 32:27 over a hilly 2 loop course on a scorching Sunday morning, I’ll take that! The hospitality of the locals was incredible.
“It is a good confidence boost after disappointment of Laganside. I find always I run well in warm conditions, I can gauge and stay on the limit whilst others go over theirs, overheat and slow dramatically.”


15 October 2017

More and more people here run for fun. Quite a number take it a bit further and run competitively. But when running is your livelihood, it is altogether different kettle of fish.

Gideon breasts the tape in Bangor.

Gideon Kipsang is 29 years old, married with two children under four. He is also responsible for three other children, all under 11, left orphaned after the untimely deaths of his brother and sister in law a few years ago.

He owns just over an acre of land in his native Kenya which he shares it with his three brothers. They rent land adjoining their farm to grow maize and beans as well as raising chickens. But Gideon has one outstanding talent – he can run fast and long.

The man from the Rift Valley first came to Ireland two years ago as part of the Project Africa Athletics scheme run by Omagh man Ciaran Collins. The highlights of his stay was a fourth place finish in the Antrim International Cross Country and winning the Omagh Half Marathon. He returned that autumn and won the Belfast Half Marathon.

With the prize money he was able to buy a batch of chicks which he reared to maturity. It proved to be a lucrative line of farming and one he would like to expand if he can raise sufficient funds to invest.

He was back again last year and ran well in finish fifth in the Armagh International 5K and retained his Omagh Half Marathon title. He returned again in the autumn but was less successful and went back to Kenya with little money to show for his exertions. Unfortunately, he had to use wha tsmall earnings he had for the funeral of his father who died unexpectedly.

Gideon pictured with his two daughters.

Not being part of the Project Africa plans in 2017, Gideon thought his opportunities to run outside Kenya were gone. However, while based in Omagh, he had formed a friendship with members of the Derry Track Club. He had trained with them on a number of occasions and after his return to Kenya, he had maintained contact through the social media.

When the Derry club heard that Gideon was not coming to Ireland this year, they decided to help out by offering him the cost of his return airfare and free lodgings with families of the club. In return Gideon would assist with coaching and represent the club in competition.

“It’s very hard to get someone to take you to Europe especially when we are so many. It’s a privilege,” said the man who has lived his entire life in the Rift Valley. “I was especially delighted because I feel Ireland is like my second home and it also gives me a chance to earn money, not just for my own family, but to help out my mother and father as well as brothers and sisters.

“When I’m in a race and I’m suffering I think of them and what the prize money could do to improve their lives. I went to high school in Kenya and could have gone to university but my father did not have the money. That is my ambition to send my two daughters to university because I didn’t get the opportunity myself.”

The popular Kenyan has already kicked off his Irish autumn tour well with impressive wins in the Belfast Half Marathon and Bangor 10K but unlike other years he is racing sparingly. Next up for the amiable Kenyan is the Autumn Cross Country International in Dublin next weekend and the Spooktacular 5K in Enniskillen a few days later. So the next time you see a comment on social media about Kenyans winning all our prizes, remember why they are here.




8 October 2017

New recruit Shay Heaney caught the eye at the Donegal Uneven Age Group Championships held at the Finn Valley Centre in Stranorlar.

After leading for a good part of the way, the recent recruit to DTC colours held on for a fine fourth place in the U15 race.

Ben Mellon continues to improve with every outing.

Ben Mellon, in 11th, was the first DTC finisher in the U17 race and was well supported by Dylan Doherty and Tom McLaughlin.


7 October 2017

Derry Track Club’s lady masters put in the top performance for the club at the Orangegrove AC-organised NI & Ulster Road Relays in Victoria Park, Belfast.

L-R: Marina Murphy, Elaine Connor and Lisa McLaughlin.

Elaine Connor (12:57) opened brightly with an outstanding sixth place on the opening leg.  Lisa McLaughlin kept DTC in contention on the second leg with a fine 13:48 timing before Marina Murphy (12:03 = 4th fastest overall) moved impressively through the field to finish fifth at the finish line.  That was just 49 seconds off the bronze medal position.

The male Masters’ were also in medal contention for most of the 4 x 3380m contest before having to settle for sixth.  One minute and ten seconds separated the DTC squad from medals after solid running from Michael Murphy (10:55), Cathal McLaughlin (11:04), Adrian Boyle (11:31) and Andy Maguire (11:43).

Adrian Boyle in action on the third leg.

Controversy shrouded our senior men’s squad with disqualification threatened before a racing shoe was donned.  Running as guests* John McQuade (11:07), Sean McIntyre (11:22), Gideon Kipsang (9:27) and Conán McCaughey (9:57) distinguished themselves by crossing the line in seventh spot.

*appeal ungoing.

Gideon Completes Weekend Double

30 September/1 October 2017

Gideon Kipsang and Laura Graham were the impressive winners of the George Best City Airport-sponsored Bangor 10K hosted by North Down AC on Saturday. Held in sunny but breezy conditions, the race attracted a record entry of almost 1200 runners.

Gideon breasts the tape in Bangor.

Kipsang followed the early leader Paddy Hamilton for the first kilometer through Bangor town centre before taking charge at the front. After that it was just a question of how much the Derry-based Kenyon would win by as he passed the halfway point in 15:05.  The man from the Rift Valley forged on over the hilly country roads around Groomsport before returning to Bangor’s Ward park where he broke the tape in a new course record and personal best of 30 minutes and three seconds.

Some minute and a half in arrears, Paddy Hamilton took the runner-up prize in 31:30 with Chris Madden having arguably his best run of the year to take the bronze medal spot in 32:04. Laganside winner Mark McKinstry had to settle for fourth on this occasion in 32:35, ahead of Craig McMeechan (32:51) and Emmett McGinty (33:01).

Laura Graham make a quick return to action in the women’s race just six days after her phenomenal to 3:37:05 clocking in the Berlin Marathon. They Kilkeel mother of four wasted little time in showing a clean pair of heels to her female opposition as she flew to a 34:37 timing for 15th place overall.

The host club’s Jessica Craig took second in 36:09, well clear of Cathy McCourt who returned to competition after injury with a 38:06 timing.  Amanda Perry (39:11), Rachel Gibson (39:20) and Ann Terek (39:34) completed the top half dozen ladies.

Gideon Kipsang completed a weekend double when he was first past the post in yesterday’s Marty’s Run 5K held in cold and wet conditions in Derry. The Kenyan got caught up at the start in the congestion of the 600 strong field and allowed Scott Rankin to open a 100 metres in the first kilometer.  Kipsang did not panic and had hauled in the Foyle Valley athlete by the third kilometer marker before going on to win from Rankin by seven seconds in a nippy 15:05. Adrian McGowan was a strong third in 16:26. Catherine Whoriskey was a class apart in the women’s race winning in 18:07.

The cross country season made an early start with the Donegal Masters’ and Even Age Group Championships in a windy Carndonagh. There was a shock in the opening race, the women Masters’ race, when Marina Murphy defeated reigning Irish champion Fionnuala Diver from the Letterkenny club.  The Derry Track Club woman stalked her rival until the last 400m of the three kilometer event before unleashing an impressive sprint that carried her to the gold medal.

Acorns AC runner Natalie Hall filled the final place on the podium ahead of DTC’s Elaine Connor who continues to improve with every race.  Finn Valley ladies took the team award.

Marina’s Rich Vein of Form Continues

There was another tight tussle in the men’s race before Letterkenny’s Karl Duggan got away from the persistent Chris McGuinness of the Foyle Valley club to win by 16 seconds. City of Derry’s Archie McElhinney was good value for the bronze medal after a strong performance.  Letterkenny packed well to take the team title.

Andrew Maguire was the first DTC finisher in 26th (17:41) followed by 40th Robert Bigger (18:52) and 52nd David Mellon (20:22).  The DTC juveniles also kicked off their cross country season impressively with Sean McIntyre taking 6th in the U16 race.  Behind him, newcomer Dylan Doherty caught the eye with a 14th spot on his debut in the green vest.  Ben Mellon also worked hard in the U16 race to end up 11th.


Big Dawg Closes Season in Style

23 September 2017

Conor (Big Dawg) McIlveen ended his season in the best possible way with a sparkling double at the British Cerebral Palsy Games in Nottingham.

Double gold for Big Dawg.

Conor opened his account with an outright victory in the 100m in a personal best 13.01 seconds into 0.4 breeze.  Despite only taking up sprinting in June, the Big Dawg handed out a thrashing to opponents who boasted superior personal bests.

“I was very pleased with my performance, given that I was competing against two guys who have represented Britain in international paralympic competition,” said Conor after the 100m.

“The condition of the track was poor, very slippy, and acknowledged by all to be running slow in comparison with other tracks in the Nottingham area.”

McIlveen returned to the track just 90 minutes later  in deteriorating conditions to blast his way to victory in the 400m in 58.96 seconds, marginally outside his personal best.

The DTC star finished off the afternoon with another win in  a special 100m clocking 13.14 seconds into a 2.4 metres per second wind.