81st McConnell Shield XC

The cross country circus moved to Ballyclare this weekend and with it a host of athletes wearing orange vests, young, old and very old. This was the third round of the Athletics Northern Ireland Cross Country League and so there was a degree of necessity to get as many pairs of trail shoes/spikes on the ground, or rather in the mud, as possible, ideally sixteen ladies and sixteen gents, in pursuit of both team points and participation points. The gazebo was erected and the proceedings began with a set of junior races in which Orangegrove was well represented by Iseult Fahy and Rory Hall-Thompson.

The ladies race (with men over 60) began at 1.30pm (5k) and the McConnell Shield proper (the men’s race (8k) began at 2pm). Conditions were fairly soft underfoot after the morning’s deluge, but were probably better than might have been expected. At least it wasn’t raining, it was extremely mild for the time of year and the sun even cast a few weak rays as the ladies race began.

The East Antrim Harriers’ Club do a great job with this race. Organisation is slick and there is always a warm welcome. The crimson leaves of Autumn were still largely on the trees and it was a pleasure (of sorts) to be able to run in the park, amongst the leaves that had fallen, with some great people! Even the splatter of mud on the back of ones legs felt perversely satisfying on this fine day. And so to the Orangegrove results:


Julie McKimm 22.43 (58th/186)
Lisa Fleming 23.32
Emma McWilliams 23.51
Jill Holland 24.14
Zoe Ni Dhuinn-Bhig 24.45
Alison Hall-Thompson 24.53
Kirsty Buchanan 26.21
Eleanor Acheson 26.47
Sarah Malcolmson 26.49
Jenny Powell 26.59

Men Over 60

Brian Todd 20.57 M60
Gerald Harvey 23.12 M60
Reg Sanlon 25:14 M65
Jim Harris 25.47 M65
Hugh Young 27.24 M75

Men (McConnell Shield)

Thomas Leitch 31.52 (59th/220)
Andy McIntyre 32.37
Paul Woodman 33:41
Robin Montgomery 34.07
Des Fahy 34.54
Tim Robinson 35.00
Darren Houston 35.49
Stephen Anderson 36.05
Stephen Hamilton 36.40
Ian Grant 37.14
Rodney Corrigan 37.26
Michael O’Donoghue 37.46
Ian Wilson 42.15

Well done to the men this week on managing to turn out more runners in the race than the ladies. Super running from Thomas Leitch, Andy McIntyre, Robin Montgomery, Julie McKimm, Lisa Fleming and Emma McWilliams at the head of their respective gender packs! It was great to see Sarah Malcolmson turning out for her first cross country race and so obviously revelling in the mud! Indeed, well done to all the ladies and gents from OAC who braved the mud at Ballyclare on Saturday. Great to see Jenny Powell turning up for cross country for the second time. If you turn up twice you are usually hooked!

Orangegrove had two junior athletes running in the Under 14 races. In the Boys U14 race Rory Hall-Thompson had a great run to finish in 4th place on 6.13. In the girls’ Under 14 race Iseult Fahy ran superbly well to finish in 7th place on 6.55. Very well done indeed to both athletes, their coaches and their parents!

Very well done indeed to all who competed at Ballyclare on Saturday afternoon. The was a great club atmosphere as well as some great running.

The main McConnell Shield men’s race was won by Paddy Hamilton (Slieve Gullion Runners) in 26.39. The ladies race was won by Emma Mitchell (Banbridge AC) in 17.35.

Thanks to NiRunning for some of the photos.