Northern Ireland XC Championships – Lurgan

The penultimate round of the cross country league saw the cream of the local mud running brigade gather in the spectacular setting of Lurgan Park, lured by the promise of double points and the potential to make a move up the league table at what is officially deemed the NI championship race.

Set in the grounds of Ireland’s second largest public park and overlooked by Brownlow House the 259 acre estate plays host to cycling events, motorsport rallies and a one day agricultural show that has been running for more than a century. The 59 acre lake in the park is unique in that it was, at the time of construction, one of the largest hand dug lakes in Ireland. Commissioned during the potato famine as a means of offering employment in the local area, the men were paid less than the going wage for the time, were reported to be sullen in nature as a result and were known locally as the spades, thus giving rise to the popular expression.

Down the years Brownlow House has played host to local rifles and fusiliers battalions during World War I, General Dwight D. Eisenhower and his American troops during World War II and an owner in Charles Brownlow who reportedly had a secret underground tunnel dug to escape the prying eyes of his estranged wife and allow him to pursue romantic dalliances in town. No doubt if Lady Brownlow had discovered the nature of her husband’s antics she’d had a face on her like a Lurgan spade.

Displaying facial expressions of nothing other than grit and determination the Orangegrove ladies were first up to test themselves over the 6k distance. The club captains Robin and Eleanor did a fine job in rounding up a big team for double points day, even finding a last minute replacement in Sharon McFarland who, despite an initial reluctance, later declared her undying love for all things cross country (or words to that effect) well done Sharon for stepping into the breach, your club salutes you. In cold but dry conditions and with a course soft in patches, the ladies recorded the following times:-

Antra Balcuna 26:50 (28th/142)
Trudy Brown 27:04
Sile Brennan 27:21
Lyndsey Tyro 27:27
Liz Leitch 28:42
Lisa Rodham 30:04
Emma McWilliams 30:22
Jill Holland 30:37
Verity Cornford 32:23
Sharon Corken 33:18
Kerris Hamilton 33:59
Kirsty Buchanan 34:28
Eleanor Acheson 38:44
Linda Craig 40:55
Sharon McFarland 45:07

Congratulations Antra on leading the ladies home in a fine time and well done to everyone for answering the captains call. Newcastle’s Shalene McMurray (23:07) was the clear winner on the day, but with her team of four finishing out of the points placings the Orangegrove ladies can expect to move ahead of Newcastle in the battle for 5th place.

Next up it was the turn of the men to take on 11.4km and in an endurance battle eventually won by City of Derry’s Aaron Doherty (40:24) the Orangegrovers finished as follows:-

Andy McIntyre 47:16 (62nd/155)
Thomas Leitch 48:47
Robin Montgomery 50:53
Tim Robinson 53:09
Darren Houston 54:47
Paul Woodman 54:48
Michael O’Donoghue 55:15

Another great effort by Andy who has made significant progress during the cross country season and a good day all round for Orangegrove, afterwards Chairman Thomas Leitch expressed his pride in the efforts of all involved and wished everyone well for the rest of the year.

Thanks to NiRunning, Bob Given, Athletics NI, John T Glover and Michael O’Donoghue for the photos