2001 Races British & Irish Junior Championships -
British & Irish Junior Championships -Report by Douglas Barry
A day in the life, and what a day. Tiocfaidh ár lá as Gaeilge, or, as we more normally say in English, "our day will come" And it did. Sunday 7th October 2001 Belfast. The picturesque views over Belfast Lough marked a day in his life that will never be forgotten by Peter Dalton, Dubliner. Peter took the individual gold medal in the British and Irish Junior Mountain Running Championships held over a tough 5.1 kilometre course which swept up and down the rugged grandeur of Cave Hill, a gem of the Northern Irish landscape.
In an event we have attended for the last nine years, we have never succeeded in getting the golden coloured ones in our medal collection. We did today - by the bucket load. Peter's inspired, but measured, run was just the start. He led home his team mate Niall Connaughton who put in a terrific run to take second place and the silver medal, whilst behind them Craig Longmore packed brilliantly to finish just behind them in 6th place.
The Irish runners' efforts took them into the team medals and not just any medals: they took the gold ones. A race dominated by Irish runners saw them establish their superiority from the start as Peter strode out on the shoulder of Scot Donald Macaulay. Macaulay slipped back on the first major climb through the forest and, as the pack emerged into the open, the Sallynoggin man had established a small lead. He extended this lead as the runners wound their way over the open ground that steepened to the surprisingly flat summit plateau of Cave Hill.
Cave Hill is named for the numerous cave openings that mark its steep eastern face. However, there were no openings for the opposition as Dalton lengthened his lead over the plateau and held it with a controlled descent of the hill. Behind him, Wicklow's Niall Connaughton fought off the close attentions of the Scot Graham Bee all around the course as the pair concertinaed to and fro in their battle for silver over the climbs and descents. Behind this trio, Craig Longmore was battling in a group of five for fourth place.
As we watched the runners come down to the lower level prior to a second lap of the higher part of the mountain, worries whispered on the wind. "Have they gone too fast on that first lap? Are they others biding their time before the pounce? Can they hold them off?" went the uncertainties. The uncertainty stayed for a short while as the runners recommenced the climb then disappeared into the ether. "Peter's going away from them again!"
I was standing at the bottom of the sweeping descent off the summit plateau. A relaxed, confident Peter Dalton swept through in a measured easy manner looking totally unfazed by the enormity of what he was about to achieve. Behind him and closing, but clearly not fast enough to reach Peter, came another confident looking Irishman. Niall Connaughton had the silver in his sights and, even through he was still only separated by a few metres as he passed me from the rapid Scot Bee, we knew in our hearts that silver was on for the Wicklow runner, known for his elegant flow of speed.
Peter triumphed. Niall took that amazing and unexpected silver. Craig Longmore battled hard on the climbs in the five man battle for fourth but missed out narrowly. He still took a strong sixth and secured the gold team medals for Ireland on a day that will be remembered. Behind them, the fourth Irish team member had an indifferent race. Peter O'Reilly had been pressed into duty the previous day, following the unexpected absence of Seosamh O'Muircheartaigh, and was beaten in his first mountain race of 2001 by two other Irish runners - open race winner Tadgh O'Callaghan and runner up James Doran.
Other races also saw Irish medals as Paul Boylan won a closely fought Under 15 boys race, while the Under 19 girls team took silver behind the dominant English girls. England's Heather Glover won the gold, Katie Ingram the silver and Eleanor Suggrard Smith took Welsh bronze. Ireland's Louise Moore finished fifth ahead Deirdre Hopkins eighth, Maria Slattery ninth, and Teresa Tierney tenth. Ireland's Heather Young won the open race.
While Ireland's silver was a welcome addition to our medal haul, the race which was integrated with the Under 17 Girls race pointed out that we have much work to do to strengthen our girls' performances to compete effectively abroad. England's Under 19 winner Helen Glover also got a fright as she found herself behind two of her under 17 countrywomen. Karrie Hawitt won while Ireland's Ciara Durkan finished ninth, Lariche Mandiango eleventh, and Maureen Lane sixteenth. Ciara beat three of her own more senior countrywomen. The Irish girls finished joint third with Northern Ireland but lost the bronze medals on countback.
The Under 17 Boys race was won by the strong Scot Ian Donnen who held off a closely packed field who fought for places over the dramatic 3.7 kilometre course with its 285 metres of climb and descent which had also been used for the girls' course. Dan Mulhare led the Irish challenge finishing less than a minute behind the winner Donnen but last of a tough eight man battle that broke away from the rest of the field. Ciaran Fitzpatrick finished ninth only two seconds ahead of Irishman Thomas Guilfoyle who won the open section with tenth place overall. Second in the open went to Roy Murray who finished 14th. The third Irish counter Paidi O'Shea finished 16th only five seconds ahead of his team mate Mark Hanrahan. Ireland was fourth team.
While we do have work to do to continue our performances at this new high level in the future, the overwhelming sentiment was that of delight. Delight at the amazing achievement of Peter Dalton, Niall Connaughton and Craig Longmore who believed in themselves and their ability, rose to the occasion, and did something that had never been done by an Irish Mountain Running Association team before. Individual gold, individual silver, and team gold added to the under 19 girls team silver gave a glittering end to a glorious day in Irish mountain running. And Peter Dalton? A golden day in his life.
Go to IMRA Photo Gallery
Go to IMRA Main Page
Go to News Page