Rollercoaster thrills for all at Racecourse

Rollercoaster thrills for all at Racecourse

6 February 2013 - by BY JOE QUINN

ROLLERCOASTER Races day at Downpatrick racecourse was as usual bright and frosty on Saturday.

All traces of the icing had disappeared long before the first runners arrived and underfoot conditions were perfectly safe for the opening race, a new addition this year, for P3 boys and girls, won by Daniel Shiel and Anna Gardiner respectively.

Fifth girls and 74 boys in P4/5 age group were next to tackle the mighty Heartbreak Hill from near the two furlong post on the racecourse with Matthew McKeown, Caolan Lennon and Kyle Broggy taking the podium positions for the boys and Celeste Forde, Dearbhla Curry and Mia Pobloth doing likewise for the girls.

The P6/7 girls’ race over an energy sapping kilometre distance was won by Kilmaine’s Zoe Thompson with Rachel Scott St. Ita’s second and Libby Maloney Cedar in third.

Zoe led her school mates Abbie Webster (7th), Brooke Stranaghan (9th) and Lucy McIlmail (10th) to victory in the School Shield team competition for the second year in a row.

Not to be outdone in terms of doubles, Cedar’s Andrew McGrattan, last year’s P4/5 winner, repeated the action in the P6/7 boys’ race, holding on from Kilmaine’s Jakob Swann and Our Lady and St. Patrick’s Oran Cunningham to help his school regain the Team Shield ably assisted by Oliver Gilmore (5th), Arthur Johnson (9th) and Philip Crichton (13th).

It was like Gold Cup day at Cheltenham, such were the cheers of proud teachers and parents as all 106 starters in the two races passed the winning post.

The shields and trophies this year, as every year since the event’s inception, were donated by East Down honorary life member John McKeag, who is reinvigorated by the sight of the stirring revival currently underway in his beloved Ballydrain Harriers club.

Tim Prenter stepped up from Primary School level with effortless ease to claim the U-13 boys title with club mate and fellow graduate to the bigger boys, Owen Edwards, impressive in second place.

In third was Down High’s Christy Lindsay ahead of St. Patrick’s Grammar’s Conor Macklin and East Down’s third-placed runner Chris O’Connor. Ella Carroll led the girls home in this category, clocking 6.30 for the tough 1500 metres, with Louise Sweeney second, Mary Jo Tumelty third and both under seven minutes, while debutante Charis Vinaccia battled through the discomfort of a stitch to finish fifth.

Only three competitors took to the line in this race, two boys, one of whom, Mylo Campbell, ran because he missed his P7 race earlier, and one girl, Sarah Lambert, from the ever supportive St. Peter’s club in Lurgan, who gave a good account of herself to finish just 22 seconds behind Newcastle’s Daniel Molloy.

In the absence of the host club’s big hitters, Brendan Teer and Liam Venney, it was almost inevitable that a new name would appear on the Rollercoaster winners’ list.

When the runners passed the winning post for the first time, Newcastle’s David McNeilly had already established a useful lead over East Down’s Martin Willcox and former winner David O’Flaherty.

Despite the best efforts of the latter pair, David maintained and indeed increased his advantage at the finish, having 31 seconds in hand over Martin, who in turn had a five second advantage.

Next home was the over 35 winner Conor McMullan from Annadale Striders with over 45 winner Nigel Grier Dromore AC in fifth spot. Mark McDowell, Liam Keenan and Phillip Vint all finished closely ahead of ladies’ winner Patricia O’Hagan with Ryan Andrews Ballydrain Harriers the first U-20 finisher just behind her.

Patricia O’ Hagan, St. Peter’s AC Lurgan, made it four in a row in the ladies’ race and so far has been the only person to win it, with the Lagan Valley duo of Ruth Magill and Fionnuala McCourt in second and third places respectively.

It’s all energies now towards the fast approaching Jimmy’s Ten which takes place on Sunday, March 17, at the new starting time of 11am.

As well as the usual top prizes on offer, plus increased bonuses for new race records, thanks to the continued sponsorship of MB McGrady & Co, Chartered Accountants, all finishers will be included in a draw for a £500 cash prize.

With entries limited to 600, runners are urged to enter now. To encourage those who are dubious about their plans yet, the club is making the unique offer to carry over entries to 2014 if anyone is unable to run after entering this year.

Online entry is open at and for further details visit the club’s website at or call Joe Quinn on 07933 214894.