The largest ever Lifford AC contingent travelled to the National Juvenile Indoor Championships held at the National Indoor Arena in Athone last weekend. Having earned the right to compete in these championships through qualification from the Ulster Championships held in Magherafelt last month, a total of eighteen young Lifford AC athletes travelled to the Westmeath venue to pit their talents against the best in Ireland.
Two national medals made their way home to the border town – a silver medal courtesy of Daragh McCauley in the Boys u19 Triple Jump, and one bronze medal courtesy of Shannon Craig in the u16 Girls High Jump. There were several other top six finishes over the two days of competition, a sure sign that the Lifford club is firmly back on the map at national level.
Strabane lad, Daragh McCauley, joined the Lifford club just six short months ago and despite suffering a nasty football injury a few weeks back, managed to put the setback behind him to get out to an excellent 13.00m in the Triple Jump – a new personal best performance and a silver medal the reward for his efforts. Indeed McCauley had earlier in the weekend leapt to 6.23m to take 4th place in a highly competitive Boys u19 Long Jump.
On Sunday morning, Raphoe lass, Shannon Craig jumped 1.50m to take a brilliant bronze medal in the Girls u16 High Jump. Craig was right in the mix throughout and a clearance on her second attempt at 1.55m where she clipped the bar with her heels would indeed have given Craig the gold medal. On this form it is only a matter of weeks before Craig breaks the 1.55m barrier and can look forward with optimism to clearing 1.60m this summer.
Lifford AC had three other athletes competing in the High Jump events over the two days with all three achieving 5th place finishes. Eoghan Breslin jumped to a new personal best of 1.25m in the Boys u12 High Jump, failing narrowly at 1.30m, a height which would have given him a podium finish. There was a fifth place finish too for Conor Lynch in the Boys u16 High Jump. Lynch had a best ever jump of 1.65m losing out on countback for the bronze medal. Conor McKinney had the misfortune of having the Boys u18 High Jump and Triple Jump events clashing but still performed admirably to high jump 1.70m for 5th place. McKinney has cleared 1.80m in the past and on his day without the distraction of a clashing event is more than capable of medalling at a national championships. Indeed McKinney is a current national outdoor medallist in the Triple Jump. He was a little below par in the hop, step and jump on Sunday, however, with his first round jump of 11.74m good enough for 7th position on this occasion.
Thomas Mullen ran brilliantly to make the final of the Boys u15 60m. In a highly competitive final, Mullen ran faster than he has ever gone before, crossing the finish line in 7.81 seconds to take an excellent fifth place. Later in the day, Mullen took sixth place in the Boys u15 Shot Putt with a throw of 11.62m.
Ryan Stewart was the last of the Lifford AC shot-putters in action at the weekend with his throw of 7.96m good enough for 10th place overall. Stewart will be disappointed not to have made the top 8 as he had been showing good form in training in recent weeks.
Lifford AC had four athletes competing in the 800m events in Athlone. On a red letter day for the club at the recent Ulster Indoors , the red and white vests had dominated in the middle distance events. The McGinley brothers, Alan and Conor have been a revelation since joining the club a little under two years ago and deservedly made the national finals with two brilliant runs in Ulster. Conor, the younger McGinley brother, had the run of his life in Athlone to take an incredible 8 seconds off his personal best, running 2 mins 14 seconds in the heat of the Boys u15 800m to make Sunday afternoon’s final. Running two 800m in two hours proved a huge ask, however, yet McGinley came home in a still highly creditable 8th position.
Older brother Alan, dominated his heat of the u16 Boys 800m winning after a hard fought encounter on the home straight and showed considerable strength to hold off his main challengers. McGinley went on to finish 7th in the 800m final in a time of 2mins 14seconds, just outside his best, but still a hugely satisfactory performance. McGinley’s short term objective will now be to take his 800m time to below 2mins 10seconds.