Lombard Impresses as Juniors Falter in Nationals

Stranorlar, county Donegal was the venue for the national inter club cross country championships on Sunday.  Hail showers, gale force winds, and a virtual sea of mud were the order of the day.  The senior men had six grueling laps to negotiate.  Leevale’s Cathal Lombard was amongst the early leaders, with club mate Martin McCarthy tucked in the main bunch along with all the main contenders.  By halfway the leading bunch was reduced to ten, with Cork interest still maintained.  It was then that John Ferris of Belfast made his move.  He sprinted clear, opening up a good lead, with the rest strung out behind.  McCarthy and David Burke of Mullingar gave chase, but the Corkman then went through a bad patch and dropped back.  Behind Lombard was engaging in a terrific battle with local runner Padraic McKinney, and they were followed by Noel Cullen and Noel Berkeley. McCarthy overcame his difficulties, moved up to second, but then fell back again.  On the last lap it was Dubliner Noel Cullen who moved fastest of all, but he had to settle for second behind Ferrin.  David Burke held third, McCarthy fourth, and Lombard came with a fierce finish sprint to take fifth from McKinney.  Noel Berkeley came next ahead of pre race favourite Dermot Donnelly.  Breeda Dennehy of Bandon took the women’s title. In the junior men’s race, Michael Herlihy of North Cork was the leader for much of the opening half of the junior mens race, but faded badly in the closing stages to eventually finish eight.  Brian Keane of Leevale was also up amongst the early leaders, but he went through a bad patch midways.  He fought back to finish a creditable sixth.  The race was won by Finn Valley runner Gary Murray in a sprint finish that left Joe McAllister of St. Malachy’s in second.  Leevale’s run of nine successive wins in the junior team contest ended when this years group could only manage fourth place.