Breege Connolly and Mark McKinstry Seize the Win at the Senior XC

25 February 2019

Breege Connolly and Mark McKinstry Seize the Win at the Senior XC

As anticipated Rio Olympian Breege Connolly and Mark McKinstry crushed the opposition at the weekend's NI and Ulster Senior Championships at Lurgan Park where huge fields totaling some 400 took advantage of the firm and fast conditions.

Connolly (City of Derry Spartans) had shown good recent form at the IAAF Northern Ireland International XC plus a PB at the AXA Raheny 5 Mile Road Race. She asserted her authority from the start of the 6k race and had a commanding lead of 100 metres after the first lap. Beechmount Harrier's Sarah Lavery and North Down AC pair Rachel Gibson and Sarah Grant were disputing second place.

Breege, who last won this title in 2012 did not rest on her laurels and continued to force the pace which eventually resulted in a huge 53 secs winning margin over Lavery. Sarah, was in turn was 10 secs ahead of a gallant Gibson who has claimed second place for the last two years. Rachel was followed by team mate Grant, 18 secs later with Jog Lisburn's Karen Wilton a surprise 5th. The top 6 were completed by Beechmount Harrier's Catherine Diver.

North Down AC had 4 finishers in the top nine, which led to them retaining their stranglehold on the team event for a third year, 24 points ahead of Beechmount Harriers (58) and City of Derry Spartans AC  (62).

A satisfied Connolly said; "I am in heavy training for the Rotterdam Marathon which is in 7 weeks. It is a faster course than London and as preparation I will run a half marathon in London.”
Breege's key objective is the qualification mark of 2 hrs 37 mins for this summer's World Championship Marathon in Doha.


In the Men's 12k event North Belfast Harrier's Mark McKinstry took a leaf from Connolly's book and forged ahead from the gun. His 30m lead after the first lap had stretched to an unassailable 100m a lap later. Behind him City of Derry pair Declan Reed and Mark Long were fighting a private battle ahead of Intermediate champion Zak Hanna of Newcastle & District AC.

The positions remained static to the finish where 35 year old Mark enjoyed a 37 second victory margin over last year's champion Declan Reed. He in turn was 21 secs ahead of Long with Hanna isolated in 4 h place. Next came City of Derry's Kyle Doherty and North Down AC's Craig McMeechan.

Prior to the race British Masters champion McKinstry had the unenviable record of 4 successive runner up spots. The relieved champion said; “The pressure built each year I didn't get the win. This time I knew I was in good shape after my UK Masters win. I have trained up to 100 miles a week for 10 weeks just for this race. The last two laps were tough and I worried about pulling a hamstring. I didn't dare believe in the win until I crossed the line.”

City of Derry Spartans again dominated the team award for the third year with 44 points. North Belfast Harriers were a long way back on 88 points followed by North Down AC (150 ) who just beat Willowfield Harriers by 2 points.

See the full results here.


Elsewhere this weekend….

Commonwealth athlete Paul Pollock completed The Grand Brighton Half Marathon in 1 hr 6mins and 35secs to take 2nd place, just behind Paul Navesey (Crawley AC).


The preview of the NI & Ulster Indoor Age Group Championships will be available shortly. If you have any queries please email