Athletics: North stars show they still shine
The clean sweep by North Belfast at the junior and vets cross country championships in Bangor was a timely reminder that the folk in the gold and chocolate strip have not just got tradition behind them, they also have talent galore!
And that talent, ranging from 19 year old Connor Flannigan who won the junior title to Dave Norwood who coolly collected the vets' top spot, saw North taking the team prizes in both races.
In existence at their headquarters near Clintonville Circus for over 100 years, the North is one of the few athletics outfits in the province to actually own their own premises - something which gives them quite an edge, reckons club PRO Nuala Muldoon? yes, a young woman holding this important post in this club which was for a long time a male only affair.
"It's not just the showers, the kitchen and the warm-up hall," says Nuala. "The club house Divisview Hall was revamped just a few years ago at cost of around £200,000 so we have a building which provides a great opportunity for social activity. This gives us a big lead over most other running clubs because fellowship is important within the club, while other external events like barbeques and nights out are organised regularly throughout the year."
Indeed one of those events was a recent awards ceremony at Belfast's Ramada Hotel, and some of the photographs now adorn the club website, one of the best around, which is operated by BT project manager Tony Dalton, no mean performer on the roads - he has a British Master's silver medal to his credit.
As a club North have a very simple philosophy. "The principal aim of our club is to promote participation in the sport of running on an equal opportunity basis," is how top vet Matt Shields, one of five coaches at the club, puts it. "We value all members irrespective of ability."
And that in essence means the club caters for all interested in running, from the casual joggers to those seeking international status right up to the golden oldies where Eddie "Nibs" McIlroy, at 80, is the boss.
Royal Mail man Paul Murphy is the current men's captain, Breege Connolly is the women's captain and club chairman Jimmy Nolan doubles as junior coach (-14) while Damien Gill looks after those in the 15 to 20 bracket - all highly organised.
The club's official training nights are Tuesday and Thursday evenings with a choice of the club house or the Mary Peters track, and if memory serves me right I think the more experienced folk have a longish gallop every Sunday up around the Cave Hill and Antrim road.
For further info tel 028 9096 6430 or 07916295927.