Belfast Telegraph

Connolly dominates from the off to take Comber 6k event

 

By Brian Hill

Rio Olympics marathon runner Breege Connolly was a comfortable winner in the weekend's well supported Comber Cross Country 6k race where she dominated the event from the gun. The Ballydrain AC-organised event marked the start of the Winter Cross Country League.

Surprise entry Connolly, who rarely competes over grass, made light work of the heavy conditions to forge an early lead 30 metres ahead of North Down's Jessica Craig who quickly realised that she would be denied a third consecutive victory. Macclesfield's Sarah Stockman was an isolated third for most of the race.

At the tape Breege, who now competes for City of Derry Spartans, crossed the line in 23 minutes 5 seconds, some nine seconds ahead of Craig with a fast finishing Stockman a further five seconds back. Willowfield's Amy Bulman was a distant fourth in 24.17 followed by Lifford's Clare McGuigan (24.23).

Connolly, who dropped out of last month's key Berlin Marathon event, said she was now aiming for next year's European Marathon in the same city.

She commented: "Obviously not finishing Berlin was a big disappointment for me. I never really felt right in the whole race. However, I am now in the middle of a build-up to my next marathon in January, possibly in the US.

"The deadline for Irish selection for the European Marathon is the end of that month and I will be doing my best to make the team. I might also go for the European Cross Country in December."

Northern Ireland athletes are certainly well placed for European selection with Mourne Runners Laura Graham and North Belfast's Gladys Ganiel currently heading the Irish Marathon list.

Armagh's Fionnuala Ross, who recently won the Scottish Half Marathon, could also feature if she performs well in this month's Frankfurt Marathon .

In the Men's 8k race at Comber, North Belfast's Mark McKinstry was trying to achieve a hat-trick of victories.

He was with the leading group but was never able to escape the attentions of Springwell's Neil Johnston who is better known for his track achievements .

Both athletes were locked in battle going into the final lap with Newcastle's Patrick McNiff some 20 metres back. Johnston then fully utilised his track speed to break away in the closing stages to record victory in 27 minutes 31 seconds.

McNiff managed to overtake a tiring McKinstry to take second in 27.38 with the North man a further five seconds back. Newcastle's Seamus Lynch was fourth in 27.53 followed by North Belfast's Andrew Annett (28.06).

Meanwhile, Laura Graham continued her winning ways in the 1,000 strong GR8 Dundrum Run with a record breaking time of 48 minutes 51 seconds for an excellent sixth overall.

She was over four minutes ahead of Cathy McCourt (53.04) followed by 2016 winner Amanda Perry of Ballydrain (54.06).

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