Explosive finish to the Hill and Dales series on Drinahilly

The last race in this year’s Hill and Dales series was dedicated to Denis Rankin.  178 runners, including a large Barf contingent, turned up to pay their respects and make contributions to a charity close to the Rankin family’s heart – Simon Community.

As the series champions had already secured their places in previous weeks this race was to be all about individual glory.  The top men from this season – Stephen Cunningham and Ian Bailey – did not take to the line but there were plenty of other quality runners, including Jonny ‘The’ Steede, Alan Bogle, Neil Carty, Seamus Lynch and David O’Flaherty.  In the ladies race Diane Wilson was absent as she was to compete in the Irish Championship in  Mweelrea the following day; this left Shileen O’Kane to battle with Gillian Wasson for bragging rights on the night.

The Drinahilly course is short; 3 miles to be precise.  Competitors climb from Donard Park to the mast on the top of Drinahilly on a winding route made up from forest paths and trails in the trees.  This is followed by a fast slippy charge down a fire break before speeding along forest paths to the finish.

From the gun you may have been mistaken for thinking you where at a park run; the pace was electric and masses were certainly treating themselves to a helping of fresh lung.  As the speed and the hills took their toll the process of natural selection meant that the front groups soon thinned.

At the sharp end Steede and Bogle fought it out in the men’s race, with The Steede eventually triumphing.  In the ladies Springwell’s Gillian Wasson gave everyone something to think about and finished a minute clear of second placed Shileen O’Kane.  The remaining podium spots were taken by Neil Carty and Anne Stanford in the men’s and women’s category respectively.

A lot of effort goes into running the Hill and Dales series.  We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who helped make it such an enjoyable experience.  Roll on next year.

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