The exploits of six Lifford Strabane AC juvenile athletes who represented Ireland abroad during the summer track and field season were acknowledged on Monday evening last at a function in Lifford.
Lifford Strabane AC ended the season as Ireland’s top throws club and fourth club nationally over all track and field disciplines behind Cork club, Leevale AC, Dublin club, Donore Harriers and Carlow outfit, St. Laurence O’Toole. The rise of the border club has been a dramatic one this season and is due in no small part to the excellent coaching structures put in place by the club over the past number of years.
The success was augmented by the fact that six Lifford Strabane AC athletes represented Ireland in international competition during 2016, all of whom have come through the ranks since joining the club in their pre-teen years. The exploits of Brendan O’Donnell, Gareth Crawford, Shannon Craig, Tom Mullen, Conor Breslin and Sean McBride were acknowledged by a large attendance at Monday night’s function hosted by the club and chaired by club chairperson, Sharon Foley-Gallen.
Brendan O’Donnell had an outstanding season qualifying for the inaugural European Youth Athletics Championships in Tbilisi, Georgia where he qualified for the European Hammer Throw Final with a throw of 70.06m. In that final in the Tbilisi sunshine, O’Donnell threw 68.50m to claim a top 10 place among Europe’s elite. Indeed it later transpired that the young Lifford Strabane AC athlete had become just the second Irish male hammer thrower in history to throw over 70m in a major championships after Declan Hegarty at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
O’Donnell represented Ireland for a second time during the summer when winning the Hammer Throw with another big throw of 67.35m at the Celtic Games International between Ireland, Scotland and Wales in Swansea on 6 August.
Gareth Crawford also represented Ireland at the very same Celtic Games International in Swansea when throwing 63m in the Javelin to claim an emphatic victory over his Welsh and Scottish rivals.
Lifford Strabane AC meanwhile had 3 athletes on the Irish Schools team which travelled to Kent in July for the SIAB Schools International between Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales.
Shannon Craig qualified for the Irish team by virtue of her 1.70m High Jump at the Tailteann Games in Santry in June. In Kent she produced another brilliant performance to take a silver medal with a leap of 1.65m to cap a memorable season for the Raphoe girl.
Tom Mullen ran a 59.00 seconds 400m Hurdles in Kent to finish in 5th position behind SIAB Schools International winner, Ben Higgins of England. This was an outstanding run when one considers that Mullen is underage for this event again in 2017. The Lifford lad also had the distinction of representing the Irish Schools Indoor Combined Events team in Glasgow last January.
Conor Breslin has shown steady progress over the past couple of years in his favoured event, the Hammer Throw. Breslin produced a fine throw of 53.23m when finishing 2nd in the Tailteann Games Interprovincial in June which qualified him to represent Ireland at the SIAB International where he threw a distance of 51.37m for 7th place.
Senior Javelin thrower, Sean McBride was also lauded during the evening for his selection on the Northern Ireland and Ulster team which competed at the Manchester International in mid-August. Last years national senior javelin champion and a bronze medal this year has positioned the Strabane man as top Ulster thrower and among the top three in Ireland.
A small presentation was made to each of the 6 athletes in recognition of their achievements by club chairperson, Sharon Foley-Gallen who suggested that the 6 would provide huge inspiration to each and every one of the many club athletes in attendance to strive to represent their country at international level in the not too distant future.