St Malachy’s set for ISF World Schools XC Championships:

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St. Malachy’s to take on the World:

A six strong team of runners from St. Malachy’s College in Belfast will travel to the Valley of Springs in Northern Israel to compete in the ISF World Schools Cross Country Championships (U-18). The competition which takes place near the banks of the Sea of Galilee will be an incredible sporting and cultural experience for the young men involved.

St. Malachy’s earned their place in this competition by winning the 2013 Irish schools U17 title at Jordanstown last March (2013). They will take on national champion teams from 17 other countries hailing from across Europe and as far away as Australia and China. The team depart on an arduous journey from Dublin via Istanbul on Saturday 29th March 2014 with the race over 5km taking place on Tuesday 1st April 2014.

There will be no fooling around for the lads from North Belfast who train six days a week all year round in preparation to compete at this level. From the unforgiving runs up the Cavehill to the tough interval sessions in the wind and rain at Mallusk, the boys have left no stone unturned in their meticulous preparation.  The team consists of a mixture of fifth years and lower sixths and is led by Paddy Robb, a multiple Irish Champion over 1500m and cross country. Paddy will have aims at a top 10 finish individually. He is backed up by James Smyth, Chris Connolly, Ronan O’Fril, Kieran O’Reilly and Darryl McNicholl, all but one of whom have represented Northern Ireland/Ulster at different events over the last few years.

This will be the third time St. Malachy’s competes at these Championships. In 2006 in Italy the team that included Paralympic Champion Michael McKillop finished in 6th place. In 1996 in Turkey, a team led by prodigious talents Gareth Turnbull and Colm McClean and including current coach Joe McAlister won team Bronze medals. Two years ago Douglas community school from Cork finished in 12th place. The St. Malachy’s team will also be accompanied by experienced coach and former Northern Ireland 400m international Michael Cooke.

Athlete profiles:

Patrick Robb

Paddy is a two time Irish schools 1500m Champion and 2012 Irish U17 cross country champion. He has represented Irish schools in the schools international and competed on the Northern Ireland team in UK schools games and the London Mini Marathon a number of times. He has been selected for that team again this year.

James Smyth

James has progressed brilliantly over the last few years and is now one of the top schoolboy runners in Northern Ireland. He has been selected to represent Northern Ireland in the London Mini marathon in Mid-April. James was the second finisher on the team that won the Irish schools last year and has represented Ulster at the Tailteann games.

Christopher Connolly

Chris was a prodigious talent as a junior boy (finishing 2nd in Ireland over 800m) and is coming back into the form that seen him win many races in the younger age groups. He has previously represented Northern Ireland at various events including the London Mini Marathon and UK schools games.

Ronan O’Fril

Ronan is a tremendous sportsman and has represented Northern Ireland and Ulster at both running and basketball. He has represented Northern Ireland at the UK schools games and the London Mini Marathon (which he has been selected for again this year). He has also represented Ulster at Celtic international and Tailteann games.

Darryl McNicholl

Darryl is a talented athlete who has been a vital part of successful college squads and is ready to make a step up to the next level. He has been a medallist at district schools and a top 5 finisher at Ulster schools.

Kieran O’Reilly

Kieran is the youngest member of the squad and another versatile athlete. He is a member of the Irish water polo squad, a talented soccer player and has previously represented Northern Ireland at the London Mini Marathon. Kieran is a former Ulster champion and has finished as high as 4th at All Ireland level.

Mr Joe McAlister (Coach)

Joe has represented Ireland at World and European XC Championships and World road running championships. Joe was a member of the St. Malachy’s College team that won bronze medals at the ISF cross country in Turkey in 1996.

Mr Michael Cooke (Coach)

Michael is a former Northern Ireland Junior (U20) and current Ulster schools senior boys record holder at 400m. He has represented Norhern Ireland on numerous occasions.

Note from NiRunning:  We would like to wish St Malachy’s the very best of luck for the upcoming ISF World Schools Cross Country Championships.