McCarthy grabs Belgooly win as race marred by tragedy

MARTIN McCARTHY (Leevale) and Noel Berkeley (DSD) fought out a spectacular sprint finish ahead of a record field of close to 300 at the annual St. Stephen’s Day four-mile road race in Belgooly which was marred by tragedy.

Spectators were stunned by the sudden death of Dick Copithorne ­ who collapsed shortly after the start of the race.

The Copithorne family have been synonymous with the race ­ promoted by Belgooly Athletic Club. From now on it will be a tribute to the father figure of athletics in the South Cork area.

He died yesterday, surrounded by his nearest and dearest ­ his immediate family and the athletic fraternity who mourned his passing as one.

The athletes did not know of the tragedy as they fought out a race fitting of Belgooly.

For the first mile and a half the field remained intact but it was then that the pressure was applied by Martin McCarthy, Noel Berkeley, John Downes (London Irish), Alan O’Shea (Bantry), Mark Hanrahan (Leevale), David Doherty (Togher) and Cathal O’Connell (St. Finbarr’s).

They had gone through the opening mile in 4:40 and Berkeley, running the race for the first time, and McCarthy, seeking out a fifth victory over a 10-year period, were now the main contenders with the veteran at the front, John Downes, losing contact. They passed two miles in 9:38 and three in 14:38 after the uphill stretch.

Then the pressure intensified as Berkeley, the Dubliner who has made Midleton his home, pushed the pace. McCarthy was never far away and he, too, was prepared to take it up.

When Berkeley led back on to the main road it appeared as if the race was his but McCarthy fought back to snatch victory by a second in a flying finish.

He won in 19:24 from Noel Berkeley, 19:25, John Downes, 19:53, Alan O’Shea, 19:57, Mark Hanrahan, 20:09, and Dan Doherty 20:30 with Cathal O’Connell seventh in 20:35.

Olympic qualification is well within McCarthy’s reach, according to John Downes, who coaches the Corkman. Downes has won Irish and English national cross-country titles and his father, John, was also a national champion.

Downes is adamant that McCarthy would have achieved the Olympic qualifying standard in the Berlin Marathon but for the way they were treated.

“Nobody knows the problems we had,” he said. “There was no transport from the airport, a problem with accommodation and his bottles were not left at the appointed tables. When I wanted to follow him and give him a bottle they would not allow me, despite the fact that somebody was allowed to follow Paul Tergat on a bicycle and give him his bottle.

Carmel Parnell (Leevale) rounded off a sensational year by taking the women’s title. Earlier this month she won her category at the Masters International Cross-Country Championships in Cardiff.

She was followed home by Carmel McCarthy (Bandon AC), Joan Hough (St. Finbarr’s) and Michelle Scott (Carraig na bhFear).

Jerry Forde (Blarney) took the wheelchair title.

lThere was a huge turnout for the GOAL Mile at the CIT Track at Bishopstown on Christmas Day.

Among those taking part were Noel Berkeley, Irish rugby player Donnacha O’Callaghan and Cork football manager Billy Morgan. The fastest one-mile time was 4:32.7 by Togher AC’s David Doherty.

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