the close of the 1973 track and field season a small group of
people gathered together in the home of Neil Morton to discuss
the setting up of a new athletics club. The prime movers of this
group, who were disenchanted with what was currently available,
were Morton and Tony McKnight. Recognising my increasing interest
in coaching, they had asked me to join them. Neil Morton, now
headmaster of Portora Royal in Ennniskillen, was, at the time
a teacher at Annadale Grammar School (now combined with Carolan
Grammar to form Wellington College). His youngsters were to provide
the nucleus for the club, thus the Annadale. As an ex-Grosvenor
boy I did not want the club to be totally associated with the
old enemy so I came up with the suffix. Thus Annadale Striders
the helm there were some very special people. Tony McKnight was
Mr Annadale Striders. A former good class club distance runner
with North Belfast he once finished fourth in the Northern Ireland
Marathon Champioships. He was a 'wee man' who did not suffer fools
gladly and called a spade a spade which did not ingratiate him
to everyone but there were few who did not respect his ability
to produce athletes. Sadly he died suddenly at a much too early
age but his memory lives on in the 'Tony McKnight' Trophy for
the NI Senior 1500 metres champion.
Morton was the chalk to Tony's cheese. A thinker and philospher
he had an eye for talent and was deeply committed to the development
of the individual. Under his guidance Annadale Grammar school
became a force to be reckoned with and an invaluable nursery for
two guiding lights were supported by Chairman Charlie Johnston,
cruelly murdered during the 'troubles', and Jack Connolly, one
of natures gentlemen, who got involved through his son and gave
many years of dedication to the club before he too died prematurely.
was instant with the Under 16 teams finishing first, second and
eighth in the Duncairn Harriers Road Relay in September. A week
later teams finished first and second in the novice race at Larne
with the 'A' team setting a new course record. Success continued
in Lisburn with under 18 teams in first, third and eighteenth
places and Paul Lawther setting a course record. The senior team
in their debut finished sixth. Mike Best led the Youths to victory
in the opening cross country race of the season. And so it continued.
In November Stephen McArthur, Ian Stewart and Michael Dobbin were
first, second and third in the Under 16 race at the Malcolm Cup
which in later years was to become Striders major promotion.
January 1974 Striders won their first championship, the Youth's
Cross Country with Best in runner up position and, at the end
of the month, the Boy's emulated that performance taking the first
four places with Stephen Reid becoming the club's first individual
Northern Ireland Champion. By the end of the winter season Striders
had won nearly every age group event on the calendar as well as
Junior team titles in the Ballyclare 10 mile and Novice team in
the Whitehead Road Race. Striders had well and truly arrived and,
unlike many other instant successful new clubs that have come
and gone over the last two decades, they remain, for the time
being, the strongest senior male club in the country.
in that first season of 1974 was also evident on the track. Michael
Lawther, younger brother of Paul (800/1500), Man Sharma (400),
James Semple (Shot /Discus) and Roy Ferguson (TJ) won NI Boys
titles. Jimmy Christie (100/200); Stephen McArthur (1000SC/3000);
Colin Fisher (LJ); Michael Picken (HJ/JT); Dawson Cotton (DT)
and Leonard Browne (SHOT) made an almost complete sweep of the
Youths titles and Paul Lawther (800/1500); Michael Best (2000SC/5000);
Robin (Josh) Reynolds (father of Tom, Ben, Luke and Sophie) (110H)
and John Browne (DT) were victorious at Junior level. These winners
were supported by twenty five silver and bronze medallists including
a third place in the youths shot for Mike Atkinson, who was to
become a future NI Record Holder in the event.
that season Striders made their first foray into the British Isles
Knock Out Cup, known then as the Pye Gold Cup. The Northern Ireland
heat was won by Achilles with Shorts second and Striders a close
third, a performance we were very pleased with. The average age
of the Striders team was 18 with Lenny Browne at 15 the youngest
and Ernie Cunningham and myself at 27 the oldest.
Northern Ireland Senior Championships were held on the cinder
track at Shaw's Bridge in those days and I shared with Ernie Cunningham
who took the 5000 metres and Josh Reynolds the 110 metres hurdles
champion the honour of being Striders first Senior Champion when
I won the 800 metres in a new Northern Record of 1:51.1. Second
in that race was Paul Lawther who was without doubt the most talented
runner ever to wear a Striders vest.
1972 Boys and Youths Cross Country titles both fell to the young
Annadale Grammar School pupil and he followed up his Age Group
success with Northern Ireland Junior titles in 1976 and 1977 and
Senior titles in 1978 and 1980. By the time he wore the Annadale
vest he had already represented Great Britain at the European
Junior Championships following a unique double in the 1973 Ulster
Schools winning the 800 metres in 1:52.8 on the Stranmillis track
and the 2000 metres steeplechase in 6:12.8. on the other side
of the hill at Malone (now Mary Peter's Track.)
the All Ireland Schools he not only shattered the Senior schools
800 metres record but also set new Northern Ireland Native figures
of 1:51.8 seconds. Sadly that season did not finish on a happy
note for Paul. Having achieved the qualifying time for the European
Junior championships in both 800 and 1500 metres he was selected
to go to Duisburg in the longer distance. The 800 places went
to Steve Ovett the winner and Tony Dyke who finished 7th. Paul
however was not so successful through no fault of his own. In
his heat things cut up rough and Paul was badly spiked. Despite
his injuries requiring stitches in three wounds he managed to
finish in fifth place and qualify for the final. He was not however
fit to take his place and had the frustration of watching the
race won by Gheorghe Ghipu in a time slower than Paul's best.
The late lamented Cliff Temple reporting on the event was in no
doubt that the incident robbed Paul of a certain medal.
in the year, now wearing a Strider's vest, he represented Northern
Ireland in the Commonwealth Games. His run in the 1500 metres
heat did not gain him a final place but his performance was magnificent
gaining him a United Kingdom Junior record of 3:43.1 which in
either of the other two heats would have made the final.
1974, Paul ran 8:39.1 for a new Northern Ireland Steeplechase
Record. He was in magnificent form at this time and in mid- May
ran a solo 1500 metres record of 3:40.5 in the GRE Cup at Mary
Peters as Striders easily beat Duncairn Harriers and Lisnagarvey.
Four days later Lawther's form was reinforced when he was narrowly
beaten by Filbert Bayi and Steve Ovett in an International 3000
metres at Crystal Palace. HIs time was a scintillating 7:54.3.
His purple period continued with a 2 mile record of 8:30.6 on
May 28th and in June he set new Northern Ireland figures for 1500
metres with a 3:38.8 second place to Steve Ovett in the UK Championships
the years Striders has produced some great athletes although it
has to said that many left the sport all too early before achieving
their full potential. Some went on to star in other areas. David
Irwin, Kenny Hooks and Roy Palmer pulled on rugby shirts for Ulster
with the former now on the pitch as often as the current stars
in his position as team doctor. Nigel Annett had a 'starring'
role in Chariots of Fire - he was one of the group of 'Olympic'
athletes training on the beach in the opening credits. Michael
Nesbitt, a former Ulster Schools Champion, graces our television
screens every evening passing on the days news.
the club uses the facilities at the Mary Peters Track for training
and meetings and has now been at the forefront of cross-country,
road running and track and field for some thirty years and has
produced some of the provinces most successful athletes in all
three areas. No less than ninety-one senior athletes have achieved
international status, some progressing to major competition i.e.
Commonwealth, European, and Olympic games. Names such as Martin
Girvan, Colin Boreham, John Doherty, John McLaughlin, Laurie Spence,
Paul Lawther, Ernie Cunningham, Gary Lough, Richard Bleakley and
Steve Martin have all represented Great Britain and Philip Snoddy
represented Ireland in the European Championships. Great Britain
juniors include Paul Lawther, Steve McArthur, Mike Atkinson, Carson
Porteous, John Reynolds, David Wilson, and Brian Treacy and eighty-three
Annadale juniors have also represented Northern Ireland.
the years the yellow and black colours have won numerous club
titles at all levels and in all events, a summary of the distance
results are at the end of section. They were led by athletes like
John McLaughlin, Ray Curran, Ernie Cunningham, Rod Stone, Eddie
Oxlade, Sam Doherty, Paul Younger, Davy Smith, Paul McCaffrey,
Michael Best, Laurie and Cameron Spence, Michael and Paul Lawther,
Philip Tweedie, David Wilson, Dermott Donnelly, Jim and Andrew
Campbell, and John Cunningham. The club also won the All Ireland
Track and Field League and has turned out sprint champions like
Alan Fawcett, Jimmy Christie, Aiden Gough, Clarke Millar, Philip
Snoddy, Sam Bailey, Rickey and Colin Smyth, Gerry Carson and David
players Roy Palmer, Mark Reynolds, Kenny Hooks, David Irwin and
Willie Anderson also ran for the club as well as being long jumpers
and pole vaulters. The best known thrower Martin Girvan won a
silver medal at two Commonwealth games and also won the UK, AAA,
and Northern Ireland Championships.
Ireland Cross Country Championships.
in 1981,1982,1983,1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, all years 1990 to 2000,
Ireland Junior Cross Country Championships.
in 1991,1992,1996, 2003.
Joe Seeley Road Race (The premier road race in N. Ireland)
in all years 1982 to 2004 (except 2000)
1982 to 2004 (course record set in 1992, 37mins 09secs)
1982 to 2004 (except 1999 and 2000), 2006. Set course record in
1992, 55mins 33secs.
here to see a picture of the 1975 officials