End of Season Report
It's not often that that one club can remain unbeaten and unbowed throughout an entire season but that is exactly the position Annadale Striders now find themselves. We have not been beaten in any road or cross country race this season when we have finished a team. Add to this the fact that this was achieved without Paddy Hamilton, Steven Cairns and Mark McDowell who will all be available for next season. Johnny McKee also appears to be recovering from his latest injury setback and he will, with a bit of luck, be back to his best which was seen to good effect at the Lisburn Relays.
Since the new year we have won the team race at the Stormont International albeit largely due to the deficiencies of our opponents and the Senior Cross Country. We are also the only club in NI to have an athlete running in the World Cross Country. Dermot's performance in the Irish Trial in finishing 2nd to Seamus Power must rank as one of the best Cross Country performances by any Northern Irish athlete in modern times. His record of 9 wins in the NI senior is also likely to be unsurpassed for some time (well 10 years at least).
In summary, it was a fully effective season domestically with many positives. The return to form of Eddie McGinley was important and John Devlin's productive year (or should that be reproductive) bode well for next year. The welcoming back of "old boys" Mark Wright and Andrew Dunwoody were bonuses I'm sure our rivals would rather have not seen. We have also recruited athletes into the club this year - Andy "I'll race anywhere over any distance" McKee and Michel Le Velly are two good examples. The margin of victory in both the Seeley and the Senior indicate that even without Dermot we will be difficult to beat in six to score competition next season. The team spirit and commaradery is another thing which was very much in evidence this year. Reports abound of the great spirit and craic to be had at all other clubs in Northern Ireland apart from Annadale. What utter crap ! The spirit in Annadale Striders remains as strong as ever. The common bond is that we win and others don't like it ! All our home based athletes train together and frequently socialise together. There is also a mutual respect for each other which comes from the simple fact that in team competition, second place for Annadale Striders just isn't good enough. We are a club with a tradition of winning and this puts all our athletes under pressure to perform. This spirit is epitomised by Andrew Campbell, who was able to put all the controversy surrounding the wee fella with ginger hair behind him to finish 10th in the Senior and take home his umpteenth winners medal. And remember, that first pint on a Saturday night tastes so much sweeter when you have a team winners medal in your hip pocket!
And what of next season ? The Six Stage relay in England remains a distinct possibility especially if Dermot, as expected, decides to finish his career at Sutton Park. Striders have another chance of winning the Junior with Hamilton, Pollock, McKee, Diamond and LeVelly all eligible. We might even get Marty Southwood to race but that remains a real long shot. We will of course start underdogs in the Junior to the very strong and talented Abbey squad (according to Bobby Rea anyway) so we will have to hope that Abbey have an off day as it is difficult to see the above 5 matching Abbey's undoubted power. The AAI Inter Club at either 12km or 4km will also be on the agenda as Striders seek to build upon domestic success by beginning to compete again with Ireland's top clubs. This won't happen immediately but the nucleus is both young enough and talented enough to take the club back to it's lofty peak in the early 1990's as Ireland leading road and cross country club. Roll on October 2004 !