Liam Ball Race Report

Liam Ball represented Ireland at two Olympic Games and was a sporting hero to the people of Derry before his untimely death just as the sport of triathlon was establishing itself in the early 1980s.

In this guest post, Aoife Quigley of North West Triathlon Club reports from the 31st edition of the race named in his memory.

Liam Ball Group Shot 2016

Paul Carroll and Laura Tighe emerged winners of the 31st Liam Ball Sprint Triathlon which took place at Templemore Sports Complex, Derry last Sunday. As one of the longest running triathlons in Ireland it marked yet another historic first as the number of women taking part in the event has more than doubled since last year with almost 80 women taking part.

More than half of the female triathletes are taking part in their first ever sprint triathlon having got the taste for the sport after taking part in the North West Triathlon Club’s first ever Ladies' Try-a-Tri training programme in October where the club ran a 6 week training programme in preparation for a Try-a-Tri race at the end. The initiative was the idea of Liam Ball Race Director and NWTC club member Carmel Lynch who took the approach that triathlon is a sport for everyone not just the elites. “Anyone can do a triathlon. You just have to decide that you want to do one and put in a bit of training” said Lynch at the information night back in October. Lynch’s pragmatic approach to triathlons and training has led to many beginners, both male and female, making the 31st Liam Ball Triathlon their very first sprint triathlon. 

Liam Ball Winners 2016

Carroll from Olympian TC posted the fastest bike split of the day to reign in last year’s winner James Walton from Triangle TC and Bernard McCullagh from Omagh. Carroll sealed the win with a quick run on the 2-lap course crossing the line under the hour mark in 59 mins 26secs with Walton settling for second (1:00:20) and McCullagh in third (1:00:55). 

Liam Ball Women's Podium 2016

Tighe from Sligo blasted out the swim and posted the fastest bike and run splits in the female race to romp home with over 5 minutes to spare on the chasing field. Tighe’s time of 1hr 6mins 21secs showed her dominance across the three disciplines. Triona McMenamin of Letterkenny 24/7 TC was an impressive second place (1:11:51) in only her second year competing in the sport. Estelle Johnston of Armagh Pike-Kickers TC posted the second quickest run split to get herself on the podium for third place (1:12:48).

The first local male prize went to Odhran McKane from North West Triathlon Club in an impressive 4th place overall which also saw him take the M16-19 prize. His club-mate Mark Murray was the next NWTC man home in 5th place taking the M20-29 prize. In 6th place was another North West man Sean McLaughlin who took the M30-39 prize while the NWTC’s Luke McCarron came in 8th place overall.

A great show from the club with four in the top- ten. The first local female prize went to Emma-Jo McConnellogue who had a solid race throughout. McConnellogue also took the F20-29 prize. The North West Tri Club’s other age group winners were Aoife Wilson - F16-19, Bridgeen Byrne - F50-59 while Roisin Lynch & Peter McLaughlin won F60-69 & M60-69 respectively. Local man Danny Sheerin, who has competed in every Liam Ball Triathlon won the M70-79 prize.

The Liam Ball Triathlon is held annually in memory of Derry man Liam Ball who represented Ireland in swimming at two Olympic games – 1968 Mexico City and 1972 Munich – competing in the 100m & 200m Breaststroke. Ball was also the manager of Templemore Sports Complex. His wife Anne and family were in attendance taking part in starting the swim waves and presenting the prizes to all winners on the day. Thank you to the Ball family.

The North West Triathlon Club would like to thank all its sponsors; The Bentley Bar, Stairway Barbers, Derry/Donegal Wheatgrass, Premiair Refrigeration and Qualivend. Thanks also to Paul and all the staff of Templemore Sports Complex. And last but not least thank you to all the marshals who were brilliant throughout.