Championship athletics action this weekend

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After a relatively quiet weekend with some Winter track action at the Sports Complex attracting interest, it’s all set now for a really busy weekend ahead with Lurgan and Athlone the major venues in the spotlight.

Lurgan Park on Saturday will host the Provincial Masters and Junior/Intermediate cross country championships with significant local input expected.

And the Athlone Arena hosts the National Masters Indoor championships on Saturday and the Junior and Under-23 championships on Sunday.

Local athletes are expected to feature strongly at the two contrasting venues with high hopes of medal performances from both days.

Both City of Derry Spartans and Foyle Valley will field squads in all three races in Lurgan on Saturday.

And the big question is, will the Valley men’s Junior squad be able to bring the team trophy back to the city, as defending champions City of Derry did last year at the same venue?

The Spartans won an absorbing three way battle 12 months ago on a muddy Lurgan course, just edging out Finn Valley and Foyle Valley in a gripping contest.

The red vests with a new squad do not look like medal contenders this time,.

However, both Valley squads are among the favourites for the historic War Memorial trophy

All of Foyle’s last year’s bronze team medal winners are eligible again and in the six to score contest they look certain medallists again.

However their Donegal rivals also look good with perhaps an even stronger squad than last year so a really big effort from the Derry lads will be essential.

Leaders Keith Shields and Scott Rankin will no doubt lead by example!

Foyle Valley’s female Junior squad could also challenge for medals, they convincingly won the Ulster Novice championship in Gransha back in November and could feature again this weekend.

The Spartans too will fancy making the podium and have a good mix of youth and experience in their squad.

But clubs like the in-form Springwell, Finn Valley, North Down, Lagan Valley, Omagh and Lisburn cannot be ruled out.

The Masters races could be rewarding for the local clubs but perhaps more so at individual age group level as the team competition will be red hot.

Annadale, Finn Valley and North Belfast are the men’s race favourites with the local squads not fielding at full strength and in the Women’s race, Finn Valley, North Down and North Belfast again could be the ones to beat.

Indoors Action

There is an ANI Indoor Hurdles and Shot competition on Wednesday night, January 22nd in the High Performance centre at Jordanstown, checking-in from 6.30 p.m.

Competition for all from U14 upwards and this one will get support from all those athletes desperate to see some blue sky and warmer temperatures.

On to Athlone at the weekend and the National Masters and Junior/U23 championships in the magnificent Athlone Indoor Arena.

A good contingent from these parts will travel for both days and podium performances are anticipated right across the age groups.

Road and Cross Country

Finally for now a reminder that the third and final race in the Flavahans Primary School League is this Friday, January 24th at the Sports Complex.

A 12 noon start, three separate races, each over 1.4K and lots of really exciting action guaranteed.

On Saturday it’s back to road running and the St Patrick’s School Dungiven 10K race with a 2.30 p.m. start.