A busy athletics weekend starts at lunchtime today at the Templemore Sports Complex with the first round of the Flavhin’s Primary Schools’ Cross Country League.
The action continues on Sunday in Killybegs, the new venue for the N.Ireland/Ulster Juvenile and Novice Championships, while there will also be local and North-West interest in the Gerry Farnham Races in Phoenix Park, which doubles as the trial races for the Irish Master squads to contest next month’s Home Countries International in Glasgow.
The Sports Complex grounds may well be wet, but that is unlikely to deter the few hundred enthusiastic Primary School pupils who will assemble at lunchtime today for the opening round race in cross country League.
Set up a few years ago by an Athletics N. Ireland and City of Derry Spartans initiative, the league has proved very successful in introducing primary school pupils to cross-country running and helped to identify potential athletes.
Today’s action kicks-off with the girls’ race at 12.30 p.m. with the boys following at 12.45 p.m.
Registration will commence at 12.00 noon in the Aerobics Studio in the main building and the 1 km races will follow on the outdoor facilities.
Teachers are asked to ensure they get their squads registered in good time to make the start times.
Race two is set for St. Columb’s Park on Friday, December 2nd with the third round race back at the Templemore Complex on Friday, January 21st.
The start times remain the same but the distances will increase to 1.2km. for race two and 1.5km for the final event.
Sunday will be very busy with the N. Ireland/Ulster Championship action in Killybegs and the Irish Masters’ Trial race in Dublin.
The latter will involve several local runners chasing selection for the Glasgow Home Countries International next month and the local Spartans duo, Roisin Lynch and Christy McMonagle are hoping to peform well enough to make their respective age group squads. Indeed, both should be successful and could be joined by Damien McGinty who will have a go in the ultra competitive M50 age group.
The Donegal clubs will also have several athletes in action and representative honours are serious targets for all concerned.
Back to the N.Ireland team selections and Jackie McGinley has been moved back up to the F40 age group and her sister, Paula McGilloway, has been called up for the F45 team.
Novices Go for Glory
The flooded Stranorlar course has necessitated a move to Fintragh in Killybegs for Sunday’s N. Ireland/Ulster Juvenile and Novice Cross Country Championdhips and the North-West clubs will be out in force chasing individual and team honours in the opening Provincial Championships of the season.
City of Derry and Finn Valley travel as defending men’s and women’s club champions but having to field entirely new squads will leave both vunerable to a challenge.
The Spartans squads will be led by J. P. Williamson and Catherine Lilburn and both have strong individual medal prospects in their respective 6 Kms. and 3.5 Kms. races.
Letterkenny were impressive winners of both team titles at the recent Donegal Novice Championships and although the provincial novice is notoriously difficult to call, their men’s and women’s squads will probably start as favourites on Sunday.
The female Spartans lost a tight battle to Finn Valley last year and will miss individual silver medallist, Jackie McGinley but, if they field at full strength otherwise, they should be in medal contention once again.
Letterkenny and local club Foyle Valley, fronted by the impressive Scott Rankin, could be in the upfront mix for team medals.
The Spartans have a few doubtfuls in their declared squad and will need a big collective performance to make an impact although J. P. Williamson is expected to feature strongly at the sharp end,
Dan King was an impressive winner of the Donegal novice title in Burt two weeks ago and may start as individual favourite this weekend and Rankin could surprise. However, as already mentioned, the ‘Ulster’ is always a tricky one to predict and we may have to wait until after the ubiquitious “Fat Lady” sings before all is revealed.
There is also an extensive Juvenile even age groups programme of races which kick-off at 11 am with the U-10’s and continue right up to the U-18’s at 2.20 pm. The Novice women go at 2.40 pm and the men go to the line to complete the action at 3.00 p.m.