International duty for Derry Spartans

Despite APRIL being just around the corner, cross country has its last outing of the season at Antrim tomorrow in the Home Countries and Aviva Schools International.

And there will be a local connection with the City of Derry teenagers, Shane McGowan and JP Williamson set to compete at this top quality meeting.

On a busy weekend there is also road race action tonight in Stranorlar, tomorrow in Cookstown and in Dunboyne, County Meath on Sunday.

JP Williamson had a terrific run on the Antrim course back in January in a highly competitive NI U20 championships and tomorrow he dons the NI vest in the Home Countries U20 race.

This will be a major test for the Oakgrove student who is already gearing up for the summer season, but he had an excellent winter and could go well again in Antrim.

Joining him in race action will be 15 year-old rising star, Shane McGowan, recent bronze medallist at both the Ulster and All-Ireland Schools championships, running in St Columb’s College colours.

Shane runs tomorrow in the Irish Junior Boys squad of eight and will be keen to match, if not better, his big effort in Dublin a few weekends ago.

Race three in the Finn Valley 5K Series is tonight (Friday) in Stranorlar at 7 p.m. and a new event on the calendar, the Phoenix six miler is in Cookstown tomorrow, starting at 10.30 a.m. No doubt the Donegal venue will attract most local runners!

Travelling further south on Sunday will be a small group from City of Derry, their target the Dunboyne four mile road race and quick times on what is reputed to be a fast course.

Gregory Roberts will look to test his road legs and is expected to see Declan Reed, Oran McBride and Peter Lilburn line up alongside him.

Roberts will be making his 2011 road race debut as both he and Reed build towards the National 10K road championship in Dublin next month and both will use this rarely raced distance to improve their tempo running prior to the 10K in the Phoenix Park on April 17th next.

Diarmuid Grant, Aaron Doherty and Paddy Mhor Doherty are on the Spartans’ senior team sheet for Dublin where they have serious designs on medals next month.

Rounding up the imminent competitive action is the Queens 5K next Wednesday evening - 7 p.m. start - and this usually very quick, loop course has attracted the attention of the in-form Connor Bradley who, conditions permitting, will look for a sub 15 minute clocking.

Normally there is a top quality line-up at this one and Bradley, who is also targeting a big run in the National road relays and the Bay Road 5K, both in mid to late April, should be in contention for a top placing.

Furey Insurances 5K Series

Finally mention of the Bay Road race eases perfectly into news of the 2011 Furey Insurances 5K Series which was launched last Wednesday adjacent to the start of the opening race of the Series, on the Riverside Path beside Sainsburys.

Present for the occasion were Dara Furey of the overall Series sponsors, Paula Scullion and Philip Donaghy of race sponsors Donnelly & Taggart, Gavin O’Kane of UU Magee and from organisers City of Derry Spartans, Charlie Large and Gerry Lynch.

It’s four weeks and counting to the opening action which will bring a few hundred runners and joggers to the Bay Road Park circuit on Wednesday evening April 20th, for the first of the six races in this firmly established and very popular Series staged at a mix of Derry and Donegal venues between April and July.

The Series is organised by City of Derry Spartans at four Derry venues - Bay Road (April 20th), Lisnagelvin (May 11th), Culmore (June 8th) and Baliniska on the Buncrana Road (July 20th), plus Buncrana (May 25th) and Carndonagh (June 29th) with Inishowen AC just across the Border in Donegal.

All races are on Wednesday evenings, all start at 7.30pm and the standard entry fee is £8/E10. Each race has a generous £420 prize fund covering all the usual categories; Open, Masters and U20, male and female! Minimum individual Prize is £15.

There is also an £800 overall Series prize fund rewarding consistency - the best four performances to score - prizes to the top two male and female, overall Open/Masters/U20.