Cross country dominates the weekend action with a Saturday ‘double header’ at Cookstown and Belfast, followed by the National Intermediate and Masters Championships in Roscommon on Sunday.
Drum Manor Forest hosts the latest in the Sperrin Harriers’ ongoing Winter League Races tomorrow and has a 12.00 noon start time.
Falls Park, meanwhile, hosts the new Belfast cross country event and their extensive race programme which starts at 11.00 a.m., should draw the crowds.
The big one of the weekend, however, is in the Lough Kee Forest Park in Roscommon and there will be significant local and North-West interest with City of Derry, Finn Valley, Letterkenny and Inishowen set to travel on Sunday.
The course will be familiar to most of the the Derry and Donegal runners as it hosted these same championships just a few years ago so, hopefully, this knowledge will prove benefical to the men and women from the North-West.
F40 Jackie McGinley and F60 Roisin Lynch should be prominent in their respective age groups for the Spartans with the latter in good shape to mount a definite medal challenge.
McMonagle to go
Christy McMonagle will want to make up for his last experience at the Lough Kee venue, when he had a rare off day to finish runner-up in the M65 category. He has been supreme in his category in recent months and despite a defeat last weekend to Letterkenny’s Kevin Toner, he could well keep the individual M65 title in City of Derry hands, as clubmate Gerry Lynch won it last year in Dublin.
Colin Roberts leads a below strength M40 Spartans squad and his challenge will be to test himself in that ultra competitive age group.
He won Ulster individual Masters silver in Scotstown early last month and ran well in the more recent Senior Championships in Antrim. If he builds on that form he may not be too far off a podium place finish.
Damien McGinty will front the ‘red vests’ M50 squad challenge and they may just have enough about them to join Donegal rivals, Finn Valley, as team medal contendors in their category.
McGinty is lightly raced this season but has the pedegree to deliver a big run and with support from Gerry Duddy, Dermot Connolly,Peter Lilburn, Noel McMonagle, Christy McMonagle and, hopefully, Sammy McAnaney, the ‘red vests’ could maybe vie with the Domnic Bonner led Finn Valley boys and challenge for team medals.
Other North West athletes to watch will be Letterkenny’s M35 Ciaron Doherty and M45 Pauric McKinney and the super vet from Inishowen, Helena Crossan.
The Intermediate Championships look set to be minus any serious North-West challenge for the first time in recent years but the Masters endeavours should provide enough interest for fans from these parts.