The cross country season continues tomorrow in Ballyclare, where the McConnell Shield meeting promoted, as ever, by East Antrim Harriers should attract the usual big early season turnout.
Local runners will make the trip for the Senior/Masters races, the women and M60’s going over three miles and the men tackling the featured McConnell Shield five miler.
Among the local contingent will be several Masters athletes who will use the opportunity to get a competitive outing prior to the Masters International in Glasgow at the end of this month.
The City of Derry Spartans quartet of Jackie McGinley, Bridgeen Byrne, Una Gavin and Roisin Lynch expect to have a run out in advance of their Glasgow trip and their performances will be worth noting.
Richard Johnston will be another Spartan in action, after an impressive opening outing on the country last Saturday in Barnett’s Park and he will go in the usually ultra competitive McConnell Shield race. The women have a 1,30 p.m. start and the McConnell Shield race follows at 2 p.m.
Looking ahead, the Joe Seeley 10K in Belfast on Saturday, November 19th will host the Northern Ireland 10K road championships with a resurgent Annadale Striders and North Belfast Harriers fancied to dominate the men’s race.
The Derry clubs will probably travel but are not expected to pose a serious threat at this early season date.
The Spartans will be without key men, Greg Roberts and Declan Reed, who are recovering after their recent Dublin Marathon endeavours and the Foyle Valley squad is untried at this level.
In the women’s championship both local clubs, at full strength could possibly be contenders but a fully fledged local challenge is unlikely.
Two upcoming local cross country dates to note, Friday, December 2nd, the second leg in the Primary Schools league at St Columb’s Park and Saturday, December 17th, the annual NW cross country meeting in Gransha with a four race programme, U13s, U15s, U17s and Seniors/Masters.
The Gransha meeting will incorporate legs of both the new NI cross country league and the NI Masters winter league and these add-ons will significantly increase the status and numbers at the event.
Organised by the City of Derry club, the annual Gransha races are an integral component of the Provincial athletics calendar and this year’s meeting looks set to serve up yet another series of exciting races. More details to follow!
JP Williamson will run in Sligo in the Inter Counties Junior (U20) race on Sunday, November 27th and will be joined by his City of Derry juvenile clubmates who have qualified for the Under Age (Even) championships the same day.
The Malcolm Cup cross country in Ballyclare, a week later should see a significant local challenge and then it’s off to Kildare a week later for the National Novice and Uneven age group championships with the Spartans set to challenge strongly for podium places.
The red vests have lined up a strong Novice men’s squad for a serious tilt at the club honours and with the possible addition of some Foyle Valley athletes the County championship could also be a realistic target for the locals.