Provincial Cross Country test for locals

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As January draws to a close there is an interesting mix of athletics action this weekend with championship cross country in Lurgan tomorrow, a 5k road race in Raphoe and the Raheny 5miler on Sunday.

And there will also be a two day double-header of Indoor competition to mark the opening of the new Athlone facility.

Local athletes will travel to all four venues with expectations of success across the board and tomorrow’s NI/Ulster Junior, Intermediate and Masters cross country championships in Lurgan Park should get the bandwagon rolling along nicely.

More on that later but first a word on the inaugural action in the brand new Athlone IT Indoor facility which hosts the National Combined Events championships tomorrow and a top quality Open competition on Sunday.

Danea Herron will be among the medal hopefuls in her age group tomorrow and the Spartans all-rounder is expected to grab a podium place in the multi- discipline action.

Sunday’s Open meet will see at least two locals, Connor Bradley and Padjo Hamilton in action. Both were in another new Indoor facility in Glasgow last weekend and came away with very good early season 1,500 metre clockings.

The new Emirates Arena was the venue and Connor ran second in the ‘A’ 1,500m with a 3m 48.51s clocking while Padjo set a marginal new PB of 4m 00.38s in the same race.

Padjo goes over 1,500m again this weekend with his first sub four minutes the target and Connor has got into a classy 3,000m field, which with pacemakers should drag the top men close to the European Indoors eight minute qualifying time.

Raphoe is the venue on Sunday for race two in the Lifford AC organised Daly XL New Year 5K series. Start time is 10 a.m. and a big show of road runners is expected.

Anne Marie McGlynn and Dean Toland won last weekend’s first race in St Johnston and could be the ones to watch again this Sunday.

Declan Reed, Emmett McGinty and Paddy M. Doherty will be in Dublin on Sunday for the red hot Raheny 5 mile road race and will be looking for quick times.

Return to Lurgan Park

Both Foyle Valley and City of Derry Spartans will have squads in Lurgan tomorrow for the Provincial Junior/Intermediate and Masters cross country championship races and hopes are high for some silverware to make its way home to the North West.

The ANI office reports an impressive entry across all three races as championship cross country action makes a welcome return to Lurgan Park, which for a long time in the 1980s and 1990s was the traditional venue for the NI senior championships.

While some of the Masters runners tomorrow will have Lurgan memories, most of the Junior/Intermediate participants will tackle the course for the first time.

The original lap apparently will be revised somewhat but the core of the course remains and the Parkland setting should be conducive to good running.

Both local clubs will be targeting medals in the Men’s 10k Junior/ Intermediate race but will have some tough opposition to contend with.

Reigning Novice champions Finn Valley have named a strong squad, North Belfast, North Down, Willowfield and possibly St Malachy’s should be prominent, but on paper both the Spartans and Foyle Valley have well balanced squads who have the potential to bring home team medals in the six to score championship.

It’s all down to who gets the best possible line up to the start line and if Finn Valley produce their named squad, they will start as favourites with the city clubs likely to chase them home.

However it’s not always that simple and the Derry clubs know that they have the men to do the job tomorrow.

Both clubs have included top Master runners in their Junior squads, Keith Shields for Valley and James Brown for the Spartans and no doubt both will deliver important runs. Valley’s top four looks good, Shields is joined by Scott Rankin, Pius McIntyre and Chris McGuinness but the six to score format may be an issue for them.

The Spartans have Nick Cassidy, Brendan Murphy, Noel Logan, Gary Slevin, Chris McPeake and possibly Richard Johnston among others, to compliment Brown, impressive strength in depth and that could be the key in a strength sapping 10K.