Unfortunately there was no local interest at Saturday’s Moira Cross Country meeting as Provincial Novice champion, Connor Magill of North Belfast and Julie Turley of the host club, Dromore AC, took the male and female honours respectively.
Indeed the County Down event, only a week ahead of this Saturday’s Provincial Senior Championships in Antrim, failed to atract significant numbers as clearly for many, the powder was being kept dry for this weekend at the Greenmount College Grounds.
City of Derry are likely to carry local hopes this Saturday with both meal and female teams set to travel.
The Spartan women will be defending the team tile won last year in Stranorlar while the men will once again attempt to improve on their team runners-up spots of the last two years.
However boh squads will not be at full strength and a big challenge lies ahead for the ‘red vests.’ Aileen Morrison is in Spain at a training camp preparing for her Olympic Triathlon in London later this year and her absence will seriously dilute the local women’s challenge.
Arnie Doherty, Diarmuid Grant and John Lenehan are all definitely out of the men’s squad and will certainly be missed in the six to score men’s team contest.
However, both Spartans’ squads will travel in expectation of producing a massive effort and the athletes on duty will strain every sinew to deliver big results in what should be a real feast of quality cross country action.
The N. Ireland/Ulster Championships are, for the first time ever, incorporated into the annual Antrim International Challenge so the locals will line-up alongside a sizeable group of African, European, cross Channel and non Ulster Irish athletes.
Indeed the in-form Declan Reed has been selected on the eight man N. Ireland squad for the international team race and he will be joined by Omagh Harrier, Stephen Duncan. Reed won his first ever N. Ireland vest at this race last year and has been selected once again after a series of excellent runs in recent weeks, during which he won the Malcolm Cup Race in Ballyclare and the Provincial Masters title in Scotstown, as well as finishing runner-up to Conor Bradley at the North-West Cross Country Championships in Gransha just before Christmas.
Bradley in Scotland
Bradley was initially selected on the N. Ireland squad but the speedy Spartan instead will be racing indoors in Glasgow as he continiues his build-up to the National Indoor Championships in Belfast in mid-February. Reed should have the likes of Greg and Colin Roberts, Emmett McGinty, Allan Bogle, Paddy Mhor Doherty, Noel Logan, Brendan Murphy, Kieron Hurley, Eoghan Furey and James Brown to bolster the ‘red vests’ challenge for honours.
Anne Paul hopes to return from a lengthy injury lay-off to line-up alongside Marina Campbell, Jackie McGinley, Catherine Lilburn, Sarah Mahon, Camilla McGrenaghan and Ciara Fraser to spearhead the Spartan women’s bid for honours, but the local squads will have much to do in the battle for team medals on Saturday. Hopefully current niggles and uncertainties will all be resolved over the next few days.
A more detailled preview will follow later in the week when the full opposition line-ups are digested more thoroughly and the local starters are confirmed.
Primary Schools League
Race On Friday
The Sports Complex Grounds will host the third and final race in the local Primary Schools’ Cross Country League thius Friday, January 20th, with around 15 schools and 300 runners expected.
The Flavahans sponsored event has proved to be a tewrrific successs since its inception by Athletics N. Ireland a few years ago and with six separate locations across N. Irleland, the top performers from each area at the finish of their trio of local races will qualify for the N. Ireland finals in Mallusk in mid-February.
This Friday’s action should be as exciting as ever. The 1,300 mere course will provide the ideal platform for all the eager young runners to strut their stuff and the first of the three races starts at 12.15 p.m. Registration begins at 11.15 a.m. in the main Sports Complex building.