Cross country reigns supreme again this weekend with quality Masters International action tomorrow in Belfast, followed by the N. Ireland/Ulster Juvenile and Novice Championships on Sunday in Killybegs.
Local athletes will see action at both venues and significant performances are expected.
The Queens University playing fields in Malone will host tomorrow’s Home Countries Masters International with 13 runners from the North West selected for the N.I. and Ireland squads set to take on their English, Welsh and Scots counterparts. Letterkenny’s Ciaran Doherty is in the Irish M35 squad and will directly face City of Derry’s Declan Reed and Foyle Valley’s Keith Shields in the ultra competitive M35-49 age group race.
The Derry duo are on a reasonably strong looking N.I. team and could well push up into the team medals chase.
Another Spartan, James Brown makes his International debut tomorrow in the M40 category, Foyle Valley’s M45 Cathal McLaughlin gets another International call up and the Spartans pair, Damien McGinty and Declan McCarthy are in the N.I. M50 squad.
Former Spartan Tommy Hughes goes in the Irish M50 team and the evergreen Christy McMonagle once again takes on all comers in the M65 race.
Jackie McGinley will hope to bring her current good form to the F40 race as will Roisin Lynch in the F65 grade.
In the F45 category, Bridgeen Byrne is doubtful as she continues to carry a back injury and Paula McGilloway stands by as a named reserve.
Una Gavin completes the local contingent in the F50 race and will look to build on her recent hectic racing programme.
This annual competition always produces top quality action with the best Masters from Britain and Ireland savouring the opportunity to strut their stuff.
Killybegs is Sunday’s venue with a total of 12 Ulster championship races on the extensive programme.
The Girls U11 kick-off the action at 11.30 a.m. and will be followed by the U11 Boys, U13 Girls/Boys, U15s, U17s and U19s. The Novice Women and Novice Men complete the action at 2.40 p.m. and 3.10 p.m.
Local clubs should feature in most of the underage races with much anticipation surrounding the performance in the Boys U17 race of City of Derry’s Shane McGowan in his seasonal opener.
The red vests also hope to have a competitive Boys U19 squad in action and individuals and teams across most of the age groups.
Foyle Valley will attempt to defend their Novice men’s team title and coach, Gabriel Bell has been preparing a squad for that purpose.
Not an easy task and with their main man, Keith Shields on International duty the previous day, the degree of difficulty is pretty high.
City of Derry’s men’s squad will be minus James Brown and that seriously dilutes their challenge but they expect a medal from their women’s team led by Miriam Bridge.
The Novice is always a hard one to call but hopefully all the locals in action will make their presence felt on the testing Killybegs course.
Bay Road 5 kms. gets
The Furey Insurances Bay Road 5K in April next has just been confirmed as the Athletics NI 5K road championship for 2013.
The hugely popular City of Derry promotion has hosted the championship for the past couple of years and not surprisingly has been recognised yet again.
The fast flat course and great atmosphere attracts a terrific turnout and produces gripping competitive action to enthrall the spectators, who also turn out in big numbers on the banks of the Foyle for a close up view of the action.
Unfortunately the bid to also add A.N.I. championship status to the annual Waterside Half Marathon in September was not succesful, the governing body opting for the Ards event for next years championship.
The Omagh and the Waterside races between them have enjoyed uninterupted championship status in recent years but hopes were high that the Waterside would reclaim the status in 2013.
However the National Juvenile Development and Intermediate/Masters cross counrty championships have already been confirmed for Gransha on February 3rd next year so the early months of 2013 will feature two big time championship events - not a bad hand for local athletics.