ATHLETICS: Derry clubs involved in McConnell Shield meet

There's plenty of cross country and road race action for local athletes this weekend.
There's plenty of cross country and road race action for local athletes this weekend.
  • North West Triathlon Club stage first race of club’s 5k series at Sports Complex on Sunday
  • N.I & Ulster Uneven Age Group and Novice Championships in Stranorlar on Sunday
  • Spartans and Off the Streets Initiative bring back the Galliagh Gallop 5k

It’s the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, not to mention a long spell of extremely decent weather, and cross country continues to dominate the athletics action.

A choice of venues this weekend, the popular McConnell Shield meeting in Ballyclare on Saturday) and on Sunday it’s Stranorlar for the NI & Ulster Uneven Age Group and Novice championships.

Just in case the road runners were having withdrawal symptoms, the first in the North West Tri Club’s 5K series is on Sunday at 11 a.m. from the Sports Complex. A change of venue for the series and another good turnout is anticipated.

Back to the cross country and tomorrow’s East Antrim AC McConnell Shield promotion will see both Foyle Valley and City of Derry Spartans fielding teams in the male and female races with the Valley squads looking to defend their table topping positions in the ongoing NI Winter Cross league. Interestingly the local clubs took the men’s team awards at the first two League races, Valley winning at the Comber Cup and the Spartans taking the Bobby Rea Memorial honours in Jordanstown.

Valley will hope to have Scott Rankin, Chris McGuinness and Pius McIntyre to front their challenge while the Spartans have Declan Reed and Allan Bogle making their seasonal debut and with Noel Logan, Michael Murphy, Michael Melarkey and Kyle Doherty also travelling both city clubs will expect to be prominent in the up front action. Three in a row for Derry clubs?

The Valley women’s squad are going well with Martina McMullan, Sarah Lindsay and Gemma McGinty fronting their challenge and could do enough on Saturday to hold their early League leadership.

The female Spartans will be making their League debut on Saturday and will be minus some heavy hitters so podium places are unlikely. Janeen Leese and Ciara Fraser will lead the challenge while Masters, Una Gavin, Clare Connor and Roisin Lynch will test their form in advance of next weekend’s Masters International Cross Country in Dublin.

Male Masters Peter Lilburn and Gerry Lynch will also use tomorrow as a sighter before the Dublin race and Derry City Track Club’s Cathal McLaughlin may also have a run out before taking on the best of the British and Irish Masters in their respective age groups next weekend.

Championship action in Stranorlar

Local clubs will have underage squads at Stranorlar on Sunday for the U11 to U19 championships with some talented young local runners in contention for honours in the Provincial tests. City of Derry, Olympian and Derry City Track Club all produced big performers at the Even Age Groups in Jordanstown a few weeks ago and let’s hope the short trip down the road to Stranorlar will deliver again on Sunday.

Foyle Valley and DCTC may have somewhat competitive squads in the Novice championships at the same venue, the modified eligibility criteria has diluted the Spartans challenge, so any returns will be very welcome from what is always a very difficult race to read in advance. Expect the Donegal clubs to dominate unless there are a few genuine dark horses lurking in the entry list.


A new road race on the local calendar is the Northside Galliagh Gallop 5K, on Sunday, November 29th next at 12,15pm out of St Paul’s PS in Moss Road, Slievemore.

The City of Derry Spartans’ events team have linked up with the Galliagh based Off the Streets Youth Initiative to bring back a classic road race of the 1980’s and with race t-shirts for the first 200 entrants and a focus on the city wide Community running groups, a big turn out is expected.

There is a special trophy to the first local community running group to have 10 members - five male and five female - to cross the finish line!

Pre-entry can be made to

Simply send your name, gender, age on race day, club and t-shirt size and pay the £6 entry fee when you pick up your race pack on Saturday 28th or race day itself.

For more information contact or phone 02871358048.