Action in Gransha, Ballyclare

AN exciting cross-country double header in Ballyclare and Gransha will seriously occupy local clubs this weekend with Seniors, Masters and Juveniles set to see action.

River Park Ballyclare tomorrow hosts the established McConnell Shield meeting and this popular early season venue will pull in extra bodies as both the ANI Winter League and the NI Masters League will use it for their ongoing League scoring races. Both Foyle Valley and City of Derry Spartans are expected to travel in strength, the latter looking to consolidate their pole positions in the male and female sections of the League.

The McConnell traditionally attracts many of the athletes likely to feature at the sharp end as the season unfolds and usually is very hotly contested at both individual and team level. Tomorrow should be no exception and while the precise strength of the local squads travelling is not known they are likely to be fairly strong. The Male Spartans and Foyle Valley teams occupy the top two League spots after two races and good performances tomorrow would consolidate their strong hand. Neither were at full strength last time out in Rostrevor but they both fielded in big numbers and this will be crucial again this weekend.

The female Spartans sit just a single point ahead of County rivals Springwell and they will be without Hannah Shields and possibly Jackie McGinley tomorrow, so will have a stern test to maintain their early momentum. Marina Campbell is in good shape however and should be close to the front runners again and blaze a trail for the red vests. Foyle Valley have Sarah Lindsay going well and her steady progress should continue this weekend.

To Gransha and the NI/Ulster Uneven age group Juvenile championships on Sunday, another big event and also featuring the Provincial Novice championships. Several local juvenile athletes will be in action with the Spartans Amy Jackson, the U20 gold medallist in Rostrevor a few weeks ago, lining up in the U19 race hoping for another big run.

The red vests, however, have no male or female Novice Championship teams lining up, a rare omission and it may be left to the Foyle Valley squads to carry the local flag in Gransha. The purple vests potentially have decent male and female squads eligible at this level and could well run into medal contention if they field their strongest Novices in Gransha.

The action starts at 11 30 a.m. with the Girls Under-11 1,200 metres and concludes with the Novice Men ‘s 6 kms. Championship at 3 10 p.m.

The Gransha parkland has stood up to the recent wet weather fairly well and fingers are crossed that the weekend conditions remain reasonable for the hundreds of athletes and spectators expected from all nine Ulster counties. A very extensive race programme with first class competition guaranteed, well worth having a look.

North-West Triathlon Winter Series 5K

Sunday sees the return of the N.W. Triathlon Club’s Winter 5k Series. With a race each month between now and February. The very fast water-front course will also lend itself to runners achieving their personal bests.

Registration takes place at Atlantic Quay, next to the Coffee House, from 9am. Entry is £6 race. Those who complete at least three of the four races will receive a running vest. Sunday’s races begin at 10.30 a.m.

This season’s NWTC events will also includes a kids 3k Challenge Series.