ATHLETICS: Spartans’ Aaron Doherty returns from Madrid to defend title

The Spartans' Aaron Doherty (right) travels from Madrid to defend his NI & Ulster senior cross country championships title while teammate, Emmett McGinty will be hoping to help City of Derry clinch the team title.
The Spartans' Aaron Doherty (right) travels from Madrid to defend his NI & Ulster senior cross country championships title while teammate, Emmett McGinty will be hoping to help City of Derry clinch the team title.

LOCAL athletes travel to Lurgan on Saturday for the NI & Ulster Senior Cross Country Championships in anticipation of signing off the 2017-18 season on a high.

Both City of Derry Spartans and Foyle Valley will have male and female squads on the start line with their respective male squads looking at podium places.

The Spartans’ Aaron Doherty (pictured right) travels from Madrid seeking an impressive three individual wins on the trot and his strong squad has targeted retention of the team title.

Valley’s Scott Rankin and Chris McGuinness front their challenge and buoyed up by last month’s emphatic provincial Intermediate team success the purple vests may well get into the upfront mix on the 12K test around Lurgan Park.

Both club’s female squads will find it difficult given the strength of the opposition, the Spartans, led by Jackie McMonagle, are seriously understrength while the Martina McMullan led Valley women will focus more on garnering vital NI Winter League points in their season long quest to top this very competitive League.

Strabane based Irish international, Anne Marie McGlynn running for Letterkenny AC will be among the favourites in the women’s 6K and is reported to be hungry for success after an injury ravaged autumn/winter. She trains locally with the Colin Roberts group and has been impressing in recent weeks. Another to look for up front is Sarah Lindsay, now with pre-race favourites North Down AC and she will be battling for a place in their four to score squad.

Three-in-a-row

Back to the men and Arnie Doherty’s bid for a three in a row. He has been well below the radar so far, a repeat of the last two years but has the knack of delivering on the day. It will be difficult, he faces clubmate Declan Reed, the 2015 winner and in great shape, North Belfast’s Mark McKinstry, runner-up for the past three years and the flying Springwell athlete Neill Johnston who may well be the man to beat tomorrow.

Scott Rankin and Chris McGuinness will also go well with a top six finish a realistic target. It will be a cracking race and the local men are well up for it!

Team-wise the depth of the Spartans’ squad should see them home for their third win in four years. Allan Bogle, John Lenehan, Greg Roberts, Mark Long, Kyle Doherty, Emmett McGinty and Noel Logan give them quality and depth enough to bring it home.

2016 winners, Newcastle AC, North Belfast Harriers and city rivals Foyle Valley should be in there to upset with the latter reliant on big runs from Scott Rankin, Chris McGuinness, the improving Roy McGilloway and Pius McIntyre.