Its January and the cross country action is beginning to hot up with major Provincial, National and International championship races looming later this month and into February.
This weekend brings a couple of warm up events - both on Saturday - the Sperrin Harriers’ Winter League An Chreagan 5 miler at noon and the Moira County Down Cross Country meeting at 11.30am.
Both events should pull in decent entries but the Antrim International XC at Greenmount on Saturday week (January 16th) will be the first big test of the New Year for several local athletes with the National Masters and Intermediate Championships and the N.I. & Ulster Masters and Intermediate deciders, following on Sunday, January 24th in Dundalk and Saturday, January 30th in Coleraine respectively.
It is understood that the City of Derry Spartans trio of Decalan Reed, Catherine Whoriskey and Fintan Stewart have been called into representative squads for the Antrim races, the first two named on the N.I. senior squads while promising teenager Stewart has been selected on the Under 17 Ireland Development squad. Congratulations and good luck to all three!
The senior races at Greenmount have surprisingly been included in the ongoing ANI Cross Country League so the Foyle Valley male and female squads, who are both well placed at the top of the League, and all the other local club athletes in action will have to line up alongside the top International runners next weekend. Not an easy task but with League points at stake needs must!
REED TO BE THE MASTER AGAIN?
Dundalk, a week later will be a target for the local clubs at both Masters and Intermediate level with Declan Reed keen to defend his male Masters individual title and Foyle Valley perhaps targeting a performance in the male Intermediate championship race. The local club are seen as favourites for the following weekend’s N.I. & Ulster Intermediate championships with Scott Rankin likely to front their challenge in Coleraine, so a full blooded tilt at Provincial honours may take precedence for the purple vests.
Catherine Whoriskey is considering a run in the female Intermediate Championship and will use the Greenmout international as a guide to that. Gerry Lynch (M70), Jackie McMonagle (F45) and Roisin Lynch (F65) will chase age group honours and the Spartans are also looking at team medals for their M35-49, M50 and F50 squads.
As already indicated Foyle Valley are among the favourites for the male Intermediate team gold in Coleraine with Rankin a possible individual medallist while Reed will consider a shot at repeating his 2015 N.I. & Ulster Masters victory providing he emerges healthy from the Greenmount and Dundalk races.
Beyond that the N.I. & Ulster Senior Championships are set for Lurgan on Saturday, February 20th with the City of Derry men’s squad going for a historic three team golds in a row and that man Reed again, hoping to defend his individual title from last year. More news on all that in the next few weeks!