N. Ireland ‘Masters’ Take Centre Stage

The N.I. cross-country season kicks into serious action tomorrow with the traditional opener, the Comber Cup meeting, moving to a new venue in Belfast’s Barnet’s Park.

The N. Ireland Masters Association will promote the event and host the Trial Races for next month’s International Mastes Championship in Glasgow.

The sad demise of Ballydrain Harriers, the long time organisers of the Comber Cup meeting, has forced a move from its traditional Co. Down base to a new home in the extensive Queen’s University Playing Fields and many runners tomorrow will, no doubt, spare a thought for their old stomping ground in Comber.

With places in the N.I. men and women’s squads up for grabs, local master athletes will be out in force with qualification for Glasgow in late November the target for many of them. City of Derry’s Jackie McGinley, Bridgeen Byrne, Anne Paul and Una Gavin will definitely chase qualification in their respective age groups and may be joined by Foyle Valley duo, sisters Dawn McDaid and Rosie O’Brien if their recent injury problems have abated.

Dermot Connolly and Peter Lilburn will try to replicate their qualifications from last year as may Declan McCarthy, while Damien McGinty, having moved into the M50 age group, may fancy his chances and Sammy McAnaney might want to make up for missing out last year.

M40 Cathal McLaughlin of Foyle Valley has shown good form over the summer on both road and track and could be a dark horse for selection in perhaps the most competitive masters category on the country. He is likely to be joined by fellow age groupers, the Spartans Paul McCafferty and Oran McBride.

The selection race for the Ireland team is on Sunday week, October 23rd, in Dublin and another group of local athletes will travel south for that. M65 star Christy McMonagle will be among them as will F60 Roisin Lynch and the classy M40 Colin Roberts and all will be serious contendors in their age categories.


Winter League Success

Tomorrow’s race also opens the 2011/2012 N. I. Masters Winter League and good performances will maximise league points for the participants who will get to also race for points closer to home, in December and April next year, at the NW Cross Country in Gransha on Saturday, December 17th and the Bay Road 5K on Wednesday, April 18th next.

The Awards Ceremony for the 2010/2011 season will be held in Belfast tomorrow evening with a quartet of local Masters set to be honoured. Jackie McMonagle won a hard fought F40 category, level on points with North Down’s Debbie Matchett but claimed top spot on a better head-to-head record. Bridgeen Byrne took the runners-up spot in the F45 age group behind Newcastle AC’s Anne Stanford and in the M50 category Dermot Connolly took pole position after a series long tussle with Laurence Johnston of North Belfast Harriers.

M65 Gerry Lynch was an emphatic winner in his age group and an excellent 2010/11 season, particularly on the country where he emphatically won both the NI and National M65 indivudual titles, was good enough for him to be voted the NI male ‘Master of the Year.’

Along with his fellow Spartans he will be presented with his award tomorrow night and this may just about compensate for his recent absence from competitive action with a persistent achilles tendon problem.

Coaching Course At

Complex This Weekend

Away from the cut and thurst of competitive action another side of the the sport will be on view at the Sports Complex tomorrow and Sunday. An Athletics N. Ireland organised Coaching Assistant course has been organised and an excellent local turnout has been guaranteed.

Coaching is vital in any sport and this two day course will deliver another group of aspiring coaches to boost athletics development in the city and beyond.