ATHLETICS: Big Cross-Country weekend for Derry athletes of all ages

A packed weekend of cross country action gets underway on Friday with the Primary Schools event.
A packed weekend of cross country action gets underway on Friday with the Primary Schools event.

Cross country action at both ends of the age spectrum will see local Primary Schools runners at Thornhill College today (Friday) for the opening round of the Flavahan’s Primary Schools League while tomorrow and Sunday, in Belfast and Dublin, Masters athletes will seek places on the NI and the Ireland squads for next months Masters’ International at Santry.

The three race Primary Schools meeting in Thornhill starts at noon with separate races for boys and girls and also an Open race for those not selected on their respective Schools squads. Another big turnout is expected for this very popular, annual three round League and the 2016 contingent will be seeking to continue the high standards set in previous years, as talented young local runners blazed a successful trail right to the N.I. finals.

The weekend days bring Masters athletics to the fore with the NI trial races tomorrow at the Queens University Malone grounds and the Irish trials on Sunday in the Santry grounds.

Local Masters have a proud record at the trials and indeed have contributed significantly to the success of both squads down the years. Runners from City of Derry Spartans, Derry City Track Club and Foyle Valley will be in action over the weekend and selection across the board is expected.

Foyle Valley’s in-form Chris McGuinness could go well in the M35 age group, Keith Shields could make his competitive return and Martina McMullan may be a contender in the F45 age category. DCTC’s Cathal McLaughlin and Malcolm McCausland could challenge in the M45 and M60 groups as could the Spartans Dermot McElhinney and Peter Lilburn. Jackie McMonagle and Hannah Shields will fancy their chances in their age categories and Roisin Lynch should be favoured in the F65 group in the Dublin trial.

Several others will line up or anticipate pre-selection, Declan Reed and Pauric McKinney may get the green light for the Irish M40 and M50 squads, but one man missing due to a knee problem will be Christy McMonagle in the M70s. Gerry Lynch is expected to make his annual competitive reappearance, as a first time M70 and will be hopeful of doing well in Belfast tomorrow.