Cross country reigns supreme this weekend with local runners set to see action in Ballyclare, Dungarvan and on home turf tomorrow (Friday), its Templemore Sports Complex grounds which will host the second round race in the Flavahan’s Primary Schools League.
Primary schools from across the Derry area will converge on what probably will be a very wet course at the Sports Complex for the 12noon start.
Around fifteen different school teams will line up with the Fun Run kicking things off at noon, followed by the Girls and then the Boys, all going over a 1200 metre course.
Round one at Thornhill College seems a long time ago now and with the dry sod and bright sunshine at the Culmore Road venue now a fading memory, it will be a different story tomorrow, the mud and puddles likely to be the abiding memories from Templemore. However the young runners seem to take it all in their stride and the usual high quality competition is certain.
The Malcolm Cup meeting will bring both City of Derry Spartans and Foyle Valley athletes to Ballyclare for the second time in four weeks, the red vests winning the McConnell Shield Men’s team race from their local rivals back in early November but the Valley boys sit at the top of the ANI Cross Country League table and will be keen to defend that lead on Saturday.
The Valley female squad share a triple tie at the top of the Women’s table and will be looking to stay in contention with a big collective performance on Saturday.
Aileen Reid will be in the Spartans line up, the world ranked triathlete making her season debut on the country and with the in-form Catherine Whoriskey also in the red vest, much attention will focus on them. For Valley Sarah Lindsay, Martina McMullan and Gemma McGinty should anchor their team challenge.
The Women will line up alongside all the male masters from 35 plus upwards, and this will add to the quality of the 3 miler on the Ballyclare course which may well be rather more testing than back in November. Many of the top females will be capable of challenging most of the male masters but the individual winner will definitely come from the O35/ O40 males in what will be a huge field.
The featured race is the 4 mile Malcolm Cup and the Spartans took the team honours last year from their city rivals.
Both clubs should have strong squads travelling with the red vests looking to retain their title and the Valley boys keen to do well with maximising the League points perhaps their emphasis.
If Scott Rankin, Chris McGuinness, Keith Shields and Pius McIntyre line up the purple vests can go well in the team stakes and the Spartans will look to Allan Bogle, Emmett McGinty, Noel logan, Michael Murphy, Kyle Doherty, Gary Slevin and Dermot McElhinney among others to make an impression.
Top M45 Colin Roberts makes his first appearance of the season and hopefully well clear of his niggling injury problems will be a man to watch!