Cross country reigns supreme this weekend with local runners set to see action in Ballyclare, Dungarvan and on home turf today Friday, its the 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 12 noon 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 today, 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 XC League table and will be keen to defend that lead tomorrow.
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 tomorrow. Aileen Morrison 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!
LOCALS IN THE FRAME IN BALLYCLARE AND DUNGARVAN
A provincial team gold medal for Fintan Stewart on Sunday at the National Uneven Age Group cross country championships in Dungarvan plus impressive podium places for Aileen Morrison and Catherine Whoriskey and the Foyle Valley men’s squad on Saturday in the Malcolm Cup cross country meeting in wet and windy Ballyclare, were the weekend athletics highlights.
In a hotly contested Boys U17 race in Dungarvan, Fintan Stewart finished an impressive fifth, third Ulster man home behind winner Chris McMeechan ,North Down and runner up Eoin McCann, St Malachys and was a key member of the gold medal winning Ulster squad which comfortably saw off the Leinster, Munster, Connaught and Dublin squads.
The talented City of Derry Spartan compensated for his below par effort a few weeks earlier at the U18 championships in Dublin and was happy to make the top six in a high quality race. He was joined in the victorious Ulster sextet by Letterkenny’s Donal Farren who finished a good 15th in the massive field.
In the U13 Girls race Cara Laverty led the Ulster challenge, the reigning Ulster champion finishing an excellent eight in a 151 strong field. Unfortunately her provincial team mates were too much off the pace for the front running Spartan and the “red hands ” finished out of the medals.
Both local clubs also impressed in Ballyclare on Saturday, Foyle Valley and City of Derry battling to a very close one, two in the Malcolm Cup team race, Valley’s Roy McGilloway impressed by taking the Mens U20 trophy with a fine run and in the supporting Women’s race Spartans, Aileen Morrison and Catherine Whoriskey romped home well ahead of the big field, with the in form Gerry Lynch notching up another M70 win in the Male Masters despite losing one of his shoes in the final lap.
FOYLE VALLEY WIN CITY BATTLE FOR MALCOLM CUP
Allan Bogle as ever was prominent in the 4 mile Malcolm Cup race and the Spartan led home the local finishers in 5th place losing out to the speedsters in the long finish straight as another hill running exponent Seamus Lynch of Newcastle took the individual victory. Scott Rankin was 6th with a strong effort and backed up by Adrian McGowan 14th, U20 winner Roy McGilloway 16th and Galliagh Gallop winner Martin Gallagher 17th, the purple vests edged out the Spartans 53 points to 54 points to relieve their city rivals of the Malcolm Cup trophy.
Chris McPeake with a steady run for 12th, Noel Logan 18th and Colin Roberts, on the comeback trail 19th, completed the scoring Spartans quartet which fell short by a single point and in an extremely tight team race, had just a single point themselves to spare over third placers North Belfast Harriers 55 points. Tight margins indeed and congratulations to the Valley boys who dug deep for the win which also consolidated their lead at the top of the ANI XC League in the process.
MORRISON AND WHORISKEY DOMINATE WOMENS 3 MILER
World ranked triathlete Aileen Morrison made her season’s debut on the country in Ballyclare and the mud, wind and rain proved no obstacle as she ran to an impressive win in the 3 mile race with her City of Derry team mate Catherine Whoriskey chasing her all the way to the finish line with yet another big run. There was only three seconds between them at the line and it was another 32 seconds back to third placer Rebecca Henderson of Dromore AC.
Pity the red vests had no other female runners as the three to score team award was obviously there for the taking , Dromore, Newcastle and Lagan Valley claiming the podium positions. Martina McMullan led the Foyle Valley squad in seventh and was and second F45 finisher with the Valley team maintaining their League challenge by looking set to pick up valuable points , the unofficial results indicating in the League format, four to score, they could be third team on the day behind Newcastle and Lagan Valley.