Athletics

Youth on the rise in Cross-Country Championships

St Malachy's Paddy Robb 
Inside Track with Malcolm McCausland

YOUTH may have its day at the Northern Ireland & Ulster Novice Cross-Country Championships in Stranorlar on Sunday.

The meeting also features the second part of the provincial juvenile championships with the uneven age groups down for decision on this occasion.

There is a surprisingly only an entry of 92 runners for the men’s race with the hosts Finn Valley providing 21 of those. St Malachy’s Paddy Robb looks capable of lifting the individual title after impressing at the NI Road Relays a month ago.

Robb, seventh in the World Schools’ in 2014, has had his injury problems but should mount a strong challenge on a course that is a mixture of playing fields and rough pasture.

However, he will have to be on his mettle should Conal McCambridge produce his best form. The North Belfast Harrier is reigning Ulster Schools Senior champion and already has shown he is in good form over the country with a solid 25th placing in the Bobby Rea. Home hopes rest on the shoulders of Mark McPaul who impressed when winning the Donegal Novice last month.

A youthful St. Malachy’s AC squad, coached by Joe McAlister, looks capable of lifting the team gold medals at the expense of Finn Valley who packed their four scorers into the top five places when McPaul led them to the Donegal Novice title. The Acorns club from Magherafelt field an experienced squad led by Darrell McKee but youth should have its day.

Finn Valley’s Stacy Dolan ran well to take a medal in the Donegal Novice. On that day she seemed to start too fast and if she can curb that on Sunday, she could find herself on the podium again. Derry Track Club’s DCU student Hannah McGowan, who has been running well in Dublin, should also have a say in the destination of the individual gold as could Acorns’ Natalie Hall.

Disappointingly the Letterkenny squad who swept all before them in Donegal will not grace the women’s Novice field after apparently missing the entry deadline. Fifty-two entries have been received with only five clubs declaring full teams.

Entries for the second part of the juvenile championships are down on that for the Jordanstown where the even age groups were decided two weeks ago. City of Derry’s Cara Laverty looks like adding the U13 title after taking the U14 crown impressively at the UUJ playing fields.

Laverty’s club mate Fintan Stewart, a bronze medallist in the U18 race two weeks ago, drops down to the U17 race on this occasion. In contrast Omagh’s Seán Corry and Niamh Heaney move up to the U17 age group with the aim of completing doubles after victories at Jordanstown in the U16 category.

Glaslough’s fast-finishing Amy Hamill locks horns again with Enniskillen’s Edel Monaghan in the girls U19 race after the pair finished first and second respectively in the U18 two weeks ago.

 

TWO of the North’s top roadrunners are already confirmed entries for the 34th Podium 4 Sport Seeley 10K at Ormeau Park on November 28.

Paddy Hamilton cleaned up on the province’s roads over the summer and autumn while 2014 Commonwealth Games representative Gladys Ganiel O’Neill is slowly edging her way back to peak fitness after the birth of her first child.

Paddy Hamilton has been the leading figures on the roads this year. He won 10K races in Dundalk, Derry and Craigavon before finishing third in the Belfast City Half Marathon behind two Kenyans, Gideon Kimosop and Daniel Tanui. He opened the cross country season in equally convincing fashion by winning the feature race at the Bobby Rea Cross Country two weeks ago.

The Slieve Gullion athlete has ambitions of making Ireland’s team for the European Cross Country and will have the trial at Santry Demesne in Dublin the week before the Seeley. That is unlikely to prevent the Newry-based physiotherapist from being on the start line in Ormeau Park.

In the absence of any other outstanding local competitor, Hamilton may have to look south for opposition.

Glady’s Ganiel O’Neill (Photo) is rapidly regaining her fitness since the birth of her son in May.

The Queen’s University academic lost little time in getting back into competitive action, taking runner-up spot in the Laganside 10k at the start of September. Since then she was credible fifth in the Belfast Half Marathon and turned in an encouraging 18:15 clocking at the Waterworks parkrun only last weekend.

O’Neill’s principal opposition could come from Rio-bound steeplechaser Kerry O’Flaherty, if she decides to compete, or Armagh duo Danielle Fegan and Fionnuala Ross. Fegan won the Laganside while Ross has been in cracking form in Scotland where she finished eighth at the Great Scottish Run Half Marathon in Glasgow last Sunday with a splendid 76:35 timing.

Anyone who enters before Tuesday, November 10 will get a personalised race number. As the spaces for the race are capped at 1000, it is advised that you get your entry in early to avoid disappointment. There will be no entries on the day and further race information can be found onwww.athleticsni.org/fixtures.

 

NORTH-WEST club Foyle Valley has gone into an early lead after two fixtures in the men’s section of the 2015/16 NI Cross Country League.

The purple vests won in Comber to kick off the season in the best possible fashion by gaining 28 points and added another 24 at Jordanstown despite losing out to arch rivals City of Derry Spartans.

Their 52 point total puts them six points clear of Newcastle with the Magherafelt-based Acorns club holding down third spot on the 38 point mark. North Down (32), North Belfast Harriers (31) and Ballydrain (29) complete the top six places ahead of the third fixture of nine in Ballyclare tomorrow.

The Foyle Valley women also top their division with 39 points but have both North Down and Ballydrain breathing down their necks both just three points back. Acorns (38), Orangegrove (30) and East Down are also well in contention.

The other league fixtures before Christmas are Malcolm Cup (December 5), Acorns Cross Country (December 12) and Northwest Cross Country (December 19).

 

THE WEEK AHEAD
Saturday
9.30am:
 Parkrun - various venues (see www.parkrun.org.uk)
1.30pm: 81st McConnell Shield - Ballyclare

Sunday
11.30am:
 Ulster Novice and Juvenile Uneven Age Groups Cross Country Championships - Stranorlar

Wednesday
8pm:
 Run in the Dark - Stormont Estate

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