Conor and Jessica lead NI challenge at Stirling meeting
City of Derry's Conor Bradley and North Down's Jessica Craig will lead a 32-strong Northern Ireland squad in today's Celtic Cross Country and Home International at Stirling in Scotland.
The meeting will be a baptism of fire for the male and female age group athletes who will be facing some of the cream of UK cross country runners.
Things will be no easier in the senior event where the four-man NI team will be racing athletes such as GB Olympian Andrew Butchart who finished fifth in the recent European Cross Country in Lisbon.
In Lisbon, Conor Bradley was second Irish finisher and he will be aiming to continue his impressive season in Stirling. The 32-year-old has been the model of cross country consistency with a win in Dublin's Spar International plus a fourth place in the Dundonald International.
Conor should be ably supported by NI Intermediate champion Zak Hanna who excelled last year in his mountain racing specialism. The team is completed by Springwell's Neil Johnston - who won the Greencastle five miles on Boxing Day - plus former Irish international Conor Duffy of Glaslough .
Like Bradley, North Down's Jessica Craig is on a high this season with a personal best in the Joe Seeley 10k where she was third in 35 minutes 11 seconds, plus a sixth place in the Scottish Cross Country Championships.
Armagh's Fionnuala Ross was a member of the silver medal winning Irish Senior team in Lisbon and the Scottish 10k road champion will be hoping to emulate her excellent third place finish at Dundonald.
The squad also includes Sale's Danielle Fegan who recently won the Great Manchester championship. The team is completed by North Down's Katie Moore who was 13th at Dundonald.
The women's U23 race includes Comber Cross Country winner Rebekah Nixon of Dromore.