NI trio facing a difficult task to enjoy success at Euro Indoor Championships
Northern Ireland athletes Ciara Mageean, Kerry O'Flaherty and Ben Reynolds face fierce opposition in their heats in today's European Indoor Athletics Championships in Belgrade.
Portaferry's Mageean has the best chance of a medal from the small 10-person Irish squad but will need to be at her best after a relatively low-key indoor season.
Last year's European outdoor 1,500m bronze medallist has an indoor season's best time this year of four minutes, 12.46 seconds which just places her within the top 12 in Belgrade.
She is well capable of beating her indoors best time of four minutes, 8.66 seconds but this may not be enough in what is sure to be a classy final with GB's record-breaking Laura Muir in the field.
O'Flaherty, the 35-year-old from Newcastle, will also be competing over 1,500m in her first ever European Indoors series. The Rio Olympics steeplechaser is running better than ever following a recent PB of 4.14.63.
North Down's Reynolds will be trying to beat his high hurdles PB time of 7.73 seconds. His opposition includes GB's Andy Pozzi, who is favourite for gold.
Meanwhile, large fields will contest this weekend's NI and Ulster Senior Cross Country Championships at Lurgan Park.
There was a major upset in last year's Men's 12km event when Madrid-based teacher Aaron Doherty took the spoils on behalf of City of Derry Spartans. Doherty is back to defend his title but will need to be in peak form to defeat several locally-based athletes, particularly Newcastle's Seamus Lynch.
Predicting a winner in the Women's 6km event is a lottery. Last year's runner-up Gerri Short of Beechmount will race again and will face strong opposition from the likes of Rio marathon runner Breege Connolly and Commonwealth Games athlete Gladys Ganiel.