Record entry as marathon aces target 10k titles
Marathon specialists Paddy Hamilton and Gladys Ganiel are gunning for Northern Ireland 10k road titles at Ormeau Park on Saturday.
Hamilton and Ganiel will compete in the Podium 4 Sport Seeley Cup 10k Championships – incorporating the NI titles – which have attracted a record 1,000 competitors (2.30pm start at Ormeau Embankment).
Last year's winner Paul Pollock and Annadale team mate Ryan McDermott will not be racing as they are representing Ireland in the European Cross Country Championships in two weeks.
This could clear the way for twice previous winner Hamilton to complete a hat trick of victories following his last win seven years ago. Much will depend on whether the 32-year-old Annadale man has fully recovered from his impressive inaugural marathon a month ago in Dublin where he finished fifth.
However Hamilton, who was second last year, knows that his main rival Eddie McGinley will have similar recovery issues. The 30-year-old was seventh in Dublin, over a minute behind Hamilton.
McGinley's best time over 10k is similar to Hamilton's but the latter has the pedigree over the years at Ormeau to start as favourite on Saturday.
These two should spearhead the Annadale team towards an amazing 28th title.
They will be supported by Owen Carleton, who was fourth last year, plus Andrew Agnew and Glen Phair who recorded a good time recently in Leeds.
Main opposition should come from North Belfast who include Alan O'Hara and Eamon White, fifth and sixth respectively last year.
Joe McAlister of St Malachy's, Armagh's Stephen Kerr and Letterkenny's Dermot Mooney should also feature strongly.
In the ladies event, North Belfast's Ganiel will be determined to go one better than last year's runner-up spot to Kerry Harty who is away at altitude training.
Ganiel is getting back to fitness after a lay-off following her Commonwealth Games marathon qualification time in Berlin two months ago.
Ganiel will however need to be very wary of Armagh's Fionnuala Ross.
The 23-year-old US-based athlete broke the NI 10,000m track record last April in California with a time of 35 mins 18 secs.
Ganiel should lead a North Belfast team victory which would include previous winner Cathy McCourt and Judi Graham.
Others who should feature in the final shake-up in the ladies race include Armagh's Danielle Fegan, Lisburn's Kelly Neely and North Down's Julie Balmer.