Two weeks after the sun-soaked firm playing fields of Dundonald, those athletes disembarking from their transport on the banks of the river Finn on Saturday morning would soon have realised they were about to experience the other, more typical side of cross-country, as wind and rain swept across the muddy fields surrounding the excellent Finn Valley Centre, where the second weekend of Ulster/NI age group cross-country action was held.

From a local viewpoint, St. Michael’s had another excellent day, winning the U-15 title with Sean Corry taking individual silver, and pushing a very highly rated City of Derry Spartans all the way in the U-17 event.

The blue vests dominated the leading pack from the start of the U-15 3000m, with Corry, Conor Mulligan, Tiarnan McManus and Charlie Reihill always in the front group, and as the gaps started to develop on the second circuit of the heavy course, it was double All Ireland track champion Keelan McFadden, of Cranford AC, who pulled away to win in fine style, with Sean Corry finishing strongly to take silver.

Behind him Mulligan also finished well to take fifth, with McManus having his best race, to date, in seventh and a tiring Reihill completing the scoring four in 11th, meaning four St. Michael’s athletes will represent Ulster in Kilkenny on December 5.

U-16 silver medalist Frank Buchanan backed up that performance with an excellent fifth place in the U-17 race, just ahead of U-16 champion Oisin McGloin, and with excellent packing from Cillian Sprice 21st, Patrick Sprice 23rd and the rapidly improving Daniel Curran 24th, the Enniskillen team just missed gold by three points, with the title going to City of Derry Spartans.

A very young St. Michael’s U-13 team finished fifth with Michael McGowan, Cormac Ratchford and Daithi McLaughlin their top finishers.

Deivs Tarvids of ERC was the first local athlete home in the U-13 section.

Clones AC took team bronze behind a very strong Finn Valley squad, led by U-12 champion Piaris Toner 8th, and Donnacha Quigley 10th.

Megan Mullally of ERC was leading local in the U-13 girls race while in the U-11s Kate Kelly had a very good run in seventh, while Nadine McIntyre just missed an All Ireland place in the U-15 race.

In the final age group race of the day, the U-19 6,000m, Oisin Cassidy never really recovered from losing a spike on lap one of four, eventually finishing 14th.

The leading teams and individuals now head to Gowran Park in Kilkenny for the National finals in three weeks’ time.