This weekend will see five Laois athletes representing Ireland when they compete in the 2022 British and Irish Junior Mountain Running Championships.
The event will also incorporate the Home Countries International and takes place in Cumbria, England on Saturday.
This junior event comprises two age-groups, U-17 and U-20 and Ireland has four teams competing – Girls U-17 and U-20 and Boys U-17 and U-20.
Remarkably, the four teams of four athletes each, have five Laois athletes among the 16 participants.
Della McLoughlin and Ruairi Jago (both Oughaval AC) are on the U-17 teams, and Niamh McDonald (Ballyroan Abbeyleix), Kate Connolly (St Michaels AC) and Cillian Moran (Portlaoise AC) are on the U-20 teams.
The teams depart Dublin Port on Friday morning, along with families and well-wishers.
The Cumbria course will be a stiff test. The U-17s run 2.4km up the mountain side, climbing 250m in the process, and then descend at breakneck speed back to the start/finish line.
Underfoot conditions will be challenging, plenty of rough ground, rocks and brambles. The U-20s do a broadly similar course, but travel an extra 500m out, and climb to 300m.
Owen Connolly (St Michaels AC), the Ireland team manager, is very pleased to have five athletes from the county taking part.
Since the teams were selected at the Irish trials, he has been busy with training schedules and trips to Ticknock and Glendalough, and he has these athletes well prepared for the event.
Meanwhile, the incredible Martin McDonald will compete in the Masters Mountain Running World Championships, which are being held in Clonmel.
Indeed it will be a proud weekend for the McDonald family of Ballyroan with father and daughter (Niamh on the U-20 team) pulling on the Irish singlet.
Martin has had plenty of success in this event in the past number of years claiming three individual medals.
In 2017 Martin secured individual silver in Slovakia in this competitive event while in Wales in 2015 Martin finished 2nd also.
In 2014 in Austria, Martin secured a bronze medal and has also won many team medals at this event over the years. Although Martin has been trying his best to get back from injury he hopes to be fully fit on the day.
This is the first time the World Mountain Running Championships will be hosted in Ireland.
SEE ALSO – 11 clubs represented on our latest Premier Intermediate and Intermediate hurling team of the week