NI International Cross Country: Bahrain's Balew and Ethiopia's Mamo earn wins

Birhanu Balew won the 5,000m at last year's Asian Games
Birhanu Balew finished four seconds ahead of Kenya's Richard Yator as African-born athletes occupied the top four places in the men's race

African-born athletes dominated the IAAF Northern Ireland Cross Country event as Bahrain's Birhanu Balew and Ethiopia's Meskerem Mamo took the wins.

Ethiopian-born Balew, 22, finished four seconds ahead of Kenya's Richard Yator as he won in 29 minutes and 42 seconds.

Another Ethiopian Chala Beyo took third with Kenya's Olympic 10,000m silver medallist Paul Tanui in fourth.

Mamo, 19, held off compatriot Hawi Feysa to win the women's event with Ireland's Fionnuala McCormack sixth.

Twice event winner McCormack, making her return to action after giving birth for the first time in October, finished one minute and 14 seconds behind Mamo.

Kent athlete Emily Hosker Thornhill, 26, was the leading UK and Irish women's finisher in fifth - four seconds ahead of McCormack.

In the women's race, Mamo and Feysa and pre-race favourite Kenya's Pauline Kamulu broke away from the main body of the field before half distance.

The trio remained together starting the final lap but Kamulu, the world's fastest women over 10,000m on the track in 2018, was unable to keep pace with the two Ethiopians in the closing stages.

Mamo, the world's top junior over 3,000m and 5,000m in 2018, had a metre to spare over her compatriot at the finish although they were both credited with the same time of 29:10 - with Kamulu three seconds back.

England's Kate Avery finished five seconds behind McCormack in seventh with Scotland's Mhairi MacLennan and other English athletes Claire Duck and Gemma Steel rounding off the top 10.

McCormack content with performance

Twice European Cross Country champion McCormack was content with her performance.

"In the first half of the race, I was a little bit scared but the second half was a bit more enjoyable," said McCormack, who won the Northern Ireland event in 2012 and 2013.

"It was nice to come back to a real cross country race with hills and muck and nice enough weather as well."

Leicestershire man Sam Stabler was the top British and Irish finisher in the men's event as he placed fifth - 51 seconds behind winner Balew.

Welshman Charlie Hulson was a further 10 seconds back in sixth with English quartet Alex Teuten, Jack Gray, Phil Norman and Adam Hickey also finishing in the top 10.

Balew won the 5,000m title at last year's Asian Games and set his personal best of 13:01.09 over the distance when winning at the Lausanne Diamond League meeting last July.

Saturday's Northern Ireland event was held in Dundonald, on the outskirts of Belfast, after moving from previous venue Greenmount.