Armagh Road Races: Strong fields at Mall event as Stabler defends men's title

Emma Mitchell will face high class British opposition in the women's race in Armagh
Emma Mitchell is using the Armagh event as preparation for her marathon debut in London in April

Sam Stabler will defend his men's title at Thursday's Armagh International Road Races which will also feature a strong women's field.

Leicester man Stabler will again face compatriot Charlie Hulson after beating the 2017 winner by a second last year.

British stars Steph Twell, Kate Avery, Jess Judd, Alex Bell and Claire Duck will be in a women's entry which includes top local Emma Mitchell.

Banbridge women Mitchell is using the race in her London Marathon build-up.

With Mitchell focusing on endurance preparations for her marathon debut in April, it remains to be seen whether she will have the speed to be involved at the head of affairs in the women's 3km race around the Mall on Thursday night.

Mitchell's main preparation event ahead of London will be the Lisbon Half Marathon on 17 March.

Scottish-based Armagh athlete Fionnula Ross will also be among the home challengers in Armagh with Rio Olympian Breege Connolly, North Down's Jessica Craig and Springwell Running Club's Ciara Toner also down to compete for the Northern Ireland team.

Commonwealth Games steeplechaser Adam Kirk Smith is part of the Northern Ireland's men squad which also includes Neil Johnston, Ben Branagh, Conor Duffy and James Edgar.

However, the Northern Ireland men will be doing well to keep pace with Stabler, Hulson and several other British competitors in the men's 5km race.

Jonny Mellor, Kieran Clements, Phil Sesemann, Luke Traynor and Richard Allen will also be part of the British challenge while in addition, the USA's Matt McClintock, Poland's Krystian Zalewski and Belgian Yannick Michiels are in the field.

The women's race is scheduled to start at 20:10 GMT with the men's international race under way at 20:30.

Prior to the main events, there will be a programme of children's races starting at 18:30 while the evening will be rounded off by an open men's 3km event at 20:55.