NI International Cross Country: 2020 event off because of fixture congestion

Steve Ovett was a regular competitor in Northern Ireland during his career
Steve Ovett won the Northern Ireland Cross Country event at Mallusk in 1978 and 1984

The Northern Ireland International Cross Country meeting will not take place next year.

Athletics Northern Ireland says it took the decision because of "significant international fixture congestion".

"We will be working hard to re-establish the event for 2021," said an Athletics Northern Ireland statement.

This year's meeting at the new venue in Dundonald included Home Countries, Celtic International and the UK Cross Country Challenge Series events.

The Athletics Northern Ireland statement added that it had taken the decision to cancel the event scheduled for 18 January "with great regret".

Athletics NI said this year's event at the Billy Neill Centre of Excellence had "proved to be extremely successful".

"However next year it will be Scotland's turn to host these [other] events and this will be on Saturday 11 January.

"It would not be realistic to expect the various home countries to send similar teams to Dundonald the following weekend and the event would simply not be viable without the support of these countries.

"The international calendar is such that an alternative date later in the season is also not viable."

Steve Ovett, Paula Radcliffe, Catherina McKiernan and a host of Kenyan stars including John Ngugi and Ismael Kirui are among the big names to have competed at the Northern Ireland meeting since it began in 1977.

Apart from 1979, the event has taken place in every subsequent year with the women's race beginning in 1986.

Mallusk playing fields staged the event until the mid-1990s with subsequent meetings taking place at Barnett's Demesne, Stormont, Greenmount and this year's venue in Dundonald.