Irish team set for Euro cross challenge
Ireland looking for strong showing
The Irish team will be looking for a strong showing at the 25th edition of the SPAR European Cross Country Championships taking place in Tilburg on Sunday (December 9th).
Tilburg has already played host to the European Cross Country Championships back in 2005 but the venue will be different this time around. This year’s event will take place on a challenging course at the Beekse Bergen Safari Park, situated just to the south-east of Tilburg.
U20 teams get action underway
The U20 women have a strong team, individually and collectively, led by Sarah Healy (Blackrock) but this level of competition is tough with big depth in this category. Great Britain are historically strong in this event and will be looking to prove that once more in Tilburg. The Irish have good depth and experience with Emma O’Brien (Sli Cualann), Jodie McCann (DCH), Laura Nicholson (Bandon) and Stephanie Cotter (West Muskerry), who came 11th last week for Adams State at the NCAA Division II cross country, all having run this event previously. Sophie O’Sullivan (Ballymore Cobh) makes her debut but has good credentials too having won European U18 silver over 800m last summer.
With three to score it should make for good competition. The team finished 7th last year and will be aiming for a significant improvement.
Norway’s wunderkind Jakob Ingebrigtsen is looking for a hat-trick of titles in the U20 men’s race and is sure to grab the main media headlines. That won’t stop the Irish team led by Darragh McElhinney (Bantry) to put in a good performance. The team were 10th last year.
U23 teams return to the fold
There were no U23 teams last year so it is a welcome addition to see teams competing in Tilburg. Eilish Flanagan (Carmen) was second for Adams State in the NCAA division II cross country with her twin sister Roisin also on the team. Siobhra O’Flaherty has been added to the U23 team after a positive NCAA season with George Mason University and adds depth to the squad. They will be looking to help put in a solid team performance.
Ryan Forsyth (Newcastle) was 11 in the NCAA division 1 cross country championships and will be looking to replicate that form which would see him finish in the top ten individually. Brian Fay (Raheny Shamrock) won the national U23 title, finishing fourth overall, and will be looking to combine with the rest of his teammates for a strong team showing.
The senior women have carried the flag for the last number of years winning team gold and two bronzes since 2012. Of course there is no forgetting Fionnuala McCormack’s (Kilcoole) back-to-back victories in 2011 and 2012. This year’s team has plenty of experience with Annmarie McGlynn (Letterkenny), Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle), Michelle Finn (Leevale) and Sara Treacy (Dunboyne) having been on at least one of those medal-winning teams. Add in Ciara Mageean (UCD) and Fionnuala Ross (Armagh) who have been running well this year.
It will be tough to medal this year but they will be looking to improve on their 7th place finish last year.
The senior men finished 5th last year and to replicate that would be a fine achievement. Of course a podium finish would be even sweeter but with Turkey, Great Britain and Norway, who will have Henrik and Filip Ingebrigtsen, it will be a hard ask. Kevin Dooney (Raheny Shamrock) who won an exciting battle for the national title will be hoping to continue that good form. Clonmel’s Sean Tobin and Kevin Maunsell will be aiming to score on the team once more having finished 15th and 24th last year. Mick Clohisey (Raheny Shamrock), Stephen Scullion (Clonliffe Harriers) and Kevin Batt (DSD) will also be vying to be scoring members.
Mixed Relay team debut
This is the second year of the mixed relay with Ireland making their debut appearance with Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (DSD), Claire Tarplee (St Coca’s), Paul Robinson (St Coca’s) and John Travers (Donore Harriers) on the team. It is a talented quarter and they will be looking to put themselves in contention in the new event.
Action will be on RTE 2 from 12pm with all the action also streamed on European Athletics http://www.european-athletics.org/index.html
Stats and event info
Tot. Number of countries 38
Tot. Number of athletes 616
Tot. Number of Men 333
Tot. Number of Women 283
U20 Women Race 9:45
U20 Men Race 10:05
U23 Women race 10:35
U23 Men race 11:05
Senior Women Race 12:35
Senior Men race 13:10
Mixed Relay 13:55
Please click HERE for the full squad.
European Cross-Country Championships medal history
1994 Senior Catherina McKiernan GOLD 14.29
1998 Junior Gareth Turnbull BRONZE 16.55 2006
U23 Fionnuala Britton SILVER 18.56 2011
Senior Fionnuala Britton GOLD 25.55 2012
Senior Fionnuala Britton GOLD 27.45
1999 Junior Team BRONZE 43 pts Gary Murray 8th, Brian Keane 15th, Mark Smyth 20th, Joe McAlister 75th, Robert Connolly 94th
2000 Senior Team BRONZE 72 pts Peter Matthews 10th, Seamus Power 14th, Gareth Turnbull 23rd, Keith Kelly 25th, Ken Nason 55th, Fiachra Lombard 67th
2003 Senior Team SILVER 78 pts Sonia O’Sullivan 4th, Rosemary Ryan 13th, Ann Keenan Buckley 27th, Catherina McKiernan 34th, Marie Davenport 52nd
2004 Junior Team SILVER 54pts Mark Christie 5th, Andrew Ledwith 7th, Danny Darcy 11th, Jamie McCarthy 31st, Joe Sweeney 44th, Mark Hanrahan 56th
2010 U23 Team GOLD 60pts David McCarthy 11th, Brendan O’Neill 13th, Michael Mulhare 16th, David Rooney 20th (25th), John Coghlan 34th, Ciarán Ó Lionáird 76th
2012 Senior Team GOLD 52 pts Fionnuala Britton 1st Linda Byrne 8th, Ava Hutchinson 20th, Lizzie Lee 23rd, Sarah McCormack 36th, Sara Treacy 42nd
2014 Senior Team BRONZE 87 pts Fionnuala Britton 6th, Sara Treacy 12th, Michelle Finn 23rd, Ann Marie McGlynn 46th, Siobhan O’Doherty 47th, Laura Crowe 53rd
2015 Senior Team BRONZE 83 pts Fionnuala McCormack (nee Britton) 4th, Lizzie Lee 13th, Caroline Crowley 23rd, Ciara Durkan 43rd, Michelle Finn 54th, Kerry O’Flaherty 55th