McCormack returns to first love at National cross


McCormack returns to first love at national cross

Fionnuala McCormack (Kilcoole) will return to her ‘first love’ this weekend as Ireland’s best cross-country runners descend upon the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus for national glory and European selection at the Irish Life Health National Senior and Juvenile Even Age Championships on Sunday (November 24).

This year is arguably the most open yet for podium and team places with regular front-runners still in the mix.

Fionnuala McCormack spoke to The Irish Times earlier this week and admitted she couldn’t resist the allure of the cross country after qualifying for her fourth Olympics in the marathon in Chicago.  

“That allure of it, I couldn’t resist,” she said this week. “I have always loved cross country, so I would say I am still motivated by what was my first love in the sport. It’s exciting to be able to go out and compete on an undulating, mucky, tough, ‘level playing field’ where times and shoe technology don’t have an impact and it comes down to the purest element of our sport, racing!”

Between the now combined Inter-club and Inter-county events, she’s already won eight senior cross-country titles, the most recent in 2015, and since then she’s been more focused on the marathon, while also taking out most of 2018 to give birth to daughter Isla, with her husband and now coach Alan McCormack.

You can read the full article HERE

Individual and team titles will be highly sought after as will places on the plane to Lisbon for the European Cross Country Championships on December 8th.

The action will get underway with the U12 girls at 11:30 am (full timetable HERE) building to a crescendo with senior women’s 8,000m and senior men’s 10,000m at 13:45 and 14:25 respectively.

McCormack looks for first title since 2015

Fionnuala McCormack will start, expectedly, as favourite but may face a challenge from Michelle Finn (Leevale) who has been in good form of late.

Finn will be hoping to help the Leevale women’s team to success also but the team are not as strong as last year which makes the team competition more open.

There are some absentees from last year including Ciara Mageean (City of Lisburn) and Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle) but this increases the opportunity for other runners to get into the mix.

The first two finishing senior athletes (male/female) at the National Cross Country Championships will gain automatic selection for the European Cross Country Championships in Lisbon, Portugal (December 8th). European selection policy is HERE

The course looks set to be soft underfoot with long spikes at the ready due to the heavy rain this week. It should make it an exciting spectacle for cross country aficionados.

Leevale, Letterkenny and North Down filled the top three women’s teams last year. What teams can break new ground this year?

Sorcha McAlister (Westport) won the U23 race last year – only the winner (female and male) is guaranteed selection to the U23 team.

Clonliffe aim to crack Raheny’s stranglehold on men’s team title

Raheny Shamrock have dominated the men’s team title in recent years and have won the last three years running.

It could be different this year with some of Raheny’s lead runners injured or not in the same fitness. Also it is rumoured that Efrem Gidey will be stepping up to the senior race for Clonliffe Harriers to strengthen their chances.

Gidey is U20 but won the Dublin senior cross country title convincingly earlier this month which included his teammate Cathal Doyle who was second – he was 8th in the national seniors last year and ran on the Irish U23 team in the Euro cross. The you add in Colm Rooney, Ian Guiden and Sergiu Ciobanu amongst others.

Kevin Dooney led Raheny Shamrock to the team title last year with an emotional individual victory. Dooney is just returning to full training from injury and his brother, Conor, is out through injury. Mick Clohisey and Brian Fay, winner of the U23 category, will add strength to the Raheny challenge. Again the team title will come down to the fourth scorer.  

Sean Tobin (Clonmel) will be aiming to go one better than last year and win his first national senior cross country title. Clonmel’s team aren’t as strong as last year.

The U18 and Junior (U20) races are also combined with the first two finishing athletes gaining automatic selection.

Healy and McElhinney line-up to defend U20 titles

Sarah Healy (Blackrock) will aim to defend the U20 women’s 4,000m race with Jodie McCann (Dublin City Harriers) looking like one her main contenders for top spot. With many of last year’s runners stepping up an age, Danielle Donegan (Tullamore Harriers) may be another to contend for a leading position.

For the boys U18 and junior men’s 6,000m, the usual suspects will include: Darragh McElhinney (Bantry), Jamie Battle (Mullingar Harriers), Thomas McStay (Galway City Harriers) and Keelan Kilrehill (Moy Valley).

It promises to be an exciting day of action but be sure to bring your wellies and a change of socks.

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