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Dublin: 2°C Thursday 21 January 2021
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Disappointment for record-breaker McCormack but Ireland's men warm to the task

Overall, it was a good day for Ireland’s athletes at the European Cross Country Championships.

McCormack finished 12th overall.
McCormack finished 12th overall.
Image: Sasa Pahic Szabo/INPHO

FIONNUALA MCCORMACK’S RECORD-BREAKING appearance at the European Cross Country Championships ended in disappointment as she finished well off the pace in the senior women’s race.

The Wicklow native had not finished outside the top six in the event since 2011, a run which included back-to-back victories in 2011 and 2012, but was unable to replicate that level of performance and had to settle for a 12th-place finish over the 8km course.

“Obviously I would have liked to have finished higher but I will be back and hope to get back in the mix,” she said afterwards.

“I just couldn’t get into it today at the top even though I gave my best throughout.”

In incredibly cold conditions in Samorin, Slovakia, the title was once again won by Kenyan-born Turkish athlete Yasemin Can as she dominated the field in a time of 26:48.

McCormack crossed the line exactly a minute behind Can.

The highlight of the day from an Irish point of view, however, was the performance of the senior men’s team as they finished a very credible fifth place overall.

With three to score, Sean Tobin, Hugh Armstrong and Kevin Maunsell all performed brilliantly as they came in 15th, 19th and 24th respectively over the 10km distance.

“It was a great team effort,” said Tobin afterwards with Paul Pollock (48th), Kevin Dooney (51st) and John Travers (72nd) completing the Irish representation.

Sean Tobin, Hugh Armstrong and Kevin Maunsell celebrate after their team finished in fifth place Sean Tobin, Hugh Armstrong and Kevin Maunsell celebrate after their team finished in fifth place. Source: Sasa Pahic Szabo/INPHO

It was a tremendous performance by the men with the three scoring athletes all making their senior debuts — Tobin and Armstrong are just 23 with Maunsell an ageless 36.

The senior women, meanwhile, finished seventh with Shona Heaslip (33rd) and Kerry O’Flaherty (37th) rounding out the scores behind McCormack.

Michelle Finn (40th), Fionnuala Ross (47th) and Lizzie Lee (49th) all finished strongly.

“I’m really pleased with the performances,” high performance director Paul McNamara said.

Earlier in the day, Sophie Murphy (DSD) finished 10th in the U20 women’s 4km race and led the team to 7th overall out of 20 teams.

“There were some heroic performances out there starting with Sophie Murphy and then right through to the senior men who were magnificent,” McNamara added.

“We have a strong tradition in cross country and for a country of our size we performed at a very high level.”

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