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Ireland's record-breaker McCormack ready for tilt at third European title

The 33-year-old leads the Irish medal hopes at the European Cross Country Championships next month.

FIONNUALA MCCORMACK’S BID to win a third European Cross Country Championship will see the 33-year-old Irish athlete break the record for the most appearances at the annual meet.

Fionnuala McCormack McCormack in action in Chia last year. Source: Sasa Pahic Szabo/INPHO

The Wicklow native, who became the first woman to successfully defend her European title in 2012, will again lead Irish medal hopes on what will be her 15th appearance at the Championships.

McCormack was absent from yesterday’s women’s senior cross country championships at the National Sports Campus, won by Shona Heaslip, but has today been selected as part of the 27-strong Irish team heading for Slovakia on 10 December.

The two-time former European champion has been slowly building towards a tilt at regaining the title she won in 2011 and 2012, having endured disappointed 12 months ago when she finished fifth in Sardinia behind Kenyan-born Turkish athletes Yasemin Can and Meryem Akda.

McCormack and Heaslip are joined on the senior women’s team by Kerry O’Flaherty, Michelle Finn, Lizzie Lee and Fionnuala Ross.

Rio Olympian Paul Pollock yesterday won the men’s national title and leads a strong team including Kevin Dooney, Hugh Armstrong, John Travers, Sean Tobin and Kevin Maunsell.

“The European Cross Country championships are of critical importance to Irish endurance running,” Athletics Ireland high performance director Paul McNamara said.

“We have an outstanding tradition at ‘Euro Cross’ and we are certainly looking to build on that in the 2017 edition of the event.

“Athletes have been selected based on their preparedness to compete with the best in Europe and this team travels intent on adding to recent successes.”

The 2017 European Cross Country Championships take place in Samorin with the U20 women’s race getting underway at 8am Irish time.

Irish team selection for 2017 European Cross Country Championships:

U20 Women

Laura Nicholson (Bandon A.C.), Stephanie Cotter (West Muskerry A.C.), Jodie McCann (Dundrum South Dublin A.C.), Fian Sweeney (Dublin City Harriers A.C.), Sophie Murphy (Dundrum South Dublin A.C.), Fiona Everard (Bandon A.C.)

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U20 Men

Craig McMeechan (North Down A.C.), Brian Fay (Raheny Shamrock A.C.), Charlie O’Donovan (Leevale A.C.), Fearghal Curtin (Youghal A.C.), James Edgar (City of Lisburn A.C.), Darragh McElhinney (Bantry A.C.)

U23 Women

Bethanie Murray (Dundrum South Dublin A.C.)

U23 Men

Tom O’Keeffe (Kilkenny City Harriers), Eoin Strutt (Raheny Shamrock A.C.)

Senior Women

Shona Heaslip (An Riocht A.C.), Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle & District A.C.), Michelle Finn (Leevale A.C.), Lizzie Lee (Leevale A.C.), Fionnuala Ross (Armagh A.C), Fionnuala McCormack (Kilcoole A.C.)

Senior Men

Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders A.C.), Kevin Dooney (Raheny Shamrock A.C.), Hugh Armstrong (Ballina A.C.), John Travers (Donore Harriers A.C.), Sean Tobin (Clonmel A.C.), Kevin Maunsell (Clonmel A.C.)

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