The curtain will come down on what has been a magical year for Irish athletics at this Sunday's European Cross Country Championships in Turin. Irish athletes have given fans the length and breadth of the country some fantastic memories across the year and they will hope to add some more to the collection this weekend.
Having won three medals at these championships on home soil in Abbotstown last year, and picked up an equal number of fourth placed finishes, hopes will be high in the Irish camp that they can take home silverware.
Darragh McElhinney looks to medal at European Cross Country Championships
Darragh McElhinney's performance in Dublin last year left fans captivated. The UCD AC athlete from Glengariff in Co. Cork won silver last time out and will be looking to medal once again this weekend. McElhinney competes in the U23 Men's race. The 22-year old recently won his first national senior Cross Country title and also won the Autumn Open in Abbotstown earlier this season. His fine individual performance proved crucial as Ireland won team gold twelve months ago. A couple of members of that team return to join him this year.
Keelan Kilrehill and Jamie Battle will be joined by Efrem Gidey, Shay McEvoy and Thomas McStay. Kilrehill was sixth in the race last year, while Gidey finished sixth in the final of the 10,000m at the European Championships in August. McEvoy currently studies in Tusla. The Kilkenny City Harrier finished 23rd at the NCAA Cross Country Championships last month. McStay was forced to withdraw from the race last year due to Covid. The Galway City Harrier may feel he has a point to prove.
Nick Griggs will be the Irishman to watch in the Junior Men's race. Griggs had a fantastic battle at the National Cross Country Championships in Downings with Dean Casey. Both athletes competed at the World U20 Championships in Colombia this summer. Callum Morgan also travelled to South America and he makes the team along with Jonas Stafford, Mark Hanrahan and Sean McGinley. Stafford is coached by Feidhlim Kelly of the Dublin Track Club. He finished third behind Griggs and Casey in Donegal. Having won team silver last year the Irish lads will be gunning for gold.
Great battle for the Irish U20 men's cross country title between @nickgriggs4321 and Dean Casey - with Griggs' speed again proving too much after Casey burnt everyone else to a crisp.
The team will be tough to stop at Euro XC. pic.twitter.com/0R9i1cGstU
— Cathal Dennehy (@Cathal_Dennehy) November 20, 2022
Both senior men's and senior women's teams finished fourth last year. The men's team is arguably in stronger shape than it was twelve months ago heading into the weekend. Brian Fay finished in the top ten individually in Dublin last year will be looking to improve on his performance. The Raheny athlete broke the Irish Indoor 5000m record last weekend. Fay also finished 13th in the recent NCAA Cross Country Championships. The University of Washington student went viral earlier this year after a superb finish in a 5000m race at the Bryan Clay Invitational. The commentator described his last lap as "one of the greatest" you'll ever see.
— FloTrack (@FloTrack) April 16, 2022
Fay is joined by former national senior champion Hiko Tonaso, Cormac Dalton, Barry Keane, Peter Lynch and Pierre Murchan. Murchan makes his senior debut for Ireland. Dalton, Keane and Lynch have all been based in the US in recent years.
European Cross Country Championships: Ireland women's team
The women's team has a couple of notable absences. Ciara Mageean withdrew during the week citing illness. They are also without Fionnuala McCormack who has opted not to focus on Cross Country this year. Michelle took the national title last year and she will lead the team. She will be joined by twin sisters Eilish and Roisín Flanagan, Ann-Marie McGlynn, Aoibhe Richardson and Mary Mulhare.
McGlynn finished fourth in the National Cross Country in Donegal producing a superb finish. The 42-year-old competed in the marathon at the European Championships this summer and finished second at the National Marathon Championships.
Mixed Relay team eye podium spot at European Cross Country Championships
The Mixed Relay team led last year's race on the National Sports Campus for a considerable time. They will feel confident that they can make the podium this year. Olympians Nadia Power and Andrew Coscoran will be accompanied by Luke McCann and Georgie Hartigan in the 4x1500m race. Power and Hartigan both ran strongly in a test event on the course three weeks ago.
Sarah Healy finished fifth last year in the U23 women's race and will be looking to build on that performance. She faces a tough task as all four athletes who finished ahead of her last year return. Joining them is last year's U20 champion Megan Keith from Britain. Healy won't lack confidence however following her national senior Cross Country victory in Donegal recently.
— Athletics Ireland (@irishathletics) November 20, 2022
Danielle Donegan, Laura Mooney, Aoife Ó'Cuill, Jodie McCann and Niamh O'Mahony will also race. Donegan, Ó'Cuill and McCann all ran in the race last year, while Laura Mooney competed in the Junior race. O'Mahony makes her debut. She currently studies in Providence.
Anika Thompson is the Irish one to watch in the junior women's race. Thompson who lives in Eugene, Oregon but who's family come from Cork won the national title last month in Donegal. The 19-year old won the race in style wearing a pair of Nike Vaporflys.
A young but exciting team comes behind her. Anna Gardiner, Roise Roberts, Jane Buckey, Hannah Kehoe and Fiona Hawkins all get the opportunity to don the green vest.
With so many medal chances it is worth keeping an eye on the action. The European Cross Country Championships can be viewed on RTÉ 2 (Senior Races) and on the RTÉ Player.
U20 Men Race (6000m) - 08:35am
U20 Women Race (4000m) - 09:03am
Mixed Relay (4 x 1500m) - 09:30am
U23 Men Race (8000m) - 10:30am
U23 Women Race (6000m) - 11:03am
Senior Women Race (8000m) - 11:33am
Senior Men Race (10.000m) - 12:10pm