Teamwork and outstanding performances in the mud for Irish teams in Brussels. Lindie Naughton reports back.

Gold for the U20 men’s team, along with individual bronze for Nicholas Griggs and a fourth place for Fionnuala McCormack in the senior women’s race proved the highlights of the Irish performance at the 29th European Cross-Country Championships held in Brussels, Belgium on Sunday (December 10).

Griggs, of the Candour club in Belfast, ran a smart race to finish third with a time of 16 mins 24 secs for the 5km distance. Not too far behind were Niall Murphy of Ennis TC and Jonas Stafford of UCD AC who finished within a second of each other in ninth and tenth places. With 22 points, Ireland beat Great Britain for team gold by two points.

Photo: Michelle Sammet

By the time Fionnuala McCormack lined out for the women’s senior race which, for the first time, was 9km in distance, the track was a strength-sapping mud-bath. Despite having run an Olympic qualifying time at the Valencia Marathon a week earlier, she set off in typical dogged fashion.

By the second of five gruelling laps, she was never far behind the top three in the race, although the field was soon well stretched out as Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal of Norway headed for her third consecutive victory. Grøvdal finished in 33 mins 40 secs, well clear of former junior and U23 champion Nadia Battocletti of Italy who finished second in 34:25. Britain’s Abbie Donnelly was third in 34:42 and McCormack fourth in 35 minutes exactly.

It was an eighteenth Euro Cross race for McCormack, just one off the Ukrainian Serhiy Lebid’s record of nineteen. The Irish team finished eighth.

All the teams had a good showing

Best of the Irish in the men’s senior race, also over 9km, was current Irish champion Cormac Dalton of Mullingar Harriers. In finishing a fighting eighth in 30 mins 40 secs, Dalton took some notable scalps. Behind him came local hero and pre-race favourite Isaac Kimeli of Belgium 11th, Norway’s Henrik Ingebrigtsen 12th and Yemaneberhan Crippa of Italy 13th.

The Irish team, which was in third place heading out on the final 1500m lap, ended up fourth, with its medal hopes seriously damaged by the efforts of Ingebrigtsen who went from 20th to 12th in the later stages of the race. To the delight of the home crowd, Belgium took team gold.

In the women’s U20 race, Anna Gardiner of East Down AC ran a solid race to finish seventh in 19 mins 41 secs. Not too far behind in 12th place was Kirsty Maher of Moy Valley AC. The team, second at the halfway point of the 5km race, finished fifth.

Another top ten finish came in the women’s U23 7km race where Danielle Donegan of Tullamore Harriers finished a creditable eighth in a race dominated by Britain’s Megan Keith who recorded the most comprehensive victory of the day. Keith finished in 25:32, putting her 1 min 25 secs ahead of Finland’s Ilona Monomen who was second in 26:55. Donegan finished in a time of 27:24, with the Irish team 11th.

For the first time, men and women ran the same distance in all categories – 5km U20, 7km U23 and 9km senior. Turkey will host next year’s championships.

Local cross country

Dymphna Ryan of Dundrum AC in Co Tipperary and Niall Shanahan of An Bru AC were the winners of the women and men’s overall titles at the Munster Masters Cross-Country Championships, held at Ennis, Co Clare on Saturday (December 9)

In the women’s race, Ryan was a clear winner, clocking a time of 15 mins 46 secs for the 4km distance. Leevale AC’s Michelle Kenny was second in 16:12. In third place, Dee Grady, who finished in 16:49, was leading Ennis TC to W35 team victory.

Dundrum AC was second and Mooreabbey Milers third. Ennis TC, led by Ann Marie Connellan in fifth place overall, took the W50 title with Kilmurry Ibrickane North Clare a close second. Shanahan was chased hard by local athlete Rory Chesser in the men’s race. He finished in 23 mins 44s secs, with Chesser just seven seconds behind in 23.51. Third in 23:57 was Brian Murphy of Iveragh AC.

Ennis TC proved best of the teams ahead of An Ríocht AC and Killarney Valley AC. Mooreabbey Milers, led by Tom Blackburn in 22nd place overall, won the M50 title with An Ríocht second and Ennis TC third.

Age group winners were Carmel Crowley (Bandon AC) W55, Michelle O’Mahoney (Kilmurry Ibrickane North ClareAC AC) W60 and Marion O’Loughlin (Ennis TC) W65 of the women and Michael Harrington (Durrus AC) M50, Robert Purcell (Gneeveguilla AC) M55, Kevin Griffin (An Ríocht AC) M60, Willie O’Donoghue (Mooreabbey Milers) M65, Eugene Moynihan (Marian AC) M65 and Matt Alexander (Coolquill AC) M70.

North Belfast Harriers dominated the men’s races at the annual Irwin Speirs Memorial Cross-Country, held at the MUSA, Cookstown on Saturday (December 9), taking the top three places and the team award in the men’s four-mile race and also winning the M60 race.

Cathaoir Purvis in 26:42 was the winner of the senior and M35 race followed by team mates Philip Goss who was second and first M35 in 27:00, and John Black third and second M35 in 27:02. Armagh AC and Willowfield Harriers were second and third teams. Winning the shorter M60 race (three miles) was David Clarke in 22:12. Second and first M65 was Norman Mawhinney of Scrabo Striders in 23.44. First M70 was Terry Eakin of North Down AC in 26:54.

Tanya Cummings of Newcastle and District AC was the winner of the women’s three-mile race in 22 mins 11 secs. Odeta Sidlauskaite of Willowfield Harriers was second and first W35 in 22:41 and Natalie Hall of Annadale Striders third and first W40 in 22:59. In a closely fought team competition, St Peter’s AC beat Tafelta AC on count-back.


Efrem Gidey of Clonliffe Harriers was in Paris on Sunday (December 10) where he led home 8,624 finishers at the 10km de la Tour Eiffel with a winning time of 28 mins 52 secs. His time put him 23 seconds clear of the chasers led by Moroccan athlete Mohamed el Talhaoui in 29:15. Conditions were wet and windy.

At the Telford 10km in Shropshire on Sunday (December 10), Conor Bradley of City of Derry Spartans finished tenth and first M35 in 29 mins 19 secs. Three other Irish athletes broke the half hour. Thomas Moran of Dunshaughlin AC/Sale Harriers finished in a time of 29:36, Eskander Turki of Annadale Striders in 29:47 and Finn McNally of North Belfast Harriers in 29:48.

Locally, Niall O’Callaghan of West Limerick AC won the Santa Dash 5km, at Lough Boora, Co Offaly, which was one of several seasonal races held over the weekend. His time was 15 mins 49 secs. Fifth and first woman in 18:06 was Emily Grennan of Tullamore Harriers.