Athletics

McCormack in fine form at Great Edinburgh Cross Country

Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack finished second at the great Edinburgh Cross Country in Edinburgh.
Malcolm McCausland

IRELAND'S Fionnuala McCormack opened the new year impressively with a fine second place finish at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country in Edinburgh.

The meeting incorporated a three-way match between Europe, the USA and hosts Britain in the rugged Holyrood Park.

McCormack, representing Europe after her recent fourth in the continental championships, finished just four seconds behind Britain’s Kate Avery after six kilometres of tough going over hill and dale.

The Kilcoole athlete saw it as a positive start to the year as she prepares for the Olympics later this year.

Although already qualified to run the marathon, according to sources close to her, McCormack may now be contemplating a drop down in distance to 10,000m for Rio.

Meantime the Wicklow woman will run the IAAF Antrim International Cross Country next weekend before returning her attentions to the roads with the World Half Marathon in Cardiff in March her next big goal.

Ireland’s other representative in the European women’s team, Lizzie Lee from Cork, also ran well to take ninth. This helped Europe to a decisive win over Britain and USA in the team competition.

Britain’s World and Olympic champion Mohamed Farah tasted a rare defeat in the men’s race over eight kilometres when he was unable to quicken on the home straight.

This allowed Garrett Heath to take his third victory in as many years at the meeting finishing two seconds ahead of Farah.

“I didn’t expect it [to win]. Mo is such a great runner. I just wanted to be out there and try to run with him and compete,” said Heath.

“I kept just waiting for Mo to kick past me in the homestretch as I could hear people shouting at him.”

There were two Irish athletes in the European selection for the Junior Men’s race. Ennis Track Club’s Kevin Mulcaire bounced back from his 25th place finish in the recent European Cross Country with an excellent second place finish.

Mulcaire, led large portions of the race before being beaten by Britain's Alex Yee. Mullingar Harrier Jack O'Leary also impressed with a sixth place finish.

Newcastle athlete Kerry O’Flaherty was one of the Irish quartet who took third spot in the 4 x 1K relay behind a strong Scottish squad anchored by middle distance sensation Laura Muir.

Ulster teams were involved in the Celtic Nations Cross Country in U17, U20 and U23 age groups. City of Lisburn's James Edgar produced an excellent performance to take the individual bronze medal in the U20 race.

That laid a firm foundation for the Ulster team; also including Eoin McCann, Craig McMeechan and Fintan Stewart; to a fine runner-up spot behind the Republic.

Meanwhile Michael Crawley took his second victory in the third race of the Sperrin Harriers Winter League at An Créagan near Greencastle on Saturday. Crawley won the opening race in Davagh Forest before finishing fourth at Lough Fea.

On this occasion he moved away from Martin Cox late in the race to consolidate his lead in the league standings. Julie Butler was the first woman home.

Keith Shiels held off a late challenge from teenager Matt Doherty to win yesterday’s Carrigans 5K in Donegal. Shiels clocked 15:52 to beat his younger rival by four seconds with John McCallion third in 16:03.

Amy McDaid was the first woman across the finish line in 20:46.

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