Fionnuala McCormack claims fifth at European Cross Country Championships

Fionnuala McCormack was disappointed with fifth on her 14th appearance at the European Cross Country Championships
Fionnuala McCormack was disappointed with fifth on her 14th appearance at the European Cross Country Championships

Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack was a fighting fifth on her record 14th appearance at the European Cross Country Championships in Chia, Italy yesterday.

McCormack was bidding for a record third European cross country title but was no match for the outstanding duo of Yasemin Can and Meryem Akda, who claimed the gold and silver medals after leading from the gun.

The Wicklow woman led the chasing pack for most of the eight-kilometre distance before losing out on the final podium spot to Norway’s Karoline Grovdal, while Romania’s Ancuta Bobacel pipped her for fourth by a mere second.

“This championship means so much to me,” said a disappointed McCormack, who has made the most appearances by a woman at these championships.

“I really wanted to win. The Turks broke clear early and I never felt comfortable. I gave my best out there today but I think I’m better than that. There was a deceptive wind. I was chasing for gold and I’m really disappointed. I’ll be back for a 15th time next year in Slovakia.”

The women’s team finished sixth after fighting for bronze with Romania for much of the race. Ciara Mageean was next home in 31st, followed by Michelle Finn in 33rd, and Kerry O’Flaherty.

The senior men also made it a top 10 performance for Ireland after being led home by Paul Pollock in 36th. Mick Clohisey was 43rd, Mark Christie 56th and Liam Brady completed the scoring quartet in 62nd.

Jack O’Leary made a bold move for gold in the men’s U20 race before finishing an excellent sixth. O’Leary followed Italy’s eventual silver medallist Yohanes Chiappinelli in a two-man breakaway but Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen came back for gold in 17:06.

It was a fine performance by the Mullingar Harrier who also led the team to a creditable sixth spot in the team classifications. Peter Lynch was next home in 25th, followed by Darragh McElhinney in 39th, Barry Keane in 47th and Fearghal Curtin 61st.

The U20 women placed 10th with Amy-Rose Farrell 24th, followed by Carla Sweeney in 31st, Sophie Murphy 38th and Aisling Joyce 55th.

In the U23 races, Bethanie Murray finished 46th with Amy O’Donoghue two places further back in 48th. Karl Fitzmaurice ended up 59th in the Men’s U23 race with itchell Byrne in 67th.

Northern clubs were in the medals at yesterday’s National Novice and Uneven Age Group Cross Country Championships in Dundalk. On a perfect day for running and excellent underfoot conditions Ulster runners dominated the podium in both men’s and women’s Novice races.

The men’s contest was like Groundhog Day of the Joe Seeley in Belfast two weeks earlier. The inscrutable Scott Rankin once again took the front immediately from the gun only to be run down at the death by the JP Williamson who had shown the same merciless instinct in Ormeau.

And in a continued déjà vu scenario Williamson’s club colleague Conan McCaughey struck late for the individual bronze medal to make it a repeat of the Seeley podium. Despite four in the top 30, the northwestern outfit were edged out by Clonliffe Harriers in the team contest. North Belfast Harriers packed well for the bronze medals

North Down’s Jessica Craig was at her very best in the women’s race as she strode to the runner-up spot behind Wexford-based Fiona Kehoe. Rachel Gibson got up on the line to take the bronze medal to give the Bangor club a second individual podium place but had no back-up for the team contest.