Irish Women's Team Win Team Bronze At The European Cross Country Championships In Bulgaria

The senior Irish women's team won a brilliant bronze team medal at the European Cross country Championships in Samokov, Bulgaria on Sunday, 14th of December. The team made up of Fionnuala Britton (Kilcoole AC), Sara Treacy (Dunboyne AC), Michelle Finn (Leevale AC), Ann-Marie McGlynn (Letterkenny AC), Siobhan O 'Doherty (Borrisokane AC) and Laura Crowe (An Riocht AC) combined to place third with a score of 87 points.

The total score meant the Irish team finished one point ahead of the French team who placed fourth on 88 points, earning Ireland their seventh team medal at these championships since they began Irish team captain Ann-Marie McGlynn said "I am thrilled, I knew coming in that we had a chance. I am just so delighted for the girl's, we have really gelled as a team and this is just brilliant to get a team medal, I am delighted"

At the front of the field Britton was aiming for a third European cross country title in the space of four years having won the title in 2011 and 2012. Britton was always to the fore in a fast paced race as the Great Britain & NI athletes Kate Avery and Gemma Steel battled it out for the individual title with Steel coming out the victor. Track specialist Bahta of Sweden swept through the field on the final lap to place third.

Despite her best efforts Britton finished in sixth place in a time of 28.59, one place behind last year's champion Sophie Duarte of France. Britton said "On the last lap, with the other two girls away (Steel & Avery), it was a medal race and I really just wanted to get that medal. I tried really hard but my legs just weren't going. I battled all the way as I knew every place mattered and I would be devastated if I had of lost it for the girl's."Commenting on the team bronze Britton said "We knew coming in that we had a chance of a medal, all the girl's on the team are real cross country runners. So we knew that we would all battle all the way around the course, no matter what the conditions were."

Sara Treacy ran a very courageous race storming through the field to finish in twelfth place. Treacy started off cautiously running in 47th place after the first lap. As the race unfolded Treacy upped her pace and powered to a fine twelfth place finish. Michelle Finn was another of those having a breakthrough race as she impressed crossing the line in 23rd place in a time of 30.09. Team captain McGlynn was in next as she gave everything to cross the line in 46th place followed closely by team mate Siobhan O' Doherty in 47th. Laura Crowe who was unwell on the morning of the race finished in 53rd to round out the Irish team placing's.

Senior Men
The senior men's team followed directly after the women's race with spirits high after the inspiring performance by their team mates. The men's team made up of Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders AC), Brendan O'Neill (Dundrum South Dublin AC), Kevin Batt (Dundrum South Dublin AC), Mick Clohisey (Raheny Shamrock AC), Conor Dooney (Raheny Shamrock AC) and Mark Hanrahan (Leevale AC) were involved in a very competitive senior men's race.

The pace from the gun was frantic with Turkish athletes Kemboi Arikan and Ali Kaya setting a ferocious pace that very few of the field could live with. Irish athletes Pollock, O'Neill and Batt were running solidly mid pack as they began to pick off other athletes who had gone with the earlier fast start. Pollock proved the strongest of the three as he cross the line in 23rd place in a time of 33.55.

Club mates O'Neill and Batt battled it out over the last lap to cross the line in an encouraging 29th (34.06) and 31st (34.07) placings respectively. Clohisey breezed by shortly afterwards for a 44th place finish with his fellow Raheny Shamrock athlete Dooney next across the line in 51st place. Hanrahan rounded out the Irish team places finishing in 53rd in a time of 35.04.
The senior men's team combined to place sixth in the team standings, a credible performance by the team in such a competitive race. The individual race was won by Arikan on Turkey in a time of 32.19.

U23
Kevin Dooney (Raheny Shamrock AC) was best placed of the Irish in the men's U23 race. Dooney coming off a busy NCAA season finished in 18th place. Dooney made a confident start to the race running just outside the top ten during the first half of the race. Although tiring slightly over the second half of the race he still managed to stay in the top twenty positions of a quality field. Liam Brady (Tullamore Harriers AC) ran a smart race improving on each lap to finish in 26th place. Brandan Hargreaves (Clonliffe Harriers AC) was next across the line in 40th place followed by Conor Duffy (Glaslough Harriers AC) in 61st and Dara Chesser (Ennis Track) finished in 59th place. The Irish team placed ninth with a score of 143 points.

In the U23 women's race Orna Murray (UCC/Ferrybank AC) was first across the line for Ireland in 40th place followed closely by Shona Heaslip (An Riocht AC) in 42nd. Maria O'Sullivan (Raheny Shamrock AC) was also inside the top 50 finishing in 49th place, Mary Mulhare (Portlaoise AC) finished in 55th place with Racheal Smyth next home in (56th) and Ellie Hartnett (58th) The Irish women's U23 team also placed ninth with a score of 186 points.

Junior Races
Earlier in the programme Hope Saunders (Clonliffe Harriers AC) led the Irish team home in the junior women's race. Saunders making her debut at this level produced a mature performance to finish in 35th place. Rhona Pierce (Leevale AC) attacked the race from the offset and was rewarded with a 43rd place finish. Isabel Carron (Skerries AC) was next across the line for Ireland in 52nd place. Orlaith Moynihan (Clonmel AC) (62nd), Clodagh O'Reilly (Annalee AC) - (66th) and Sarah Fitzpatrick (Dundrum South Dublin AC) - (74th) will have all gained valuable experience from the race. The junior women's team finished in tenth place with a score of 192 points.

Kevin Mulcaire (Ennis Track AC) led the junior men's team home in 33rd after going with the early fast pace, at one point Mulcaire was leading the entire race. He was followed across the line by the ever improving David Harper (Sligo AC) in 34th place with Jack O'Leary (Mullingar Harriers AC) - 61st Con Doherty (UCD AC) in 73rd, Rick Nally (Dundrum South Dublin AC) in 84th and Brendan O'Connor (An Riocht AC) - (85th ). The Irish team finished in 12th place in the team standings with a score of 201 points.

Team Leader and National Endurance Coach Chris Jones said "I am delighted for the senior women, we knew coming in that there was a chance and the team really delivered that today so credit to them. I was very encouraged by the senior men in what was a very competitive race, a result we can build on for the future. For the junior and U23 athletes it was all about exposing them to this level of competition, we will continue to work with these groups to a point where we are fielding competitive teams."

*The Irish team will return to Dublin Airport Terminal 1 at 11.35am on Monday 15th of December