Britton and Irish team strike gold at European XC Championships:
Fionnuala Britton (Kilcoole AC) successfully retained her European Cross Country title in Budapest on Sunday 9th of December. On a momentous day for Irish athletics Britton led the senior women to team gold, the team comprised of Linda Byrne (Dundrum South Dublin AC), Ava Hutchinson (Dundrum South Dublin AC), Lizzie Lee (Leevale AC) Sarah Louise Treacy (Moynalvey AC) and Sarah McCormack (Clonliffe Harriers AC).
Britton has been in excellent form this autumn and she confirmed it at the 19th SPAR European Cross Country Championships over the course in Skanzen. She put on a tremendous display of tenacious front running as she romped to a two second victory over Dulce Felix of Portugal. The diminutive Wicklow women was to the fore of the field from the outset and pushed the pace ferociously throughout. With two kilometres to go the race was between Britton and Belgium’s Almensch Belete.
However both Felix and Adrianne Herzog of the Netherlands were starting to make an impression on the leaders. Britton lifted her game once again and propelled herself over the finishing line to take the title in a time of 27:45, ahead of second place Felix 27:47 with Herzog rounding out the top three in third.
Linda Byrne was having the race of her life as she stormed to an eight place finish and was followed home by Ava Hutchinson in 20th, Lizzie Lee in 23rd, Sarah McCormack in 36th and Sarah Louise Treacy in 42nd. The team combined brilliantly to claim the team gold medals with a score of 52 points. Coincidentally the Irish team’s score of 52 was the same as France, however Ireland were awarded the title on count back.
The senior men’s team was led home by Brendan O’Neill (Dundrum South Dublin AC), as he finished in 22nd place. O’Neill, a former team gold medallist at U23 level at these championships, performed impressively on his debut in the senior race. He attacked the race bravely from the beginning as he occupied 12th place at the 4km mark. Although he lost a couple of places in the second half of the race. O’Neill showed class to finish in 22nd, just ahead of his club mate Joe Sweeney (Dundrum South Dublin AC) in 27th. David Rooney (Raheny Shamrock AC) was the next of the Irish to finish in 38th place, followed by Michael Mulhare (Portlaoise AC) in 44th, Sean Hehir (Rathfarnham WSAF) in 52nd and Paul Maher (Kilkenny City Harriers AC) in 73rd.
John Travers (Donore Harriers AC) led the men’s under 23 home to an eleventh place finish. Travers ran a tactfully smart race and he moved up through the field to finish in 44th place. He was backed up by his team mates Patrick Hogan (Ferrybank AC) in 52nd, Dave Fitzmaurice (Clonliffe Harriers AC) in 76th, Samuel Mealy (Crusaders AC) in 80th and Christopher Johnston (Letterkenny AC) in 86th. Laura Behan (KCK AC) was the best of the Irish in the women’s under 23 race, finishing 54th in a time of 23:38, just ahead of Una Britton (Kilcoole AC) in 58th place.
In the earlier junior races Sarah Collins (Finn Valley AC) was the top Irish finisher in 31st place in the junior women’s race. Middle distance specialist Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (Dundrum South Dublin AC) was the next Irish athlete across the line in 36th place, followed by Mary Mulhare (Portlaoise AC) in 41st, Clare McCarthy (Dundrum South Dublin AC) in 68th and Linda Conroy (Mullingar Harriers AC) in 70th. The team combined to place eight overall.
The junior men’s team was down to four athletes as Sean Tobin (Clonmel AC) had to withdraw from the race due to illness. Stephen Kerr (Armagh AC) led the charge with a terrific 37th place finish. Kerr ran a brave race and was running just outside the top ten positions during the first half of the race. Next in for the Irish team was Eoghan Totten (Newcastle AC) in 61st, followed by Killian Mooney (Dundrum South Dublin AC) in 89th and Ian Guiden (Clonliffe Harriers AC) in 107th. The team combined to finish in 18th place overall.
The 2012 Irish Cross Country Team including Double Champion Fionnuala Britton (Kilcoole AC) and the rest of the gold medal winning senior women’s team will arrive in Dublin Airport (Terminal 2) at 21:55pm on Monday 10th of December.
Above press release provided by www.athleticsireland.ie