Heaslip delivers with her heroics
Without question, Shona Heaslip provided the story of the day when she won the women's title at the Irish Life Health National Cross-Country Championships at Abbotstown.
With Kilcoole's Fionnuala McCormack running in Spain, Lizzie Lee of Leevale taking a break and both Caroline Crowley of Crusaders and Dunboyne's Sara Treacy injured, the women's race was left wide open and Heaslip took full advantage.
Olympians Kerry O'Flaherty of Newcastle and UCD's Ciara Mageean pushed the pace on the first of four laps but Heaslip, behind them, was running the race of her life. On the final lap, she took over in front and then held on for victory.
It was a sensational result for the 22-year-old Kerry woman who earns her living as an Irish dancer and is coached by master athlete Niamh O'Sullivan.
In the battle for second place, O'Flaherty just pipped Mageean, while having a solid run for fourth was Riocht's Laura Crowe, who was chased hard by Michele Finn of Leevale. These five, along with McCormack, will make up the team for the European Championships in Sardinia in ten days' time.
Less surprising was Mark Christie's victory in the men's race. The Mulligar man was the form man after winning the Autumn Open and the Leinster Senior Cross-Country and his track speed saw off the challenge of Raheny marathon man Mick Clohisey, who was going for a fourth consecutive victory.
Clohisey had been lying third on the final lap but passed Leevale's Mark Hanrahan for second place.
All three will compete for the Irish team at the European Championships, along with Mullingar's Liam Brady, Paul Pollock of Annadale and Raheny's Kevin Dooney.
Clohisey may not have taken individual honours but he had the joy of leading Raheny Shamrock to a first senior men's team title. Counting for the team were Kevin Dooney (sixth), Conor Dooney (11th) and Mark Kirwan (19th).
Regaining the women's team title was DSD, led home by Laura Shaughnessy in ninth place.
Mullingar's Jack O'Leary, home from Iona College in the USA, was an impressive winner of the junior men's 6,000m while winning the junior women's 4000m was Sophie Murphy of DSD.
For the first time, the interclub and intercounty championships were combined making the day a true national championships at all levels.
Dublin won the men and women's senior and junior titles, and three of the four titles at U16 and U18 level.