FIONNUALA BRITTON may have won the Glo Heath Intercounty Cross-Country Championships for a fifth time last Sunday, but she sounds a cautious note when it comes to predicting how the European Championships next month might go.
Britton won the European title in both 2011 and 2012, but fell back to fourth place last year.
"I'm happy with where I am and I've got to believe that I'm going to do better than last year because I really do want to improve on last year," she said.
In previous years, the European Cross-Country was a key target for the Kilcoole athlete. This time it's been different with a late decision to run her debut marathon at the European Championships in August.
"It's difficult to compare how I am now with previous years because my build-up has been different. That's why I was nervous before Sunday's race."
She had planned to sit back and let others do the work, but threw caution aside and took over in front. Skipping over the mud, she went on to win by over a minute from Leevale's Michelle Finn.
She has no idea who she will face at the Europeans, which take place in the Bulgarian ski resort of Samokov.
"You could second guess yourself all the way to the start line but in the end you have to run the race," added Britton..
After her memorable win in Budapest in 2012, snow holds no fears although she admits that she's not a big fan of the cold.
Her final test before Bulgaria is Sunday's Cross de l'Acier in Dunkerque, France, which is hoping to host the 2015 European Championships.
Since 1997, the race has been dominated by Africans, which means Britton will get a fair work-out.
"It's nice to take on an international field although it will be tough," she added.
Among those running well at the moment are European 1500m champion Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, who won in Belgium last weekend, and Mercy Cherono of Kenya winner at the Cross Internacional de Soria in Spain.
Following his unexpected victory in the men's race at Dundalk, Paul Pollock is aiming to put in some hard training before Bulgaria.
After pulling out of the European Championships marathon with a hip injury last August, he had less than seven weeks of training to his credit. Yet he managed to hold his own with current Irish interclub champion Mick Clohisey of Raheny and track specialist Mark Hanrahan of Leevale, out-sprinting them both in the chase for the line.
"I didn't expect to come back so quickly and now I have three weeks before the Europeans," he said.
Leading the junior teams will be Kevin Mulcaire of Ennis and Clonliffe's Hope Saunders after impressive victories in Dundalk.