Gold in Them Thar Hills!
Irish in fine fettle for tilt at Mountain worlds
Irish mountain running is making headlines again thanks to Rathfarnham's Mark Ryan and a group of talented women.
In July, Ryan won the European Masters title in Poland and, last weekend, he finished third at the World Masters Mountain Running Championships in Telfes, Austria.
On a great day for the Irish, a team of Ryan and his Rathfarnham clubmates Paul Fleming and Peter O'Farrell took team bronze, while in the M55 category, the evergreen Martin McDonald of Ballyroan went two places better than last year when he took M55 bronze.
This Saturday, a strong Irish team competes at the 30th World Mountain Running Championships in Cassette di Massa, Italy, where the senior women have the best chance of making an impact.
Leading the team is Clonliffe's Sarah McCormack, the Irish cross-country champion, who is in her true element when when it comes to the hills. Last year, McCormack finished sixth in the women's race at the worlds - a best ever result by an Irish woman.
With DSD pair Sarah Mulligan and Michelle McGee also running, the Irish women have an outside chance of a medal in Saturday's 8.4km uphill-only race which plays to their strengths. Last July, this team finished a close seventh on an up-and-down course at the European Championships in Gap, France.
McCormack, a regular in Munster mountain races, won the Snowdon International in July. Last weekend, she ran a sub-34 minute time for 10,000m at a British Milers Club meet.
DSD's Sarah Mulligan, the first Irishwoman to win at Snowdon last year, had her training interrupted when she received a last-minute call-up for the marathon at the World Track and Field Championships. She will still have that race in her legs but, like all mountain runners, Mulligan is super tough.
Making up the team is Michelle McGee of DSD, who caused a sensation last winter by winning novice and intermediate cross-country titles and then finishing second behind McCormack at the National Seniors.
An experienced senior men's team is led by Clonliffe's Brian McMahon, a regular on the team for six years, and Raheny's Ian Conroy, who finished 19th at a World Cup race in Leogang, Austria a fortnight ago.
Star of the future is DSD's Killian Mooney, who was 24th and third junior at Leogang.
It's exactly 23 years since John Lenihan won the world mountain running title in Zermatt.
He must be looking on with a smile!