Sunday 21 January 2018

Masters ready for Phoenix Park race as Sonia O'Sullivan leads entry

Mick Traynor
Mick Traynor

Although Sonia O'Sullivan leads the entry for Sunday's Autumn Open Cross-Country in Dublin's Phoenix Park, the main focus of attention - as always at this event - will be on the masters.

In age groups from over 35 to over 75, master athletes will be running to nail down their places on the Irish team for the annual British and Irish International Cross-Country. This year, it's Ireland's turn to host the international, which takes place in Santry on Saturday November 14.

Since the international was first held, no team other than England has ever won the overall team title, though Ireland came close the last time the international was held here. If any team can do it, it is Ireland so every effort is being made to put out the best possible team.

One woman sure of her place already is Leevale's Carmel Parnell, who is going for a record tenth title at the cross-country international.

Last year, in Nottingham, Parnell equalled the record of Northern Ireland's Karen Marshall when she won the W55 title. Now in the over 60 age group, she travelled to Lyon for the World Masters over the summer, where she won the both the cross-country and the 10,000m.

Also sure of his place is Raheny's Mick Traynor who won the M50 cross-country title in Lyon. He finished fourth in the M45 category in last year's international and this year, could be joined on the M50 team by Pauric McKinney who ran the Berlin Marathon last month and came close to an Irish M50 record.

Also in this age group is Loughrea's Gerry Ryan who may run Sunday's race, along with twice former British and Irish overall winner Peter Matthews of DSD and world M60 1500 champion Brian Lynch of North East Runners.

Ireland's only other winner at last year's international was Paul Elliott M60. Ireland has traditionally picked up good points in the older age groups and the M65 team, led by Galway's Martin McEvilly, took gold.

On the women's side, Annette Kealy of Raheny is in contention for the W45 team as is Kilmore's Jackie Carthy who turns 45 in a few weeks time. It's worth noting that both Sonia O'Sullivan and Catherina McKiernan are also in this age group.

Maria McCarthy of Farranfore, who won the national masters title two years ago, and current champion Natasha Adams of Letterkenny are among the younger athletes who should run on Sunday, along with the reliable Cathy McCourt of North Belfast Harriers.

New talent is always welcome. Donore's Woodlock, aged 77, has already appealed for women over 70 to come forward and give Sunday's race a try. Good news is that Kathleen O'Brien of St Catherine's had just moved into the W70 age group.

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