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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Byrne primed for Hutchinson duel

A SHOWDOWN between Olympic marathon hopefuls Linda Byrne and Ava Hutchinson could prove the highlight of Sunday's National Inter-Club Cross-Country Championships in Santry (1.0).

While former champion Byrne was injured last year, Hutchinson won both the national cross-country title and the national half marathon. Byrne then came back to win the national marathon title last October and qualify for the London Olympics. A few weeks ago, Hutchinson also made the London 2012 qualifying time.

With that race still in her legs, she may struggle to keep up with Byrne, who has been in flying form in recent weeks.

She won the Raheny 5 in a swift time of 26 minutes 23 seconds, finished 11th at the European Clubs Cross Country and then improved her 10km best to 32:52 at the Enniscorthy 10km.

Whatever happens, the Dundrum South Dublin clubmates will aim to help their team to a sixth national title in seven years. Also lining out should be Hazel Murphy, 16th at the European Clubs, Sarah Mulligan, Niamh Devlin and Aoife Culhane, third at the Intercounties.

Individual

Last year, Dundrum South Dublin won three of the individual titles and all four team titles.

In the men's race, Joe Sweeney beat clubmate Brendan O'Neill for the individual crown and the team ended a seven-year winning streak by Clonliffe Harriers.

Sweeney, who beat Andrew Ledwith to win the inter- county title before Christmas, is again the man to beat and will be doubly dangerous after dropping out of the European Clubs.

Among his likely rivals are Michael Mulhare of North Laois and Abbey's Paul Pollock, who proved best of the Irish men in 26th place at the European Cross-Country championships. The DSD team will defend its title against Dublin champions Raheny Shamrock and the always dangerous Clonliffe.

First off on Sunday are the junior women, with DSD again the pre-race favourites.

The squad includes defending champion Siofra Cléirigh-Buttner, backed by Claire McCarthy, Meghan Ryan, Sorcha Humphries and Ella Fennelly.

The junior men's race will feature a strong Raheny team led by Leinster senior schools champion Kevin Dooney, who lost to Jake Byrne of Tullamore for the intercounty title and will be keen to make amends.

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