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Monday 11 December 2017

First act of a winter's tale

For club athletes, Sunday's Gerry Farnan promotion is the unofficial launch of the winter racing season.

Marathon aspirants will use it as a final blow-out before Dublin a week later, while athletes looking towards the European Cross-Country in December will pull on their racing spikes for an early season fitness test.

Among these are Mark Christie, Joe Sweeney and Breandan O'Neill, along with last year's women's winner Mary Cullen, and Fionnuala Britton. Behind them will come hundreds of veteran athletes, making up the bulk of the entry. At stake are places on the Irish team for the annual British and Irish Cross-Country International. This year, with Santry hosting the international on November 13, the competition is particularly hot.

While a few wild cards are on offer, anyone wanting to nail down a place would be well advised to show up on Sunday.

In the younger men's age groups, places will go to the first four in the trial, plus two wild cards. For all the women's categories from W35 up, plus the men's classes over 55, it will be the first three and one wildcard.

In the over-35 class, Pat Byrne and Donna Mahon will hope to repeat their successes of recent years, with Galway pair Paul McNamara and Fionnuala Keane among the likely opposition.

Annette Kealy and Pauline Curley are among those battling it out for the over-40 women's prize, while many times Irish men's champion Seamus Power has just turned 40 and may run.

Previous overall winner Niamh O'Sullivan of Riocht lines out in the over-45 class, where Mick Traynor of Raheny is favourite for the men's race.

New to the over 50s is Liffey Valley's Tom O'Connor. He takes on a strong entry led by last year's international winner Tommy Payne of Tinryland.

Leevale's Mary Sheehan and Mags Greenan of Clonliffe go in the women's over-50 class.

Carmell Parnell, winner of the over-50 title last year, has moved up to over 55, as has former Irish international Patricia Griffin from Ballinamore. Also in this class are Mary Jennings, Helen Ingram and Mary Butler.

Evelyn McNeil, who is in her last year over 60, misses Sunday's race, where Joan Coyle is favourite.

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