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On a mission for Moscow

ALTHOUGH the Dublin Marathon still hasn't acquired a major sponsor, the Marathon Mission will continue.

Jim Aughney, race director of the Marathon Mission, is still at the helm, with the full support of Jim Davis and Teresa McDaid from Athletics Ireland.

The story is well known -- when the standard of Irish finishers at the Dublin Marathon dropped drastically, Aughney, a more than fair club runner himself, decided to do something.

The results over the past five years have been remarkable and, last year, four Irish women made the qualifying mark for the London Olympics, while six men clocked times of under two hours 20 minutes.

The work continues, and Maria McCambridge, winner of the Dublin Marathon in 2:35.28 last October, will lead a strong Irish entry at the Rotterdam Marathon on April 14. McCambridge had hoped to run cross-country this season, but will now make an attempt at getting under two hour 32 minutes -- the Irish qualifying mark for the World Championships in Moscow belatedly announced by Athletics Ireland last week.

Other women running in Rotterdam are Barbara Sanchez, Ailish Malone and Claire McCarthy Gibbons, all capable of breaking 2:40. The IAAF standard for women is a lenient 2:43, a time broken by five Irish women last year.

As for the men, Seán Connolly, who ran 2:16.42 in Rotterdam last year, must run under 2 hours 11 minutes -- the Irish qualifying mark -- if he wants to qualify for Moscow.

Only two Irish athletes, John Treacy in 1988 and Mark Carroll in 2002, have ever run under this mark. The IAAF standard for Moscow is 2 hours 17 mins.

In winning the national title at Dublin last October, Paul Pollock ran an excellent 2:16.30 and thought his place for Moscow was booked. Now he must make a second attempt and has entered London in April. Also running London is Gladys Ganiel O'Neill.

Lizzie Lee goes in Paris, while Barry Minnock has opted for Dusseldorf. Breege Connolly, with a 2:40 time from Rotterdam last year, is also aiming for a spring marathon, while Linda Byrne, best of the Irish at the London Olympics, has opted to sit it out until autumn.

North Sligo's Mary Cullen set a new course record of 25 mins 55 secs at the Axa Raheny 5. The injury-prone Cullen, who hasn't raced in more than two years, set a blistering pace from the start, holding off the challenge of last year's winner Linda Byrne of DSD who finished second in 26 mins 37 secs.

Overall winner of the race was Joe Sweeney of DSD, who was chased hard by Tomas Fitzpatrick of Tallaght and Brian Maher of KCH.