A fighting fourth place finish from Fionnuala McCormack led the Irish women’s team to magnificent bronze medals at the European Cross Country Championships in Hyeres, France.
McCormack’s (Kilcoole) remarkable individual record at the European Cross Country Championships continued making it three fourth place finishes, two firsts and a sixth in the last six years.
“When you cross the line fourth you’re obviously going to be disappointed but when you turn around and see happy, exhausted faces at least you’ve gotten something out of it,” said McCormack of her run and leading the Irish women to a third place finish in the team standings.
“Coming fourth means something for the team for points so it’s not just about me. I can be disappointed on the one hand but on the other we do come away with a team medal and it’s all about the team in cross country.”
Sifan Hassan (Netherlands) justified her pre-race favourite tag winning the 8km race in 25:47 with Great Britain expectedly winning the team title on 33 points.
The Irish women’s team have started to become a formidable force at the Europeans having won team gold in 2012 and bronze in Samokov last year. McCormack was backed up by scoring members Lizzie Lee (Leevale) in 13th, Caroline Crowley (Crusaders) in 23rd and Ciara Durkan (Skerries) in 43rd for a total of 83 points – just five points behind the French. Michelle Finn (Leevale) finished 54th with Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle) 55th.
Lizzie Lee has had a dream year giving birth to her first child, running an Olympic marathon qualifying time and now winning team bronze medals.
“This is the icing on the cake,” said Lee. “To get a medal around your neck with the most nicest, loveliest girls is a brilliant end to the year.”
Caroline Crowley (Crusaders) mesmeric rise from fun runner to elite continued with her 23rd place finish has had a heart-warming response in the running community with the passing of her parents last year.
“Part of the best preparation I did was read the text messages that came through,” said the 27-year-old. “It gave me something to run for. It’s known now that my parents passed away. I could hear him (my father) screaming my name – my full name ‘Caroline Crowley.’
“What an experience in my first serious race really. A bronze medal is a surprise package for me. I wanted to run well and do well for the country.”
Mick Clohisey (Raheny Shamrock) was the first senior man home in the 10km with a 37th place finish in 31:11 with the team finishing 11th overall. Turkey’s Ali Kaya won in 29:20.
“I got out fast but the pace is relentless,” said Clohisey. “You’re competing against guys with great track times and I’ve been focusing on the marathon which is completely different. It was tough but I’ll be back.”
Athletics Ireland High Performance Director Kevin Anrkrom said: “Pretty exciting even for Fionnuala. Obviously she would love to get third place but she was going for the team to do well and they did. There was spectacular performances by the girls who ran. Team medals are always great and it’s a testament to what we can build off for the future.”
Team finish: 11th
Sophie Murphy (DSD) 54th, Emma O’Brien (Inbhear Dee) 55th, Nadia Power (Templeogue) 59th, Aoibhe Richardson (Kilkenny City Harriers) 60th and Deirdre Healy (Ratoath) 67th.
Team finish: 8th
Jack O’Leary (Mullingar Harriers) 23rd, Kevin Mulcaire (Ennis Track Club) 25th, Peter Lynch 52nd, Pierre Murchan (Celtic DCH) 65th, James Edgar (Lisburn) 70th, Cathal Doyle (Clonliffe Harriers) 75th
Shona Heaslip (An Riocht) 33rd, Emma Mitchell (Banbridge) 36th
Team finish: 7th
Brandon Hargreaves (DSD) 31st, Sean Tobin (Clonmel) 39th, Aaron Hanlon (Clonliffe Harriers) 43rd, Hugh Armstrong (Ballina) 48th, Thomas Moran (Dunshaughlin) 50th, Keith Fallon (Galway City Harriers) 59th
Team finish: 3rd
Fionnuala McCormack (Kilcoole) 4th, Lizzie Lee (Leevale) 13th, Caroline Crowley (Crusaders) 23rd, Ciara Durkan (Skerries) 43rd, Michelle Finn (Leevale) 54th, Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle) 55th
Team finish 11th
Mick Clohisey (Raheny Shamrock) 37th, Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders) 45th, John Coghlan (MSB) 47th, Sergiu Ciobanu (Clonliffe Harriers) 52nd, Joe Sweeney(DSD) 58th, Ryan Creech (Leevale) 65th