Britton shows plenty of steel
Irish runner-up enjoys best result in Dublin's world-class road race as African visitors set flying pace once again
THIS year's Spar Great Ireland Run may have been the 13th edition of the popular mass participation race but every one of the 6,000 who took part counted themselves lucky.
Blustery conditions were not conducive to fast times but the sun still came out to welcome them to one of the finest park racing venues in the world and only the last stragglers were caught by a late shower of hailstones.
The testing cross-winds still didn't stop Kenya's defending men's champion Japheth Korir from whizzing around the tough 10km course in an even faster time than last year's winning mark of 29:12.
The 2013 world cross-country champion won in 28:15, ahead of Ethiopia's Birhan Nebebew (28:21), fellow Kenyan James Rungaru (28:22) and fourth-placed Leonard Komon, the world record holder at 10km and 15km, also broke the sub-29 barrier.
Britain's Gemma Steel, the reigning European cross-country champion, was equally impressive when she won the elite women's race in 33:03 but she had to dig deep to withstand a brave late challenge from local heroine Fionnuala Britton.
Britton showed impressive form in her first major race of the season, overtaking Alessandra Aguilar with a kilometre to go and holding her off to finish second in 33:07, leaving the Spaniard (33:11) to take third for the second year in-a-row.
Having finished fourth last year and seventh before that, it was Britton's best placing in her third attempt at this world-class event and her time was 47 seconds faster than last year, which augurs well for her new focus on road-racing and the marathon for the 2016 Olympics.
"It was better than the last two times I was here but obviously you want to win," Britton said. "Halfway around I felt I could win but she got that little gap (at the 7km mark) and even in the warm-up I was thinking whoever gets out in front here will win because they'll have the wind behind them."
Steel, who has regularly duked it out with the Wicklow star on the international cross-country circuit, was particularly delighted to hold her off and said: "I just love the atmosphere here. I won here in 2012 and have got two 'seconds' here as well so it's just an event I really enjoy."
Two-time European 800m medallist Mark English threw caution to the wind by entering the elite men's mile but his debut over that distance proved a step too far. He dropped out after 1,200m and visitors took the top three places, led by Britain's Johnny Hay in 4:12.