DAVID McCarthy's hopes of winning a first Irish senior cross-country title on Sunday have been dashed by a knee injury, but he's still desperately hoping to make next month's European Cross-County championships.
The West Waterford star was the first Irishman home in the Burgos international in Spain two weeks ago, but the problem flared up afterwards and he travels to Dublin tomorrow for a scan.
"It's a recurring problem that just appears to be aggravated by running on heavy, rough ground like in cross-country," said the 24-year-old.
"I had some problems after the Gerry Farnan (a race he won), but Athletic Ireland's physio Emma Gallivan worked on it and it responded well.
"Unfortunately, it got sore again after Burgos and she feels I should have a scan on it as a precaution.
"If it's not cartilage or anything serious, I really hope to be on the start-line for the Europeans – I'd be disgusted to miss them as we could put together a good men's team."
The former Irish schools 800m and 1500m champion led Ireland's U-23 men to their surprise European Cross-Country title two years ago.
He graduated from Providence College in May, took a break last summer and now feels he is back in great shape after a college career that was dogged by illness and injury.
He had been hotly tipped to win Sunday's national inter-counties in Tattersalls (near Fairyhouse).
And with McCarthy and David Rooney (seventh in the US Collegiates last weekend) on board, Ireland could, indeed, have a decent men's team for the Europeans in Budapest on December 9.
Fionnuala Britton is also missing Sunday's inter-counties because she is racing in the Cross de l'Acier in France the same day. This should be a good barometer of her form as the Kilcoole star was third there last year before going on to win the European title.
But most of the rest of those hoping to make the plane to Budapest will be battling it out in Rathoath on Sunday.
Defending champion Joe Sweeney, Irish marathon champion Paul Pollock, Mick Mulhare, Alan McCormack and Munster champion Mark Hanrahan are the leading contenders in the men's race, which also incorporates the U-23s, where John Travers and Liam Brady should be to the fore.
In the women's event, defending champion Sara Treacy faces a strong challenge from Ava Hutchinson, as well as Sarah McCormack, Lizzie Lee and Siobhan Doherty.
Elsewhere, Derry triathlete Aileen Reid (nee Morrison) has moved coaches and bases. She has amicably parted with Chris Jones to hook up with Australian Darren Smith, whose high-profile group – featuring London Olympics silver medallist Lisa Norden – trains between Australia and Switzerland.
• Sunday's national Inter-Counties start with juveniles (U-12) at 11.30, junior women 1.0, junior men 1.20, senior women 1.45; senior men 2.25.