Fionnuala McCormack believes Irish team will be 'in contention' at European Cross Country Championships
Fionnuala McCormack is set to lead the charge for the Irish women's team as they seek to secure medals at the European Cross Country Championships in France on Saturday.
McCormack, a former two-time winner who finished 6th last year and led the Irish women’s team to bronze medals, is relishing the challenge that lies ahead in Hyeres.
"I'm looking forward to the race on Sunday. It's going to be a tough challenge with Britain and France having very strong teams but I believe we can be in contention if we all run well.
"My preparations haven't been as specific this year with my transition to the roads so it's difficult to say what exact shape I'm in for an 8km cross country race. I love running cross country though and hopefully we will be happy on Sunday afternoon with a positive team result."
McCormack won the national championships with ease on November 22 following her Olympic marathon qualifying standard in Chicago on October 13 of 2:33:15 – comfortably inside the standard of 2:45.
Flanking McCormack on the team over 8km will be Lizzie Lee (Leevale), Caroline Crowley (Crusaders), Kerry O'Flaherty (Newcastle), Ciara Durkan (Skerries) and Michelle Finn (Leevale).
Only Finn remains from the bronze medal-winning team from last year but her club mate Lee was on the gold-medal winning team in Budapest in 2012. Lee has also qualified for Rio in the marathon and will be looking to put strength to good use in France. Finn and O’Flaherty have Olympic standards in the steeplechase and with logs set to be laid out on the route, they will be looking to use their steepling technique to positively affect the team result.
Caroline Crowley has had a whirlwind season winning the Dublin Cross Country Championships and then going on to finish third at the Inter Clubs to seal her selection.
Ciara Durkan has come close on a number of occasions to making the team and her durability was rewarded this year and she will hope to capitalise on her selection and deliver a good performance.
Mick Clohisey leads the Irish men’s team into battle over 10km where individual glory sets to be battled out once more between the triumvirate of Polat Kemboi Arikan, Ali Kaya (both Turkey) and Alemayehu Bezabeh (Spain). The three dominated last year with Arikan just edging Kaya on the line for gold.