MARY Cullen's return to top-class competition continues on Sunday, when the former European Indoor medallist takes on Olympian Linda Byrne in what should be the highlight of the Woodies DIY Inter-Club Cross-Country Championships in Tullamore.
Both women have already been pre-selected for the Irish women's team for the World Cross-Country Championships next month with Cullen selected on the strength of her defeat of Byrne at the 'Raheny Five' road-race in what was her comeback after an 18-month injury lay-off.
The North Sligo woman, who finished fourth in the 2008 European Cross-country championships, has since won the Armagh 3km in another course record (9:07:88), so there is huge interest in whether her super road form will transfer.
But Byrne, the defending champion, who was eighth at Europeans, should rise to the challenge.
The race also includes Clonliffe's Sarah McCormack, another member of Ireland's triumphant team in Budapest.
Rumours that Alistair Cragg was coming home from America to race for Clonliffe proved wide of the mark, but Mark Kenneally, despite coming off an injury lay-off, is expected to lead their men's team's title defence.
The inter-clubs used to be the blue riband of the cross-country season, but they are now playing second-fiddle to the inter-counties.
The latter championships are run before Christmas and act as trials for the Europeans, but ever since Athletics Ireland stopped sending to the World championships – this year's women's team is a rare exception – the inter-clubs are no longer an international trial and this appears to have affected their popularity.
There were fewer than 50 in last year's senior women's race and only 36 and 19 in the junior men and women, respectively.
There is a feeling that Athletics Ireland should now hold just one cross-country championship – the inter-clubs – and schedule them in November as the European trials, which would maximise numbers and make them as competitive as possible.
Elsewhere, those track athletes still trying to qualify for the European Indoors before Sunday's deadline have a last chance to do so at tomorrow's graded meeting in Athlone IT (5.0-7.50).
And, after taking over six months to complete, it looks like white smoke is about to appear on the long-awaited post-Olympic review. The Sports Council employed British consultants Knight, Kavanagh and Page (KKP) to undertake their London 2012 review which is expected to be published in a fortnight's time. Athletics Ireland (AAI) also commissioned the same company to do a thorough review of their own, which is also expected to be signed off on in the coming week.