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Athletics: King leads Irish attack on Ghent

World record holder Bobby King from Kilcock leads a strong Irish team at next week's European Masters Indoors and Cross-Country Championships in Ghent, Belgium.

In January, King won the over-65 3,000m walk at the National Masters Indoors in a new world age group record of 15:19.02. King, who has collected many world and European titles and records in his long career, competes in both the 3,000m indoors and a 5k road race in Ghent.

Other former European champions in action include Raheny's Mick Traynor, Tom O'Connor of Liffey Valley, Ríocht's Niamh O'Sullivan, and Leevale's Carmel Parnell. Traynor won both the 3,000m and cross-country and the cross-country at the 2005 Europeans.

Competing in the over-45 class this time, he has entered the 800m, 1,500m 3,000m and cross-country and warmed up by finishing third at last Saturday's Garda St Raphael's BHAA cross-country.

Tom O'Connor, now over 50, has won just about every master title going -- indoors, outdoors and in cross-country. O'Sullivan, has three times been overall winner at the British and Irish Cross-Country Championships. Now 48, she has entered the cross-country in Ghent, as has Parnell, who has a world over-45 5,000m title to her credit and this time goes in the over-50 class.

Just into the over-50 class is Rathdrum's Mick Byrne, who is fully recovered from a string of injury problems and travels with his cousin Bill Porter with both signed up for the cross-country.

Although now 58, West Waterford's Joe Gough has high hopes of making the final of the over-55 800m. A total of 29 have entered, with eight making the final. Two other stalwarts of the team are twins Sheila Champion and Dorothy McLennan.

Although she has suffered a series of minor strokes in recent years, Sheila will go in the over-75 shot and javelin while Dorothy competes in the 60m and long jump as well as her favoured pole vault.

In all, a team of over 60 will travel from Ireland, most of them travelling not just for the challenge but for the fun.