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Athletics: Maria has her point to prove

After missing out on Olympic selection, Maria McCambridge has a point to prove at Monday's Dublin Marathon.

Last March, McCambridge, now back living in Dublin after a number of years in Donegal, ran an Olympic A standard time of 2:36.37 at the Rome Marathon. With three others running faster, she missed out on selection and it was Linda Byrne, last year's Dublin winner, who came home first of the Irish women in London.

After running a personal best for 10,000m in Irishtown last May, McCambridge settled back into the routine of long runs in preparation for her third Dublin Marathon.


She has proved her fitness in recent weeks with a time of 55:13 to win the Frank Duffy 10-mile, the National Half Marathon title in Athenry a week later and an even-paced run of 73:05 at the Charleville Half Marathon. If she can maintain this form, she could run under 2:35 on Monday.

Her Irish rivals include three former Irish champions -- Barbara Sanchez, winner in 2010 with a time of 2:39.39; Pauline Curley now aged 43, winner in 2005 and 2007, and 2009 winner Annette Kealy.

Internationally, a stellar women's entry sees a re-match between defending champion Helalia Johannes of Namibia and the Russian Olga Glok, fourth in Dublin last year.

At the Vienna Marathon last April, Glok finished second in 2:27.18 -- just two seconds ahead of Johannes. The Namibian went on to improve her best time to 2:26.09 at the London Olympics in August. She is a regular visitor to Dublin since 2007 -- but will a third trip over the 26.2 mile distance this year prove too much?

Others with good form include Ashete Kbekere, from Ethiopia, second in Rome Marathon last March in 2:31.35, where she was followed home by the Russian Maria Kovaleve, who ran 2:31.53 and has also signed up for Monday's marathon.

On paper, Kenyan Magdalene Mukunzis was the fastest of the lot with a time of 70:26 from the elite Wachau Half Marathon in Austria this year.

Derbe Godana of Ethiopia has a 73:16 time from the World Half Marathon Championships last month, while Natalia Puchkova is another consistent Russian, running 2:30.17 at the Hannover Marathon last May -- a personal best -- and 15:24 for 5000m over the summer.

From the Ukraine, Yuliya Ruban ran two 2:27 marathons last year. In September, she ran a half marathon in 75:30.

Leading a strong men's entry is Dublin champion Geoffrey Ndungu from Kenya who set a new course record of 2:08.32 last year.

Ndungu takes on an impressive field in Dublin, with at least four capable of breaking the 2:10 barrier.

Of his fellow Kenyans, Philomen Limo has exceptionally quick half marathon times -- he ran 59.30 in 2011 and 59.32 earlier this year. In his marathon debut in Prague last May, Limo clocked 2:09.25.


Best of the Ethiopians looks to be Abdisa Bedada with a 2:10.15 from the Hannover Marathon this year.

Leading the local entry is Sergiu Ciobanu of Clonliffe Harriers, winner of Irish title in both 2009 and 2010. Earlier this year, Ciobanu, a native of Moldova, ran a personal best 2:15.27 at Rotterdam, narrowly failing to make the London Olympics.

He has warmed up for Dublin with a number of solid runs on the road, including a time of 65 minutes at the Charleville Half Marathon and a second in the National Half Marathon.

Winning the half marathon title in 64.16 was Paul Pollock of Queen's, who is making his marathon debut.

So also is Rathfarnham's Sean Hehir, second behind Ciobanu in Charleville and third at the National Half Marathon.

Aiming to break 2:20 minutes is Barry Minnock of Rathfarnham who ran 2:17.40 in Hanover last May, while in the veteran categories, Donegal pair Gary Crossan and Pauric McKinney, with a slew of national titles between them, will aim to add to their collections.