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Britton puts title on line

EUROPEAN cross-country champion Fionnuala Britton of Kilcoole leads the entry for Sunday's Gerry Farnan/Sheila Brennan cross-country races, organised by the Metro St Brigid's club in Dublin's Phoenix Park (2.15).

BRITTON won the women's race last year, paving the way for her victory at the European Championships in Slovenia. She then turned her attention to the track, running 31 mins 29.22 secs for the 10,000m last April and then finishing fourth at the European Championships.

At the London Olympics, Britton set a 15 mins 12.97 secs personal best for the 5,000m and also ran the 10,000m.

She was a class apart at last year's Gerry Farnan race, but faces a much tougher field this year. Ava Hutchinson of DSD, who ran the marathon at the London Olympics, hopes to join Britton on the Irish team at the European Cross-Country.

So does Scotland-based Sarah McCormack, who finished 15th at the World Mountain Running Championships and has a 15:49 time for 5,000m. Both are pencilled in for Sunday's race.

Sitting it out are Linda Byrne and Mary Cullen of Sligo, who also hope to make the team for the Europeans. Byrne is training heavily at the moment, but still won the Limerick Women's Mini Marathon at the weekend. Cullen is almost recovered from the injury problems that have beset her all year.

Last year's winner of the Gerry Farnan men's race was Joe Sweeney of DSD, who went on to take the national intercounty title. Michael Mulhare of Portlaoise led a chasing pack and he is expected to run on Sunday.

For the many master athletes who will make up the bulk of the entry on Sunday, the prize is a place on the Irish team for the British and Irish International in Belfast next month.

Names to watch out for include experienced internationals such as Niamh O'Sullivan of Riocht and Leevale's Carmel Parnell, along with Ciaran O'Doherty of Letterkenny, Raheny's Mick Traynor, who is back in training, and Tom O'Connor of Liffey Valley.

Also scheduled in a packed programme is the final round of the Dublin Juvenile League (11.0).