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Crotty wows at Woodie's

IN the past, the Woodie's DIY National Inter-County Cross-County was a pre-Christmas blow-out, designed to allow athletes based abroad to have a race while on a visit home.

The evolution of the European Cross-Country Championships into the most important fixture on the winter calendar for distance runners changed all that.

These days, the race is nominally a trial for the Europeans, although Fionnuala Britton, winner last year and defending her title in Budapest on December 9, has been excused from running for the past two years.

Form at the collegiate finals in the USA is also taken into account.


That meant that Raheny's Dave Rooney, a brilliant ninth in the NCAAs a fortnight ago, along with Sarah Collins of Finn Valley, an equally impressive 10th of the women, and Breandan O'Neill of DSD, 26th of the men, have all got the selectors' nod for Budapest.

Also selected is Sarah Treacy, winner of the Inter-County event last year, and national cross-country champion Linda Byrne, neither of whom ran last Sunday.

So, has the Inter-County race any meaning? Sunday's race certainly proved a trial, with anyone who finished deserving credit for surviving an awkward twisting track layered with mud on a bitterly cold day.

Joe Sweeney and Ava Hutchinson were both worthy winners of the senior races, but hero of the day was Paralympic athlete Amanda Crotty of Youghal who ran the senior women's 8km.

Crotty, aged 27 and visually impaired, made a big breakthrough in 2011 when she ran a Paralympic A-standard of 5 mins 15 secs for 1,500m in Santry. That time knocked 13 seconds off her previous best and meant she just missed the London 2012 cut.

Her coach, Olympic marathon runner Peter Maher, has given Crotty the self-belief that saw her take to the line last Sunday. Helping her was a guide who had to negotiate the course himself and keep Crotty aware of what was coming up at every twist and turn. They were cheered every inch of the way.

County results did matter, with Dublin, winners of all four titles last year, winning three from four this time.

In the case of the men's senior race, it couldn't have been closer with Antrim only beating the Dubs on countback to the seventh finisher.

In the women's race, Dublin, with three British-based athletes in their ranks, were clearerwinners, beating Cork comfortably.