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DSD's Sweeney thrilled as he storms to win in snow

The Woodie's DIY Inter-County Cross-Country Championships in Gransha, Derry looked like a winter wonderland.

As expected, there were easy titles for Fionnuala Britton and Ciara Mageean in the women's senior and junior races, but the men's equivalents were won by two athletes showing an encouraging return to form after some serious illness setbacks.

Rangey DSD star Joe Sweeney won his first senior cross-country title with an impressive gun-to-tape dash, opening up a 50-metre lead within 4km of the 10,000m race that he easily extended with each subsequent lap.

He came home a full 33 seconds ahead of Mullingar's Mark Christie, who outsprinted young Dubliner Brendan O'Neill in a tussle for silver.

Sweeney, a UCD post-grad student, was particularly thrilled. "The last time I ran really was in the inter-counties in 2007 because I became really badly anaemic; this time last year I was in hospital," he revealed.

All of yesterday's medallists at senior, U23 and junior level are automatically selected for the European Champion-ships in Portugal in two weeks time.


As O'Neill and fifth-placed John Coghlan are both still U23, that means Laois' fourth-placed Dan Mulhare will automatically get in.

Just as welcome as Sweeney's return to form was the sight of Waterford teenager Shane Quinn gliding home to the junior title. The son of former international Brendan, Quinn is a previous winner who had to sit out the event last year as he battled his way back to full fitness after getting hit with glandular fever in 2008. He came home six seconds clear to take gold.

However, one of the best battles of the day came behind him, where former Evening Herald School Sports Star of the Week Emmet Jennings eventually got up to take silver, just two seconds ahead of fellow Dubliner John Travers.