WHILE it is always dangerous to predict, Mark Kenneally of Clonliffe looks hot favourite to win the men's senior race at the Woodie's DIY National Cross Country Championships in Dublin's Phoenix Park on Sunday (1.0). Last year, the 28-year-old Dubliner finished a close second to Keith Kelly in this race.
Over the summer, he knocked chunks out of his 10,000m and 5,000m track times and when it came around to the European Cross Country Champion-ships, he was was ready for the run of his life. This he produced when he finished best of the Irish in eighth place.
A few weeks earlier, Kenneally had finished third at the intercounties behind Andrew Ledwith of Fr Murphy's and Seán Connolly from Tallaght.
Others in contention on Sunday are athletes of the class of Mark Christie, Gary Murray, Seán Connolly, Breandán O'Neill and Stephen Scullion. Clonliffe will be defending the team title they won last year, when Kenneally was backed up by Sergiu Ciobanu and England-based Chris Carris. Raheny was second team last year, but are struggling at the moment, although Mick Clohisey, Mark Kirwan, Cillian O'Leary and Stephen Roe are strong performers.
With inter-county champion Mary Cullen not running in the women's 8km race, expect to see Fionnuala Britton and Linda Byrne battling it out for the honours, although veterans such as Annette Kealy of Raheny, who was third last year, and Pauline Curley, fifth last year, will be in contention. Among the favourites for the junior women's title are Mary Mulhare of North Laois and Loughrea's Laura Shaughnessy, although it was Ciara Mageean who won the intercounty title last November. After his great win in the Leinster Schools, Liam Brady of Mullingar leads the entry for the men's junior race.
Also likely to be in contention in what could be the race of the day are Ryan Creech of Leevale, intercounty champion Michael McGillop of St Malachy's, Donore's John Travers, Cian O'Reilly of Annalee, DSD's Emmett Jennings and MSB's Liam Trimble. The course, similar to that used for the annual Gerry Farnan Cross Country takes in a 2,000m loop around the Magazine Hill. First off is the junior women's 4k at 1pm, with the senior men's 12k at 3pm concluding the programme.
p As a warm-up to the Woodies DIY National Cross-Country Championships, don't miss "A Night of Champions" at the Donore Sports Centre, Chapelizod on Saturday evening (8.0). Special guests are Eamonn Coghlan, John Treacy and Catherina McKiernan and the entry fee is €10.