IN days past, the Dublin Senior Cross-Country was one of the year's highlights.
Numbers may be down these days but winning the county title still means a huge amount, as it did for John Coghlan a year ago and Alan McCormack in Santry last Sunday.
Four years ago, McCormack won the national inter-county title. Since then he has struggled with an assortment of problems caused by over-training, but he never gave up hope.
Already strong in tough conditions, McCormack ran a smart race. He bided his time when Belfast athlete Stephen Scullion, wearing Clonliffe colours, made the early pace on the strength-sapping and slippery course.
When Scullion faded, McCormack, along with defending champion John Coghlan and John Travers of Donore, put on the pressure.
With a lap to go, McCormack was out on his own. Coghlan had taken a tumble but recovered to pull back Scullion and finish second. A remarkable fourth was hard man Sergiu Ciobanu, helping Clonliffe to team gold just six days after a testing day out at the Dublin Marathon.
McCormack, who is coached by Jerry Kiernan, is cautious about the future.
He said: "I'm taking it day by day but I hope to turn out in the National Intercounties later this month in Ratoath."
The women's race turned into a battle between Raheny pair Elish Kelly and Fiona Roche and veteran Barbara Cleary, who only started competing seriously about a year ago and has made remarkable progress since joining Donore Harriers.
In the end, Kelly had the edge, with Roche second, while Cleary in third place led Donore to team victory.
A clear winner of the men's junior race was Ian Guiden of Clonliffe, while DSD's Clare McCarthy, Sarah Fitzpatrick and Sarah Miles were the top three in the junior women's race.
Leevale dominated the Cork Senior Championships in Carrignavar, with Mark Hanrahan winning the men's race from international triathlete clubmate Bryan Keane, while Lizzie Lee beat Clare Gibbons-McCarthy of St Finbarr's for the women's title.