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Masters showdown for old foes

A showdown between Pauric McKinney and David Morwood could turn Sunday's Woodies DIY Irish Masters' Cross Country Championships in Boyle into an all-Ulster battle if recent results are anything to go by.

At last weekend's Ulster Championships, McKinney finished sixth in 37 mins 11 secs, with Morwood ninth in 37.22. Before Christmas, McKinney also got the better of Morwood, finishing second at the Ulster Masters. This was won by Omagh's Steven Duncan who is in the now abolished M35 class. Morwood, also M35 at that time, was third. When he won the master's race at the Antrim International a few weeks later, he was classified as M40.

Letterkenny man McKinney is one of the great fighters of Irish athletics and when he's in shape, is a formidable competitor. He last won the masters' cross-country title in 2007, and if he toes the line on Sunday, he will take some beating.

Morwood, of Annadale Striders, has won the title for the past two years, having finished second behind McKinney in 2007. Could be a classic!


Of course, they won't have it all their own way. Honing his race fitness at BHAA events over the past few weeks has been Raheny's Mick Traynor, who is now an M45 but capable of beating athletes five and 10 years his junior.

In the over-50 class, Tommy Payne of Tinryland is another great fighter and, although in the upper end of his age group, will be the one to beat on Sunday. Rumours abound, however, of a couple of strong newcomers to the over-50 age group, and these could cause a stir.

Of the women, expect the annual battle between Pauline Curley, Annette Kealy and Niamh O'Sullivan, assuming all line out. Last year Curley beat Kealy, reversing the result of a year earlier. In 2007, Curley beat Niamh O'Sullivan, who is now over 45. Also likely to be in contention are Na Fianna's Mary Hanley and Dublin champion Lucy Darcy of Sportsworld, who is in the form of her life.

In the over-50 class, Sheelagh Jones of DSD, who only started running over a year ago, has warmed up for Sunday's race by competing in BHAA races and last week finished third overall at the Alsaa. She will face, among others, Carmel Parnell, a former world track champion.