Anna Sadowska of Civil Service Harriers was a surprise winner of the women's race at the Glo Health National Masters Cross-Country held on a soggy course at Dundalk IT.
Sadowska, second in the Dublin championships a few weeks ago, tucked in behind early leaders Pauline Curley of Tullamore and Raheny's Annette Kealy on the opening lap.
With Kealy fading, it was left to Curley to force the pace, but she couldn't shake off the shadow of Sadowska.
When the pair came to the bottom of the hill on the final lap, Sadowska made her break. Curley did her best to catch her but a slip in the mud ended her chances.
For Sadowska, who came to Ireland from her native Poland ten years ago, it was a return to her roots, although cross-country in Poland is very different.
"We have very cold winters with lots of snow and the courses are a lot hillier and tougher," she said.
She had run as a teenager. "I loved the track - I ran mostly the 800m and the 1500m and my best for 800m was 2 mins 3 secs. But at the age of 24, I gave it up, though I continued to run on my own," she added.
Sadowska, with her partner and son Falip, lives near the Phoenix Park - home of Civil Service Harriers.
Only when she joined the club did she resume structured training and then started competing.
"When I stopped, I never thought I'd come back. But then when I joined the club, I thought, why not?"
Last year, she won a few BHAA races and finished 11th in the Wings for Life race, running 27km. "I really enjoyed that race and hope to run it again this year," she says.
Also making the Dublin team was her clubmate Shirley Mitchell, who finished tenth W40. The pair are part of a welcome revival in the fortunes of Civil Service Harriers, with coach Tony Keegan supervising sessions and a hills session on Saturday proving key.
"The hard work on the hills paid off today," said a happy Keegan in Dundalk.
In the men's race, Declan Reed of City of Derry Spartans was a class apart, determined to make it a hat-trick of wins. Behind him Leevale's Tim Twomey won the battle for second place, with local man Brian McCloskey of North East Runners third.
Finishing fourth and first M50 was Pauric McKinney of Inishowen, who has rarely missed one of his daily 6am runs in the past 30 years. Raheny's Mick Traynor make a welcome return to racing to finish second M50. Donore retained the M35 team title; Raheny finished best M50.
A clear winner of the women's inter race was Marie Hyland of Crusaders who quickly reeled in early leader Catherine Whoriskey from City of Derry. Inter men's winner was Annalee's Cian O'Reilly.