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Athletics: Cullen hoping to rediscover top form after setback of Santry effort

MARY Cullen is hoping that her return to international cross-country action tomorrow will compensate for her disappointing run at the recent European Championships in Santry.

Cullen, Fionnuala Britton, Deirdre Byrne, Hazel Murphy and Mick Clohisey, as well as full Irish U-23 and junior teams, are all competing in the Antrim IAAF Cross-Country International, which also incorporates the Celtic Internationals in Greenmount Campus.

Since finishing a disappointing 12th place in the Euro tests last month, Cullen has been out in Portugal on Athletic Ireland's warm-weather camp and, after this, the North Sligo star is headed to Australia to replicate the training spell Down Under that helped her to European Indoor Championships 3000m bronze last year.

When this event used to take place in Stormont, Cullen was fourth against some very high-class Africans four years ago.

Tomorrow's 5.6km race certainly gives her a chance to redeem herself as the field includes the European Cross-Country champion Hayley Yelling, who came out of retirement to shock everyone in Dublin with a trademark front-running display.


Also in the elite women's field is Portugal's Ana Dulce Felix, who was a vital contributor to Portugal's team gold in Dublin. But Britton, who finished 11th in Santry, will also be a strong contender as will Byrne, who was second in this event to Steph Twell last year.

Key names in the men's race include Britain's Andy Vernon and Mike Skinner, Tseqi Tewelde, Mike Kigen and Youssef Elkalai as well as local athletes Stephen Scullion, Joe McAlister and Ed McGinley.

While this summer's European Championships in Barcelona is the main focus for 2010, several of Ireland's top seniors have already declared their intention to race in the World Indoors which take place in Doha in March.

Former world indoor champion Derval O'Rourke and world outdoor finalist David Gillick have both indicated their interest in competing there, as has Ferrybank long jumper Kelly Proper.

While Paul Hession will compete indoors this season, including at the Irish Nationals Championships in Belfast on February 6-7 (where O'Rourke and Olive Loughnane will also be among the top attractions), the Athenry flier has not included Qatar in his plans.

Alistair Cragg's winter training seems to have paid off as he won the mile and 3000m on an outsized track in Seattle last weekend in 3:59 and 7:54 respectively, winning the latter by a nine-second margin.

Irish Independent