Sunday 17 December 2017

Athletics: Cullen sets her sights on Euro Indoors after injury setback

Mary Cullen will focus on the indoor season after undergoing surgery.
Mary Cullen will focus on the indoor season after undergoing surgery.
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

MARY Cullen is out of next month's European Cross-Country Championships in Portugal after breaking her collar bone in a fall off her bicycle while out training.

However, Cullen's resolve to battle back from the latest in a series of unfortunate setbacks is demonstrated by her undergoing surgery in the Blackrock Clinic today in a bid to expedite her recovery.

"There are three small breaks in the collarbone and I've been advised that surgery will speed up the healing, so, hopefully, I can get back on a training bike before too long," she revealed.

"I hadn't made up my mind about whether I'd run an indoor season, but this has done it for me.

"With the European Indoors in Paris in March, I will definitely be looking towards that now and then the World Championships next summer. This will only make me more determined than ever to get back and have a shot at one of the major events."

It is the latest unlucky break for the unfortunate North Sligo star, who has suffered more than her fair share of setbacks.

After injury forced her out of the last World Championships and Olympics, she narrowly missed a medal when fourth at the 2008 European Cross- Countries.

A couple of months later she finally won that coveted major medal -- a 3,000m bronze at the 2009 European Indoors -- but she has been stymied by injuries since and also suffered a serious health scare when she needed surgery to remove a growth close to her brain.

Cullen was deeply disappointed to finish only 12th when Ireland hosted the European Cross-Countries last December and then, despite having qualified for the European Championships in Barcelona last summer, had to sit those out with a calf injury, which had only increased her focus on the upcoming cross-country season.

The Providence College graduate moved home last summer and is now living beside Morton Stadium in Santry for training purposes.

Anne Keenan-Buckley, who will manage Ireland at European Cross-Countries in Albufeira on December 12, described Cullen's loss as "a serious blow, especially as Mary had been working so hard to get in shape for the Europeans. She's really had a terrible run of bad luck."

But she said Cullen should take heart from British veterans like Andy Turner (30) and Chris Thompson (29), who both won medals in Barcelona last summer after several years in the wilderness.

And Cullen herself recalls watching Thompson winning a junior medal when she competed at the 2000 European Cross-Country tests in Malmo and said she can certainly take inspiration and motivation from his comeback.

Cullen was fourth at the big Spanish 'Atapuerca' cross-country international this time last year and Keenan-Buckley is bringing an elite group -- including Fionnuala Britton, Mark Kenneally and Gary Thornton -- to Burgos again this weekend.

And as part of the Irish team preparations for the upcoming Europeans, another large group of Irish juniors and U-23s -- including Ciara Mageean -- will be taking part in the prestigious cross-country in meet in Mol, Belgium also on Sunday.

Irish Independent

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