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Athletics: Sweeney fears Kenneally in the mud

Irish Athletics' marketing drive to try to improve the numbers taking part in tomorrow's Woodies DIY AAI Inter-Club Cross Country Championships was certainly not needed to sell the men's senior race.

The battle between defending champion Mark Kenneally and the reigning inter-county champion Joe Sweeney should be worth the trip to Santry Demesne on its own.

And it will complemented by an equally competitive tussle for the men's senior team title, which Kenneally's club Clonliffe Harriers have monopolised since 2004.

An eighth men's senior title in a row would be the perfect way for the host club to celebrate their 125th anniversary season and their strong team includes national marathon champion Sergiu Ciobanu, Gary O'Hanlon, Cian McLoughlin and Irish U-23 star David Rooney, who returned from the US yesterday to bolster them.

But Sweeney has revealed that his Dundrum South Dublin outfit, which includes another European U-23 star Brendan O'Neill, are really gunning for the team title.

Sweeney fears the expected muddy conditions will not help him and believes Kenneally and Michael Mulhare (North Laois) are his biggest threats.

Sweeney noted that Kenneally's fast time (43:35) in the Pensacola Double Bridge 15km in Florida "indicates he's in very good shape."

Tomorrow's races start with the junior women (1.0), featuring marvellous prodigy Siofra Cleirigh-Buttner (DSD), who romped to the junior title last year only to be disqualified for being too young.

Mary Mulhare, who finished second last year, was awarded the title and returns to defend it, but the tiny DSD powerhouse is the hot favourite after finishing third in the junior race at the European Club Championships in Italy.

Defending junior men's champion John Travers is now over-age, but that race is still stacked with great talent like Shane Quinn, Kevin Dooney, Liam Brady and Jake McDonnell.

The senior women's race is short on big names -- including reigning champion Linda Byrne, who is preparing for a marathon debut -- but that clears the way for Leevale's Lizzie Lee and Borrisokane's Siobhan O'Doherty to stake their claims for glory.

  • Race times: Junior Women (1.0), Junior Men (1.35), Senior Women (2.10), Senior Men (2.45).

Irish Independent