Friday 15 December 2017

Exile Byrne leads US team in Edinburgh as Britton seeks revenge over Duarte

Fionnuala Britton seeks revenge against Sophie Duarte
Fionnuala Britton seeks revenge against Sophie Duarte
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

IRELAND will have three athletes running in the European vest at tomorrow's BUPA Great Edinburgh International Cross-Country, while their American opponents in the three-team event will be led by an Irishman.

Clonliffe's Mick Byrne, who has spent the best part of 30 years coaching across the Pond, will be managing the USA team.

A native of Santry, Byrne initially went to America to take up a running scholarship in Providence.

He eventually became a coach and mentored many Irish athletes in the 24 years he has spent at Iona College in New York.

Five years ago, Byrne moved to the University of Wisconsin to become their cross-country coach and, in the past year, he was promoted to head coach of their entire athletics programme.

In 2011, Byrne coached the Badgers to the NCAA (colleges) cross-country title and also picked up a national award for cross-country coaching. In the last 10 years, between Iona and Wisconsin, his teams have secured eight podium finishes at NCAA championships.

This weekend, he leads an American team whose best known men are Bobby Mack, who won this race last year, and Chris Derrick, who was 10th at World Cross-Countries last year.

Fionnuala Britton (left) is again pitted against Frenchwoman Sophie Duarte, who took her crown at last month's European Cross-Country championships.

Meath's Sarah Treacy (31st at the Europeans last month) has received a call-up for Europe, while Portlaoise's Michael Mulhare and West Waterford's David McCarthy, who were 15th and 18th respectively at the Europeans, have also been rewarded with selection to compete over the notoriously tough Holyrood course.

Stephen Scullion will compete in the 4km men's race, which is packed with world-class Africans such as Kenenisa Bekele and Asbel Kiprop, though Tariku Bekele is a late withdrawal.

The junior races start at noon, while BBC1's live television coverage will take in the men's 4km (1.20) and both senior 8km races (1.40 and 2.15) races.

Meanwhile, multiple world and Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele (31) will make his long-awaited marathon bow in Paris in April.

The fastest marathon debut time in history on a legal course belongs to Kenya's Dennis Kimetto, who ran 2:04:16 in Berlin in 2012, while the course record in Paris is 2:05.12, so there will be massive interest in how Bekele fares.

At home, the Woodies DIY National Indoor Combined Championships take place in Athlone IT tomorrow when Michael Bowler (KCH) and Dunleer's Geraldine Finnegan will be defending their titles.

Bowler faces a strong challenge from former high jumper Kourosh Foroughi (Star of the Sea) and Raheny's Sean Gill.

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