Monday 14 October 2019

McCormack facing uphill battle

Fionnuala McCormack. Photo: Sportsfile
Fionnuala McCormack. Photo: Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

Fionnuala McCormack has never been one to shirk a challenge, though the one she faces in Aarhus, Denmark, today is as tough as she will have faced.

Not only is the 34-year-old back on the international stage less than six months after giving birth, but the course and opposition will make it a daunting test.

She leads an Irish team of six at the World Cross Country Championships, the biennial event which last saw Irish gold via Sonia O'Sullivan in 1998.

And while it may be 40 years since John Treacy took the men's title in Limerick, success for the Irish here will be measured in more modest terms.

It will come as a major shock if any non-African-born athlete cracks the top 10 in the senior races, with Norwegian wunderkind Jakob Ingebrigtsen capable of defying the odds in the men's U-20 race.

That 8,000m race will see Darragh McElhinney and Jamie Battle toe the line for the Irish, with a top-50 finish for either being a good day at the office.

McCormack will be joined by Sara Treacy in the senior women's race, five laps and 10,000m of suffering that has few parallels in sport.

Not only is it the pace that kills, with global stars like Beatrice Chepkoech and Hellen Obiri in the line-up, but the course, which the organisers are taking an especially sadistic approach with this year.

There are mud pits, sand pits, water pits and a steep ascent up the roof of a museum, with no flat running to allow athletes to draw breath. In the senior men's 12,000m race Sean Tobin and Kevin Dooney will fly the flag for Ireland. Tobin had the race of his life to finish 10th at the European Cross Country in December, and a similar effort here could see him crack the top 30.

  • World Cross Country Championships, Live, 9.45am, BBC red button, IAAF YouTube

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