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Sponsorship cloud has silver lining for home elite

THE Dublin Marathon is without a title sponsor again for only the third time in its 34-year history, but, paradoxically, that spells good news for Ireland's top long-distance runners.

It was also without a main sponsor last year, but, this time, the organisers are not bringing in any elite runners from abroad with all the expense and prize money which that entails.

This change considerably improves the chances of getting the race's first Irish winners since Sonia O'Sullivan (2000) and John Treacy (1993).

Thanks to a new partnership with Renault Ireland, both the men's and women's winners on October 23 will receive a Fluence ZE electric car.

And race director Jim Aughney has admitted that the fact that an Irish athlete, and not some relatively unknown African or Russian, is likely to be setting the pace and crossing the line first should add an attractive new dimension to this year's event.

"When we set out all those years ago to build up the event again, we always felt that getting an Irish winner would be the final piece in the jigsaw and that's very likely now," he said.

DISAPPOINTED

"After working so long to put Dublin on the international map of elite marathons, we are naturally very disappointed not to have an invited elite field," Aughney admitted.

"But the flip side is that Dublin is now potentially very competitive for Irish long-distance runners.

"Having an Irish runner out in front and the excitement that will create around the course, will probably add greatly to the whole atmosphere."

An Irish winner is still not a certainty as elites can enter from abroad, but the fact that the organisers are not actively recruiting them lessens their likely quality.

Confirmation two months ago that no title sponsor had yet been unearthed was, Aughney admitted, designed "to shake the tree" to see if one can be found for 2014.

Dublin City Council has given the event a grant this year as part of its events for 'The Gathering' and that has been used to go to promotional showcases abroad, including Stockholm next week.

But Aughney feels the real pay-off for that work will come in 2014 when the course will have to be altered due to the new Luas line.

This year's course is the same as 2012, but, from 2014, the race will no longer be able to access Nassau and O'Connell Streets.

The absence of a major sponsor has also forced an increase in entry fee – from €70 to €75 – for the first time since 2004, but everyone who enters the race, or any of the warm-up series, will go into a draw for another one of those electric cars.

Irish Independent