Sunday 18 February 2018

Sweeney puts himself in running for Belgrade

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

LESS than a fortnight after finishing second on his marathon debut in Dublin, Joe Sweeney has declared his interest in running at next month's European Cross-Country Championships.

The towering Dundum South Dublin man, who has just turned 28, has completely dominated the domestic cross-country scene in recent years, but the Jerry Kiernan-coached athlete has also spent much of the last two seasons preparing for his first marathon and ran a 2:19.26 debut on Bank Holiday Monday, when he finished second after a fantastic tussle with Sean Hehir.

Sweeney was expected to take an extended break afterwards, but his recovery has been so quick that he has contacted Athletics Ireland's national endurance coach Chris Jones to signal his interest in the Euros in Belgrade on December 8.

The Woodies' DIY national inter-County Championships in Santry on november 17 are, technically, the trials for the Euros, with the first three across the line automatic selections.

However, Fionnuala Britton, West Waterford's David McCarthy, DSD's Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (junior) and Clonliffe's Aaron Hanlon (junior) have already been pre-selected on the basis of their performances in Belgium last weekend, while the selectors have the discretion to pick anyone 'with the potential to contribute to a top five team finish.'

Even if Sweeney is not ready in time to run at Nationals, he has the sort of history that would make him a contender in Belgrade. He finished fifth at the 2011 European Cross-Countries an excellent performance that was somewhat overshadowed by Fionnuala Britton's gold medal the same day.

Another veteran with a similarly rich history in the discipline – Mary Cullen – could also yet make the team for Serbia, even though she may not be ready for the nationals.

Britton's European build-up usually includes a big race in Burgos (Spain), but that clashes with the Nationals this year, so her only other international race beforehand will probably be the Cross de L'Acier in France on November 24.

Elsewhere, there are moves afoot to develop an athletics museum at the home of Irish rugby and soccer.

A plaque to commemorate the first ever athletics international – between England and Ireland at Lansdowne Road on June 5, 1876 – will be unveiled in the Aviva Stadium early next month. The Irish Independent understands that the organisers have been sounded out about developing a much larger tribute to the stadium's distinguished athletics history in the future.

Irish Independent

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