Fionnuala McCormack: People should not be able to just swap countries

There was no disguising Fionnuala McCormack’s frustration at her fifth place finish on her record-breaking 14th appearance at the European Cross Country Championships in Chia, Italy yesterday.

“I think you could probably write the script on this one at this stage,” said McCormack (Kilcoole) afterwards.

McCormack was distraught as the women’s 8,000m race was dominated by Turkey’s Kenyan imports Yasemin Can in 24:46 with her compatriot Meryem Akda in second in 24:56. Norway’s Karoline Grovdal bagged the bronze in 25:26. McCormack was pipped by Romania’s Ancuta Bobacel by one second in 25:27 to 25:28. It was another bitter pill to swallow with Turkey’s Yasemin Can and Meryem Akda having only declared allegiance last March for their ‘new’ country.

“I don’t think it is right,” she responded blaming the governing bodies primarily for the problem. “It’s not just the Kenyans moving to Turkey. I don’t think people should be able to just swap countries and change names whenever they feel like it. I don’t think that those decisions should be allowed. It’s from the top that these decisions need to be made and it’s not an individual athlete going from Kenya to Turkey just for the craic that is the problem. The problem, like with a lot of the problems within our sport, is coming from the top down.”

There was no consolation for McCormack with the Irish women’s team finishing outside the medals in sixth.

She only came with gold on her mind and she battled in vain to chase down the Turks who broke away early.

“I didn’t come here to try and win a medal,” she admitted. “I wanted to win that race. I thought I was in the shape to do it.

“The minute it started I didn’t feel good and I told myself not to panic but I felt like I was never going anywhere.

“I don’t think it was the course. Maybe it was just one of those days. I still had to try and stick to what I planned to do. When the two took off I knew this wasn’t great because I knew they could work together. I was working as hard as I could on the front but I couldn’t make any gaps.

“At 2km to go that was the point I had to break them. I tried but I just couldn’t. It was a bit windier out there than it probably looks and those types of things don’t help when you try to move away from a group because they’re getting the benefit of drafting off you. The last lap I was waiting for the move and I just couldn’t go.”

The team battled for bronze for much of the race with Romania but came undone on the last lap. Ciara Mageean (UCD) was next home in 31st, followed by Michelle Finn (Leevale) in 33rd, Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle) 54th, Shona Heaslip (An Riocht) in 59th who unfortunately took a heavy fall on the last hill having been placed well and Laura Crowe (An Riocht) in 60th. Turkey won the team title.

Jack O’Leary (Mullingar Harriers) made a bold move for gold in the men’s U20 6,000m race, finishing an excellent sixth in 17:21. O’Leary followed Italy’s eventual silver medallist Yohanes Chiappinelli in a two-man breakaway but Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen took gold in 17:06.

This was a fine performance by the Mullingar man who also led the team to a strong sixth. Peter Lynch (Kilkenny City Harriers AC) was next home in 25th, Darragh McElhinney (Bantry AC) 39th, Barry Keane (Waterford AC) 47th, Fearghal Curtin (Youghal AC) 61st and Charlie O’Donovan (Leevale AC) 76th. The U20 women had a strong showing to place 10th in the 4,000m race led home by Amy Rose Farrell (Blackrock) 24th in 13:35, Carla Sweeney (WSAF) 31st, Sophie Murhpy (DSD) 38th, Aisling Joyce (Claremorris) 55th, Emma O’Brien (Inbhear Dee/Sli Cualann) 64th, and Jodie McCann (DSD) 72nd.

In the U23 races Bethanie Murray (DSD) finished 46th with Amy O’Donoghue (Emerald) two places further back in 48th in the women’s 6,000m. It was won by Poland’s Sofia Ennaoui. Karl Fitzmaurice (Ennis Track) finished 59th and Mitchell Byrne (Rathfarnham WSAF) 67th in the men’s U23 8,000m won by Belgium’s Isaac Kimeli.

The senior men made it four top 10 performances for Ireland in 10th led home by Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders) 36th over 10,000m in 29:42. Mick Clohisey (Raheny Shamrock) was 43rd in 29:54, Mark Christie (Mullingar Harriers) was 56th, Liam Brady (Tullamore Harriers) was 62nd, Mark Hanrahan (Leevale) was 65th and Kevin Dooney (Raheny Shamrock) was 69th. The race was won by Aras Kaya in 27:39.


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