By Will Downing
Mary Cullen and Joe Sweeney have been forced to withdraw from next week’s European Cross-Country Championships in Belgrade due to fitness issues.
Maria McCambridge of DSD comes into the senior women’s team in place of 2009 European indoor bronze-medallist Cullen, bolstering a selection headed by three-in-a-row chasing Fionnuala Britton.
With Sarah McCormack and Sara Treacy also present, three of last year’s gold-medal winning team have been selected for the title defence in the Serbian capital.
Cullen was confirmed today not to be 100% fit for next week’s competition, with Sweeney in a similar boat coming off his second place in the recent Dublin Marathon.
Sweeney’s position is taken by Mick Clohisey of Raheny Shamrock.
Paul Pollock of Annadale Striders heads the Irish senior men’s team having finished 21st in the men’s marathon at the World Championships in Moscow, and is joined by U23 men’s team gold-medallists from 2010, David McCarthy of West Waterford Ac and Michael Mulhare from Portlaoise.
One other change in the team sees Isabelle Odlum called up in place of Sarah Collins in the junior women’s race, meaning five of the six selected at this category come from Dundrum South Dublin AC, including the highly-rated Siofra Cleirigh-Buttner.
The junior team features national champion Sean Tobin, who claimed the track double at the All-Ireland Schools Championships in Tullamore in June, and Aaron Hanlon of Clonliffe Harriers, who took a second-place finish at the Euro Cross Cup in Antwerp on November 3rd.
National endurance coach Chris Jones has defended the decision not to enter any athletes to the women’s Under-23 race, citing it to be a period of transition: “The non-selection of under-23 women we expected (to provoke) a reaction. I respect that, and it’s put out a huge debate.
“When I look at the junior athletes coming through, and the transference of those junior athletes, there is a concern about the number of athletes that we don’t transfer through.
“I think the main thing is we need to create much more opportunity for athletes in Ireland, much more education and support for coaches.
“We have been expected athletes to just be able to go through this period from junior to senior. It doesn’t work like that.
“We need to offer much more support. We need to invest in what we’re trying to do in those areas, and it also needs to be performance based.
“The key is athletes are just expected to do this and it’s not as easy as that. We need to build a resource and work with coaches closely.”
Meanwhile, the Olympic Council of Ireland have struck a new kit deal with New Balance that will take in at least next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
The agreement, describes by the OCI as “multi-year” covers apparel and footwear.
Irish team for 2013 European Cross-Country Championships , Belgrade, December 8th –
Fionnuala Britton (Kilcoole AC) Coach: Chris Jones
Sarah McCormack (Clonliffe Harriers AC) Coach: Gregor Nicholson
Sara Treacy (Moynalvey/Kilcloon) Coach: Bud Baldaro
Ann-Marie Larkin (Lifford AC) Coach: Teresa McDaid
Ciara Durkan (Skerries AC) Coach: Enda Fitzpatrick
Maria McCambridge (Dundrum South Dublin AC) Coach: Dick Hooper
Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders) Coach: Andy Hobdell
Michael Mulhare (Portlaoise AC) Coach: Chris Jones
Dan Mulhare (Portlaoise AC) Coach: John Downes
Stephen Scullion (Clonliffe Harriers AC) Coach: Chris Jones
David McCarthy (West Waterford AC) Coach: Chris Jones
Mick Clohisey (Raheny Shamrock)
Ryan McDermott (Annadale Striders) Coach: Mark Kirk
John Travers (Donore Harriers) Coach: Jerry Kiernan
Shane Quinn (Ferrybank AC) Coach: Ray Treacy
Kevin Dooney (Raheny Shamrock AC) Coach: Paul Harkins
Paul Robinson (St Coca’s AC) Coach: Robert Denmead
Jake Byrne (Mullingar Harriers) Coach: Ricardo Santos
Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (Dundrum South Dublin AC) Coach: Donal Hennigan
Meghan Ryan (Dundrum South Dublin AC) Coach: Donal Hennigan
Sarah Fitzpatrick (Dundrum South Dublin AC) Coach: Enda Fitzpatrick
Clare McCarthy (Dundrum South Dublin AC) Coach: Donal Hennigan
Amy O'Donoghue (Emerald AC) Coach: Ann O'Mara
Isabelle Odlum (Dundrum South Dublin AC) Coach: Donal Hennigan
Aaron Hanlon (Clonliffe Harriers AC) Coach: Joe Cooper
Sean Tobin (Clonmel AC) Coach: Anthony Moynihan
Ruairi Finnegan (Letterkenny AC) Coach: Teresa McDaid
Kevin Mulcaire (Ennis Track) Coach: Pat Hogan
Andrew Coscoran (Star of the Sea AC) Coach: Brendan Meade
Con Doherty (Westport AC) Coach: Jerry Kilroy