Santry wins race to host top Euro event

IRELAND will host the 2009 European cross-country championships.

The European Athletics Association made the announcement yesterday with the Santry Demesne course in North Dublin the venue for the event on December 13 in two years time.

The Irish bid was one of three which had made the shortlist, with the other bids coming from France (Carcassone) and Poland (Bydogoszcz).

Mary Coghlan, Chair of the AAI’s Finance and Risk Committee, made an excellent presentation at a meeting which was also attended by the Chair of High Performance, Liam Hennessy, and the Chair of the Competition Committee, Paddy Marley.

Senan Turnbull, Director of Community Services with Fingal County Council, was present to lend their support to the venture which will be attended by hundreds of athletes and thousands of officials and supporters from across Europe.

The event will be televised by RTÉ.

The championships have become one of the most important annual events on the European athletics calendar and, last year, Fionnuala Britton won the silver medal in the U-23 women’s race.

The inaugural senior women’s title was won by Catherina McKiernan, winner of four silver medals at the world cross-country championships, and she also made a major contribution when the Irish women, led by Sonia O’Sullivan, won the silver team medals in Edinburgh.

“This could be the ideal opportunity for the likes of Fionnuala Britton to medal at senior level,” John Treacy, CEO of the Irish Sports Council, predicted yesterday.

Treacy, himself, sent the whole country into raptures when he retained his world crown in Limerick in 1979 having claimed it the previous year at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow.

“I think the European championships could hardly be coming to Ireland at a better time as we have a lot of promising young athletes coming through.

“We in the Irish Sports Council are thrilled that Ireland has succeeded in their bid. We always thought they had put a very good package together and we felt when we met the EAA delegation on their visit to view the course we felt they were quite impressed with what they saw.

“I, personally, think Santry Demesne is a very good course. It is adjacent to Morton Stadium which adds an exciting dimension to the venue and is also adjacent to the new AAI headquarters.

“From a spectator point of view it will also be very good with plenty of good viewing points for those who like to get in close to the race.”

Said Chair of the Athletics Ireland High Performance Committee, Liam Hennessy: “I am thrilled with the endorsement by European Athletics of our bid to host the Spar European Cross Country 2009. It’s been an odyssey and I would like to thank all the coordinating team for their enthusiastic hard work but would especially thank Tom McCormack and Paddy Marley for their pivotal role in the bid process.

“We now look forward to delivering a world-class event on December 13, 2009.”

Brendan Hackett, CEO of Athletics Ireland, believes it will have huge benefits for the country.

“To be awarded the championships is a tremendous honour for Athletics Ireland. This will not only benefit athletics throughout the country but will also boost Dublin and the country as a whole.”

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