Mighty Mo tipped for glory at Santry

WHEN the President of Athletics Ireland, Liam Hennessy, launched the bid to bring the SPAR European cross-country championships to Dublin in Italy in 2006, Mo Farah was a surprise winner of the senior men’s title.

Tomorrow the British Olympian goes to the line as favourite to reclaim the title from the ageless Ukrainian and eight-time champion, Sergiy Lebid, at Santry.

There are numerous possibilities but few other probabilities – maybe Ireland’s Martin Fagan, who was one of the favourites last year until he fell, or Alistair Cragg, who have been seventh and eighth, respectively, in previous years – can spring a surprise.

Spain will have a say in the destination of the medals through former Olympic 5,000m finalist, Alemayehu Bezabeh, Sergio Sanchez and Carles Castillejo who was the leading European at this year’s world championships in Amman.

Italy have promoted last year’s under-23 winner, Andrea Lalli, to their senior team for a purpose – they had four in the top 25 last year and did not win a medal – while Mustafa Mohamed of Sweden who was third behind Lebid and Farah last year, is sure to figure again.

Farah began the year by winning the 3,000m title at the European indoor championships, can finish it off in style by winning the title for the second time, although Lebid still has to be respected as he again comes into the race on the back of one good performance. He finished fourth in Giro al Sas’ in Trento, Italy, in October and was leading European.

With Mary Cullen challenging for individual honours, the senior women’s team is set to challenge for medals with Fionnuala Britton, 2006 U23 silver medallist, and Linda Byrne, fourth in the 2005 junior women’s race and twice a top 10 finisher at U23 level, included in a strong team.

They won silver in Edinburgh in 2003 when Sonia O’Sullivan finished fourth. Catherina McKiernan, who won the inaugural European championships in Alnwick, was also a member of that team.

Britain’s three-time junior champion, Stephanie Twell, has the form to win the U23 title after a big win in Gateshead last month.

Norway could make history by winning the men’s and women titles with Sondre Nordstad Moen who was second in Brussels, favourite for the junior men’s race, and Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal fancied to succeed Stephanie Twell as junior women’s champion.

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