There have been bigger days in Fionnuala McCormack’s career, but few that felt as sweet. Not only did the 35-year-old stamp her supremacy over her rivals at today’s National Cross Country Championships in Abbotstown, winning her ninth senior title, but she was able to share the podium with her younger sister Una.
No siblings had ever accomplished that feat and it made a special day even better for the two-time European champion. “It’s a great day for our family, for our club,” said McCormack, who turned around after crossing the line and run back down the course to cheer on her sister.
I could hear the commentary and also family and friends telling me she was chasing me home.
From the start, she made the 8,000m race an exhibition, bolting to the lead. None of her rivals attempted to follow and after a mile she was out of sight. Just six weeks after clocking a huge personal best of 2:26:47 at the Chicago Marathon, there was every chance McCormack would still have heavy legs in the damp, sticky underfoot conditions, but it turned out to be the opposite. She bounced around the course with her familiar staccato rhythm and had 101 seconds to spare over runner-up Mary Mulhare at the finish.
Next came Una Britton, McCormack’s 29-year-old sister, whose bronze medal proved just reward for her years of persistence. “I love running and I’ve loved it all the time, whether I was coming last or getting lapped or now when you’re at the good end of it. If you love it you’ll stick with it. For the last few years I’ve always wished I was up here but I got injured on and off and now I’ve had a good long spell of not being injured.”
The two will tomorrow be named on the Irish team for the European Cross Country in Lisbon on December 8. “I’ve looked up to her for years and she’s always been there supporting me,” said Una.
For McCormack it was vindication of her sister’s ability. “I knew she could be top three and it was a case of convincing her because she often doesn’t have that confidence,” she said. “It’s special to be on the podium with your sister.”
Emotions also ran high after the senior men’s race where Liam Brady caused a big upset, handing Tullamore Harriers their first ever victory.
The 27-year-old surged clear halfway through the 10,000m race and built a lead of 50 metres entering the final 3,000m. Only when Brian Fay of Raheny gave chase did the deficit start to reduce, and though Fay got to within 10 metres of Brady with a half-mile left to run, the Tullamore man found something extra to prevail by five seconds. Sean Tobin of Clonmel finished third.
“My Dad is a great motivator and he said before I went out, ‘I’ll have an ambulance waiting for you at the end,’” said Brady. “I badly, badly wanted a national senior title. If it took until I died I was going to get it. I can say to every young fella and girl in Tullamore now that you can do it if you put your mind to it.”
Darragh McElhinney bounced back from injury struggles to defend his title in the U-20 men’s race, the Glengariff star coming home seven seconds clear of Keelan Kilrehill. Jodie McCann took the U-20 women’s title in the absence of Sarah Healy, who struggled to overcome a virus in recent weeks, causing her to opt out of a tilt at the European Cross Country.