Fionnuala Britton’s manager, Ian Chaney, insisted she will be focusing purely on her training, with media contact at a strict minimum, upon yesterday’s announcement of the Irish team for the European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade, Serbia on December 8.
“She’s going to be putting her head down now to fine-tune her preparations for the Europeans,” said Chaney. “She had a tough race in France on Sunday and now she needs to sharpen up. She doesn’t like the limelight and wants to focus purely on her running. She has a big challenge ahead to make it three wins in a row, with Ana Dulce Felix, Sophie Duarte and Karoline Grovdal in the mix. It’s going to come down to who has a full tank at 5km into the race. The next two weeks are vital so she doesn’t want to do any media requests.”
Britton finished 7th in the Cross de L’Acier over 6.6km in Northern France on Sunday but the distance at the Europeans will be 8km, which should play to the Wicklow woman’s strengths.
The women’s team will go to Serbia as defending champions but will find the going tough with three of last year’s winning team — Lizzie Lee, Ava Hutchinson and Linda Byrne — unavailable for selection. Mary Cullen is a surprise inclusion, having not run a race all season and struggled to get in a block of consistent training due to an ongoing calf problem.
The talented Sligo athlete played a key role in the women’s team coming fifth at the World Cross Country Championships in Poland last March but it is unclear what impact she can have off limited preparation.
The men’s team will be spearheaded by Paul Pollock of Annadale Striders who won the National Inter County Championships in commanding fashion two weeks ago in Santry.
“I believe I can win it,” said Pollock of his chances at the Europeans. “There’s a bunch of guys who could win and if everything goes right on the day, I definitely have a chance.”
Another athlete who has realistic chance of an individual medal is Paul Robinson in the men’s U23 race. Robinson returns from a training camp in Australia tomorrow and with a 3:35 1500m time from this summer. His manager Nic Bideau confirmed he is “very fit”.
The most surprising selection, or non-selection, is that there will be no U23 female athletes competing. Mary Mulhare, whose brothers Dan and Michael are on the senior team, won the trial but was not picked.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved