IRELAND’S men’s under-23 team are capable of winning medals at this year’s European Cross-Country Championships, according to Mark Carroll.
Carroll, as US athlete manager, is the middle man between the US-based athletes and Athletics Ireland.
The Corkman, who has won European junior and senior (indoors) titles on the track and held Irish records for all three middle distance events from 3,000m to 10,000m at the one time, still competes — he runs in a 10k road race in the UK at the weekend — but these days his time is mostly taken up with liaising with the US-based athletes, and so far this season the news has been good.
At the weekend two of Ireland’s young guns, David McCarthy and Ciaran O Lionaird, fought out the finish in the Blue race at the Pre Nationals Meet at Terre Haute, with McCarthy ending up sixth and O Lionaird 10 seconds further back in 10th position, while Andrew Ledwith finished ninth in the White race.
All of them could be competing in the European Cross-Country Championships in Brussels — Ledwith was first Irishman home in the U-23 race last year — but Mark Carroll stressed that it would be unfair to ask them to compete in national inter-counties championships in Tramore on November 23 for selection.
“I need to speak to all of them and to the team manager, Anne Keenan-Buckley,” he said.
“Their racing schedule is so intense it would be unfair to expect the US athletes to come home for the national inter-counties cross-country championships.
“They have the NCAA cross-country championships on a Monday and the inter-counties the following weekend so there is not a chance they could compete.
“It would mean a transatlantic flight a day or two after the NCAAs and then have to compete at the weekend. It’s not an option.
“There is a very, very good under-23 team there — possibly a team that could win a medal — if they all maintain their form. If Ciaran and David, in particular, are pre-selected it would make for a super U-23 team because there are lads like Rory Chesser back home to back them up. This is a team that could win medals.”
Mark Carroll’s appointment to take charge of the US-based athletes was a breath of fresh air for those scholarship athletes — some of whom elect to remain on in the States — who were isolated in the past.
He is in regular touch with the athletes and, if they have problems, is on hand to sort them out.
“At the moment they are all going well, and Martin Fagan, in particular,” he said. “Mary Cullen is going well. She had a very good run at the Downtown 5k in Providence a few weeks back and she will probably do the Manchester Road Race and then the European Cross Country Championships in Brussels.
“Her injury put paid to her chances of qualifying for the Olympic Games but, in consultation with her coach, Ray Treacy, she decided not to push it and that is now proving to be a wise decision. You don’t want to be going there unless you are ready to roll. It is too competitive.
“Andrew (Ledwith) is going very well. I was down in New York a few weeks ago meeting Andrew and his coach because Mick Byrne has left Iona and gone to Wisconsin so I went down and met them. Andrew is going well, doing his base work and hopefully by the NCAAs he will sharpen up and hopefully he will do very well. Last year he was 31st and any improvement on that will be very good running because the NCAA is so strong right now.
“Ciaran (O Lionaird) is going well. He has been very consistent. I think there is a very good batch of guys coming through. We just have to keep in contact with them and give them what they need to make it to international athletics.”
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