Last year he finished sixth in Edinburgh and, since then, has gone from strength to strength. He broke John Treacy’s national junior 3,000m record, won a record equalling third successive national junior inter-clubs title and could not have been more impressive when he retained the inter-clubs title with more than half a minute to spare at St Augustine’s College a couple of weeks ago.
“Sunday will be a tough race,” he said. “But I think I am ready for it. I was pleased with Dungarvan. I was really up for the race.”
Enda Fitzpatrick, the former international who heads up the Scholarship Programme at DCU, feels Christie has improved a lot from last year.
“He is much stronger and his 8:04 for 3k on a terrible night was just incredible. Had he got another 3k inside 10 or 14 days he would have run a lot faster. And had he decided to run in the senior race in Dungarvan he would certainly have made the senior team. I know that from the fact that he trains with Eoin Higgins who made the team.” He is one of 15 athletes on scholarship at DCU and Higgins, Linda Byrne and Tracey Higgins will all compete in Germany at the weekend while there was big disappointment that Fionnuala Britton, a three-time national junior champion, did not make it.
Rarely has an Irish team gone to the European Cross-country Championships without Séamus Power and Peter Matthews, but there will be a number of new faces when newly crowned inter-counties champion Vinny Mulvey (Raheny Shamrock) leads out the team.
Mulvey was an impressive winner of the inter-counties title in Dungarvan and it was a gold medal that was long overdue for the US-based Dubliner, who is one of Irish athletics greatest servants. Fiachra Lombard is fully fit again and will reclaim his place on the men’s team. After 18 months of injury he came back to win the international cross-country race in Margate and was hoping to reproduce that form at the national inter-counties at St Augustine’s College on Sunday week.
He had flown back to Cork from Birmingham the night before only to be hit by a virus and missed the race.
Mark Kenneally (Clonliffe Harriers) goes into the race on the back of some useful form. Apart from the inter-counties, he finished third in the Reebok international in Birmingham, but a relatively inexperienced team will be shooting for a top 10 placing.
Last year the women came away with the silver medals, but this time they will line up without Sonia O’Sullivan, Anne Keenan-Buckley and Catherina McKiernan. Olympian Maria McCambridge was impressive in the inter-counties while Mary Margaret Meade from Cork - now lecturing at a university in the North - finished fifth in the Reebok international in Birmingham and will be ready to progress from that.
: Vinnie Mulvey (Raheny Shamrock), Gary Murray (St. Malachy’s), Mark Kenneally (Clonliffe), Eoin Higgins (St. Coca’s), Paul McNamara (Athenry), Fiachra Lombard (Leevale).
: Mark Christie (Mullingar/DCU), Mark Hanrahan (Leevale), Jamie McCarthy (Riverstick/Kinsale), Danny Darcy (St. Laurence O’Toole), Joe Sweeney (DSD).
: Maria McCambridge (DSD), Jolene Byrne (Donore), Deirdre Byrne (Sli Chualann), Mary Margaret Meade (North Belfast), Pauline Curley (Tullamore), Orla O’Mahony (UCD).
: Roseanne Galligan (Newbridge), Linda Byrne (DSD), Tracey Williams (Tallaght), Ashling Baker (DSD), Aoife Talty (Raheny Shamrock), Breffni Twohig (DSD).
: Patsy McGonagle; Coaches: Jim Davis and Teresa McDaid; Physio: Mary Mulvany.
The national novice and even age group juvenile championships (12-18) will be held in the picturesque surroundings of Belvedere House, outside Mullingar on Sunday.