By Damian Lawlor
Ireland have sent Senior Men’s Cross Country teams to compete in every edition of the European Cross Country Championships since it started in 1994. Over those twenty-eight championships only one Irish Senior Men’s team has made it onto the podium. That was back in 2000 when Peter Mathews (10th), Seamus Power (14th), Gareth Turnbull (23rd), Keith Kelly (25th), Ken Nason (55th) and Fiacra Lombard (67th) combined to win a set of bronze medals. So long ago that this correspondent can remember running in races against a number of the squad.
Ireland now has a very talented bunch of athletes eligible for the Senior Men’s team but this has been the case on a number of occasions since 2000 and yet medals were not won. Are this generation of Irish endurance athletes in the running to win medals?
Irish Senior Men look for European Cross Country spots
Jamie Battle (Mullingar Harriers) – Like Efrem Gidey, Jamie seems to thrive when the conditions are tough. In fact in December 2017 he got the better of Gidey on the steep hills of the Waterford IT course as he won the All Ireland U19 cross country title. In 2021 and 2022 Jamie was on the Irish U23 teams who medalled at Euro Cross. Can he make the step up to senior team?
Cormac Dalton (Mullingar Harriers) – A strong run to finish 11th at Cross Internacional de Atapuerca in late October shows that Cormac is in good shape. This follows on from a very strong track season. Cormac ran 28:04.29 for 10,000m in California in April. He went on to finish 10th over that distance at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships in early June. Still racing on the 30th July Dalton had maintained his good form and he finished 2nd in the National Senior 5000m.
Cathal Doyle (Clonliffe Harriers) – Cathal has just returned to Ireland following a very successful stint in the Pacific Northwest. His PBs for 800m 1:48.51; 1500m 3:36.85; and 5000m 13:38.01 show that Cathal really got the head down in Portland and worked hard. He’s no slouch on Cross Country terms either. In 2021 he finished 119th at the NCAA DI Cross Country Championships. Expect Cathal to race well tactically in Kilkenny.
Brian Fay (Raheny Shamrock) – Runs of 7:36.89 for 3000m and 13:01.40 for 5000m mark Brian out as world class. He will fear no one on Sunday.
Efrem Gidey (Clonliffe Harriers) – For most Irish athletics fans the first time that the name Efrem Gidey would have caught their attention was his win at Irish Schools Cross Country title in Waterford in 2018. A year later in Lisbon he raced to a brilliant bronze individual medal at Euro Cross in the U20 grade. Both of those courses are extremely hilly and Efrem benefited hugely. Gowran is a tough course. Expect that to suit Efrem.
Keelan Kilrehill (Moy Valley) – A comfortable win at the Autumn Open International means that Keelan has to be viewed as one of the top contenders for this weekend. He has had some great results at European Cross Country over the years with his 6th place finish in Dublin and 9th place finish in Turin crucial to the Irish U23 Men’s squad success.
Peter Lynch (Kilkenny City Harriers) – Peter is tough competitor whether on track or in Cross Country competition. His 3rd place finish last year was expected considering he’d finished 43rd in 2021 at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. His good form continued this year and he ran new PBs of 13:30.86 for 5000m and 27:59.27 for 10,000m.
Darragh McElhinney (UCD AC) – Darragh only turned 23 earlier this month but he has already amassed a collection of National Senior titles. In 2020 and 2021 he was victorious in the National Senior 5000m. He has also won the National Senior Indoor 3000m in both 2022 and 2023. Last year Darragh won the National Senior Cross Country for the first time in Donegal. He will be eager to retain that title in Kilkenny.
Pierre Murchan (DCH AC) – You have to think that Pierre will have gained in confidence from his 2nd place finish at the Autumn Open International in October. Last year he was 6th in the National Senior Cross Country. He improved his 5000m PB to 13:52.43 over the summer. Can he improve on his placing in the National Senior Cross Country on Sunday?
Jack O’Leary (Mullingar Harriers) – Jack finished 8th last year and just missed out on pulling on the green singlet in Turin. On the track he raced well this summer and his seasons best for 5000m of 13:51.02 is noteworthy as it’s the first time he’s been sub 14 since February 2020. He is yet to race this Autumn but you can expect the Mullingar runner to give it his all.
Sean Tobin (Clonmel AC) – From 2017 to 2019 Sean Tobin was the leading Irish finisher in the Senior Men’s race at Euro Cross finishing 15th, 10th and 18th in successive years. His injury woes definitely have had an impact on Irish hopes of success. Hopefully he is back to full fitness and leading the charge in Gowran.
Others expected to be in the shake up for places include Finley Daly (Sligo AC), Martin Hoare (Celbridge AC), Emmet Jennings (DSD), Hugh Armstrong (Ballina AC), Sean O’Leary (Clonliffe Harriers) and Gary Crummy (Newry AC).