European 1500m silver medallist Ciara Mageean is one of the standout names on an Irish team full of medal possibilities at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Piemonte-La Mandria Park near Turin on 11 December.
After winning silver in Munich last summer, Mageean smashed Sonia O’Sullivan’s long-standing Irish 1500m record with 3:56.63 for victory in the Brussels Diamond League but the 30-year-old, who competed in the mixed relay in Fingal-Dublin last year, will test her endurance on an undulating course in the senior women’s 8km in La Mandria Park next month.
Mageean finished second at the Irish Cross Country Championships at this distance behind Sarah Healy last weekend although her chances of contending for the title were effectively ended by a lost spike on the last lap.
Healy has opted to contest the U23 6km in Turin next month where she will be a serious medal candidate but Mageean is still part of a strong Irish team in the senior women’s race which also features two-time Olympian Michelle Finn.
However, one notable absentee from the senior women’s race is former two-time champion Fionnuala McCormack, a veteran of 17 editions of the SPAR European Cross Country Championships.
There is also grounds for optimism that the men’s U20 and U23 races will yield silverware for the Irish contingent. Recently crowned national cross country champion Darragh McElhinney lines up in the U23 8km again one year after winning individual silver and leading Ireland to a hard-fought and hugely popular title in the team race.
And if anything, the Irish team is even stronger this year. Their team includes not only Keelan Kilrehill who was their second scorer in 2021 but also Efrem Gidey, the bronze medallist behind Jakob Ingebrigtsen in the U20 race in 2019 and sixth in the 10,000m at the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships.
And there will also be strong individual and team chances in the men’s U20 6km which features European U20 3000m champion Nick Griggs and Dean Casey, the winner of the U20 race at the ECCC Cross Country in February.
Ireland is also sending a mixed relay team which features Andrew Coscoran who just missed out on a medal in this event in Dublin last month.
The full Irish team can be found here.
A very brief history…
Ireland has won 19 medals in SPAR European Cross Country Championships history including six gold medals.
Catherina McKiernan won senior women’s gold in the first ever edition in Alnwick 1994 while Fionnuala McCormack became the first athlete to win back-to-back senior women’s titles in 2011 and 2012.
Their most recent gold medal triumph came courtesy of the Irish team in the U23 race in the Irish capital last year, one of three medals the Irish team picked up at home in Fingal-Dublin.
The SPAR European Cross Country Championships will be streamed live in full through the European Athletics website.