Cork's Stephanie Cotter and Darragh McElhinney in Irish cross country team

Cork's Stephanie Cotter and Darragh McElhinney in Irish cross country team
Stephanie Cotter, then of West Muskerry AC, on her way to winning the Junior Women 1,500m event in 2018. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

The SPAR European cross country championships in Lisbon dominates the athletics schedule on Sunday. 

Athletics Ireland has entered full teams in each of the six championship races as well a team in the mixed relay, which is basically a ‘novelty’ event.

The reason for the full selection of athletes is that Ireland will host the championships next year on the same course at the National Sports Campus in Abbottstown that the national championships were held on, so a strong show of numbers was to be expected. 

Hopefully, the weather next year will be a little better than this year’s mud bath that caused major course entry changes a couple of days before the championships.

Only two Cork runners have been selected out of a total of 40 to highlight once again the poor state of cross country running in Cork. 

As well as that, neither of them is based here in Cork.

Stephanie Cotter of West Muskerry, in her second year at Adams State University, strolled to victory in the American collegiate cross country championships a couple of weeks ago to add to the indoor and outdoor track titles she won in her first year. 

She has been selected on the U23 team, together with her college teammates Eilish and Roisin Flanagan from Tyrone.

Cotter finished 25th in the junior race last year when it was held in Tilburg, Holland, while Eilish was 16th in the U23 race and her twin sister 41st.

Darragh McElhinney of Bantry couldn’t have been more impressive in winning the national junior title and was never challenged throughout the race. 

Now studying at UCD, this will be his last race as a junior and he is determined to leave on a high note. 

At last year’s Europeans, he ran strongly from the start and was well placed in the top 10. However, he faded a bit to finish 16th but should have little difficulty improving on that performance.

RTÉ 2 will have live coverage of the two senior races from 12pm-2pm on Sunday, while the BBC Red Button channel will have live coverage of all six races starting at 10am.

Dublin will host the championships next year, followed by Turin in 2021. 

The same year will see the European U18 track and field championships being held in Jerusalem and will mark the first time for Israel to host a major athletics championships. 

Time for this year’s U16s to start getting ready for this historical event.

The Munster intermediate and juvenile B cross country championships were held at Two Mile Borris in Thurles on Sunday.

The women’s race was dominated by Cork runners, with Sinead O’Driscoll of Midleton winning well from Orla Byrne of St. Finbarr’s in second and Andrea Bickerdike of Leevale third. 

Cork won the inter-county and St Finbarr’s were third in the club contest.

Michael Harrington of Durrus, who won the O50 title at the Munster masters championships a couple of weeks ago, put in another good performance to finish third in the men’s race, with Justin Ryan of Grange Fermoy seventh. Cork couldn’t field club or county teams.

The indoor track and field season has started early for schools combined events athletes. Last Saturday the schools international was held in the Emirates Stadium in Glasgow and produced some superb competition.

James Ezeonu of Midleton College finished third in the O16 boys competition, winning the 200m in 22.56, and was also a close second in the long jump with 6.49m. 

Competition winner was Alan Miley from Wicklow with 3615 points, 101 points ahead of Ezeonu. In the Irish schools championships Miley had 230 points to spare over Ezeonu.

The Irish team recorded a surprise win over England.

Laura Frawley of St. Mary’s Charleville was third in the girls' O16 competition. 

She cleared 1.65m to finish a close second in the high jump. Stacey Komolafe of Bandon GS was 14th.

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