Cork City Sports Athlete of the Month: Michelle Finn back to her best

Kanturk native delivered in the National Cross Country event at Santry
Cork City Sports Athlete of the Month: Michelle Finn back to her best

It was a season to remember for Cork athlete Michelle Finn, with a mix of highs and lows. Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

A DETERMINED front-running winning performance at the Irish Life Health/National Cross-Country at Santry Demesne has seen Michelle Finn honoured with the Cork City Sports Athlete of the Month award for November.

Putting the disappointment of two years ago behind her – the championships didn’t take place in 2020 – when she finished fifth and failed to gain selection for the Irish team, the Leevale athlete made no mistake on this occasion, making her intentions clear when going straight into the lead on the first lap of the 8km race.

At the River Lee Hotel for the Cork City Sports Athlete of the Month award for November: Michelle Finn (Leevale AC) with George Duggan, Cork Crystal, Mark Walk CCS, Kieran McGeary CEO Cork 96FM C103, Tony O'Connell, Chairman CCS, Donal Murnane, PRO CCS, Claire Meyler, River Lee Hotel, Shay Curtin CCS and Terry O'Rourke, CCS. Picture: M Collins.
At the River Lee Hotel for the Cork City Sports Athlete of the Month award for November: Michelle Finn (Leevale AC) with George Duggan, Cork Crystal, Mark Walk CCS, Kieran McGeary CEO Cork 96FM C103, Tony O'Connell, Chairman CCS, Donal Murnane, PRO CCS, Claire Meyler, River Lee Hotel, Shay Curtin CCS and Terry O'Rourke, CCS. Picture: M Collins.

Stamping her class over the rest of the elite field, Finn held off the late challenge of fellow-Olympian Sarah Healy, a middle-distance specialist, to cross the line with 12 seconds to spare and take her first national cross-country title. She also led her Leevale team to the silver medals, their points total of 98 being 11 shy of winners Letterkenny.

“I didn’t have a great run two years ago,” admitted the Kanturk native of the last time she contested the national decider. “This year, there were some good 1500m runners in the race so I didn’t want it to come down to a kick. 

I decided to go hard from the start and it was great to win. It’s definitely the best run I’ve had over cross-country; I was trying to win the race rather than just to make the team.” 

 The victory did guarantee Finn a place on the Irish team for the Europeans in Abbotstown last Sunday week although in front of a huge home crowd she was unable to recapture the form she displayed three weeks previous, coming home in 46th place and only the sixth scorer on the Irish team.

This was Finn’s fourth time to receive the monthly Cork City Sports award, having previously been honoured in 2015, 2018 and 2019. A two-time Olympian, she is now ranked second on the Irish all-time list in her speciality event, the 3000m steeplechase.

Her time of 9:29.25 in Finland last June was less than a second outside Róisin McGettigan’s record of 9:28.25 which has stood since 2007. Originally coached by Donie Walsh at Leevale, Finn is now one of a number of international athletes advised by Feidhlim Kelly of the Dublin Track Club.

Having just celebrated her 32nd birthday, Finn originally planned to end her international career after this summer’s Olympics. 

However, she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of making it to a third Olympic Games in 2024, as she recently explained: "Before Tokyo, I was thinking I’d make Tokyo and then I’m absolutely retiring. Then it turned out to be 2021, I’m actually getting faster, so I’m not retiring.

“It’s three years to Paris and I don’t see myself retiring before that but I’m definitely more focused on the summer coming, rather than 2024. I’m not sure about the start of the year, but unquestionably the main aim for 2022 will be the Worlds and Europeans on the track.” 

 The Cork City Sports Athletics Person of the Month Award is sponsored by the River Lee, 96&C103FM, The Echo, Cork Crystal and Leisureworld.

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