Superb Britton retains European title
Fionnuala Britton successfully retained her European Cross Country title with a brilliant display in Budapest on Sunday.
On a momentous day for Irish athletics Britton led the senior women who included Linda Byrne, Ava Hutchinson, Lizzie Lee, Sarah Louise Treacy and Sarah McCormack to team gold
Britton has been in excellent form this autumn and she confirmed it over the course in Skanzen. She put on a tremendous display of tenacious front running as she romped to a two second victory over Dulce Felix of Portugal.
The diminutive Wicklow women was to the fore of the field from the outset and pushed the pace ferociously throughout. With two kilometres to go the race was between Britton and Belgium's Almensch Belete.
However both Felix and Adrianne Herzog of the Netherlands were starting to make an impression on the leaders.
Britton lifted her game once again and propelled herself over the finishing line to take the title in a time of 27:45, ahead of second place Felix 27:47 with Herzog rounding out the top three in third.
Linda Byrne was having the race of her life as she stormed to an eight place finish and was followed home by Ava Hutchinson in 20th, Lizzie Lee in 23rd, Sarah McCormack in 36th and Sarah Louise Treacy in 42nd.
The team combined brilliantly to claim the team gold medals with a score of 52 points. Coincidentally the Irish team’s score of 52 was the same as France, however Ireland were awarded the title on count back.
The senior men’s team was led home by Brendan O’Neill oas he finished in 22nd place. O’Neill, a former team gold medallist at U-23 level at these championships, performed impressively on his debut in the senior race.
He attacked the race bravely from the beginning as he occupied 12th place at the 4km mark. Although he lost a couple of places in the second half of the race. O’Neill showed class to finish in 22nd, just ahead of his club mate Joe Sweeney also of Dundrum South Dublin AC in 27th.
David Rooney was the next of the Irish to finish in 38th place, followed by Michael Mulhare in 44th, Sean Hehir in 52nd and Paul Maher in 73rd.
John Travers led the men’s U-23 home to an 11th place finish. Travers ran a tactfully smart race and he moved up through the field to finish in 44th place.
He was backed up by his team mates Patrick Hogan in 52nd, Dave Fitzmaurice in 76th, Samuel Mealy in 80th and Christopher Johnston in 86th.
Laura Behan (KCK AC) was the best of the Irish in the women’s under 23 race, finishing 54th in a time of 23:38, just ahead of Una Britton (Kilcoole AC) in 58th place.
In the earlier junior races Sarah Collins was the top Irish finisher in 31st place in the junior women’s race. Middle distance specialist Siofra Cleirigh Buttner was the next Irish athlete across the line in 36th place, followed by Mary Mulhare in 41st, Clare McCarthy in 68th and Linda Conroy in 70th. The team combined to place eight overall.
The junior men’s team was down to four athletes as Sean Tobin had to withdraw from the race due to illness. Stephen Kerr led the charge with a terrific 37th place finish.
Kerr ran a brave race and was running just outside the top ten positions during the first half of the race. Next in for the Irish team was Eoghan Totten in 61st, followed by Killian Mooney in 89th and Ian Guiden in 107th. The team combined to finish in 18th place overall.