Agony for Britton as hat-trick proves just out of reach
Double European cross country champion Fionnuala Britton just missed out on the medals in yesterday's European Championships where she finished fourth, four seconds behind bronze medallist Dulce Felix of Portugal.
Earlier the Kilcoo woman was under extreme pressure to succeed in achieving an unprecedented hat-trick of victories after wins in the past two years.
However, all her key opponents from last year were back in action again with France's Sophie Durante in particular determined to do better than her sixth place 12 months ago.
Steeplechaser Durante forced the pace at halfway from a breakaway group of seven with Britton struggling to stay in contention.
Durante broke clear with three km remaining, while Felix fought a battle for silver with GB trials winner Gemma Steel.
Britton was isolated in fourth and despite her battling efforts could not close the gap for a medal position.
At the finish Durante took gold by a comfortable seven seconds with Steel outsprinting Felix in the home straight.
Britton's fourth place led the Irish team to sixth position behind the winning GB team. Sarah Treacy was 31st,Ciara Durkan 36th, Sarah Mulligan 44th and Strabane's Anne Marie McGlynn 49th.
Britton said "I struggled in the race as I couldn't hang on to the breaks.With two wins already anything other than another victory is a disappointment for me."
Steel was also able to celebrate gold in the team competition, along with Julia Bleasdale (seventh), Lauren Howarth (11th), Steph Twell (15th), Katie Brough (27th) and Lauren Deadman (43rd).
Steel said: "I was chuffed with beating Dulce in a sprint finish.
"It was nice to beat Fionnuala who has been a big rival over the years. It's just a shame I got a bit boxed in at the start, but I couldn't do anything about that as I set off as fast as I could.
"It would have been nice to win today, but I couldn't really do anything once she (Duarte) opened the gap up."
In the Men's Senior 10k event, Annadale's Paul Pollock was unable to replicate the form he showed three weeks ago when easily winning the Irish Championship.
After an assertive start he drifted back through the field when the pace was forced by Alemayeau Bezabeh of Spain and Turkey's Polat Arikan. The Holywood doctor remained in the high teens for most of the race but fell back to 26th at the finish.
He had the consolation of featuring in the Irish team which finished sixth with Michael Mulhare 15th, David McCarthy 18th and Dan Mulhare 31st. Belfast's Stephen Scullion was 64th.
The race was won by 2009 winner Bezabeh, who had a huge 21 seconds to spare over Arikan. GB's Andy Vernon snatched bronze.
The Irish Men's u-23 team finished a commendable fourth behind winners GB.
Paul Robinson was an excellent 9th with John Travers 32nd, Kevin Dooney 36th and Shane Quinn 41st. Dromore's Ryan M'Dermott was 71st.
In the senior men's race Andy Vernon snatched a bronze medal in a thrilling finish.