Paul Pollock and double European champion Fionnuala Britton will lead a 33-strong Irish team at the televised Spar European Cross Country Championships at Samokov, Bulgaria, this weekend.
Holywood doctor Pollock has quickly bounced back to near peak fitness following a labral tear in his hip which prevented him racing in the European Marathon in Zurich last summer.
Following rest, he won a titanic struggle in Dundalk three weeks ago against the best in Ireland to retain his Irish Inter Counties Cross Country title. This makes him favourite to be first Irishman across the line on Sunday ahead of team-mates Mark Hanrahan of Leevale and Raheny's Mick Clohisey.
Conditions permitting, the former Dublin Marathon winner will certainly be aiming for a top 20 placing following his below-par run of 26th last year.
In the Senior Women's event, there will be intense Irish interest once again in 30-year-old Britton of Kilcoole AC, who will be going for an unprecedented third individual title following her wins in 2011 and 2012. Last year, she finished an isolated fourth which was a frustrating four seconds behind bronze medallist Dulce Felix of Portugal.
Britton has reason to be optimistic about once again making a rostrum position. In the European Marathon in August, she ran a world class time of under two hours 32 minutes.
In her recent Inter Counties win, she stated she was a lot fitter than a year ago. She proved this two weeks ago by finishing four seconds behind European Champion Sophie Durante of France.