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Pollock leads Ulster charge for Euro team places

By Brian Hill

Rio Olympians Paul Pollock, Kerry O'Flaherty, Breege Connolly and Ciara Mageean are in action this Sunday with selection at stake for the European Cross Country Championships in Chia, Italy in three weeks time.

All four northern athletes are entered in the Irish Life National Championships in Abbotstown which will act as trials for the Irish team to compete in Italy. Both Pollock and O'Flaherty have extensive European experience while Rio marathon competitor Connolly will be aiming for her first European selection.

Annadale's Pollock will be going for a hat trick of victories on Sunday following wins in 2013 and 2014 plus a bronze medal last year when he was recovering from injury. Paul was Ireland's top marathon finisher in Rio and a few days ago finished a useful 14th in the Delhi Half Marathon . In last year's Euros in France, he was second Irish finisher behind Raheny's Mick Clohissey who will be defending his title this weekend.

A fit Pollock has, however, a clear record of getting the better of Clohissey in this event. The Holywood doctor therefore starts as clear favourite to take another title. Former European athlete Conor Duffy of Glaslough is also racing.

In the Women's race Olympic, steeplechaser O'Flaherty was disappointed not to make last year's Irish team of four which secured bronze medals in France. The Newcastle woman was fourth in the trials a year ago and she should gain selection again, especially in view of her current confidence about her level of fitness.

In addition to these two, plus Connolly, other notable northern entries include Armagh's Danielle Fegan and Strabane based Anne Marie McGlynn. Former Euro bronze medallist McGlynn was unfortunate not to be selected a year ago when she lost a shoe when well placed for a rostrum finish.

Ireland's top middle distance runner Ciara Mageean is a surprise entry as she has rarely raced over grass in recent years. However, neither the UCD student nor anyone else, is likely to challenge overwhelming favourite Fionnuala Britton who is expected to add yet another title to her lengthy list. The former double European champion feels that she has the ability to make yet another top three placing in Europe.

The Podium 4 Sport Joe Seeley 10K takes place tomorrow at Ormeau Park (start 2.30pm).

Belfast Telegraph


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