A year after winning team bronze at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Samokov, Ireland’s senior women are determined to make the podium again in Hyères.
To such an extent that Fionnuala McCormack is putting that ahead of individual glory.
McCormack, a triple gold medallist at the event, prepared for this year’s championships on December 13 by winning her 15th Irish senior title with victory over 8km at Santry Demesne on Sunday, ahead of Lizzie Lee and Caroline Crowley.
That trio will be joined in the Irish squad for Hyères by Kerry O’Flaherty, Ciara Durkan and Michelle Finn, with the team at the forefront of their plans.
“We need her (Fionnuala) to be out there and put on a good performance. It leads to fewer points and a good team performance for us,” said Ireland’s High Performance Director Kevin Ankrom.
“Athletes are planning more to make an effort to be on this team.
“Overall as a cross country programme we would have an expectation that our teams perform better and we are certainly working towards that.”
McCormack, a double individual champion who ran the Chicago Marathon last month, agreed. She said: “We definitely have a good chance with the team.
“With a short build-up (because of the marathon) it definitely has to be about the team.
“For the team I’m going to go out there and do my absolute best. We backed up our team gold in 2012 with our bronze last year. This women’s team is going to be strong for the next few years. The team is the most realistic (chance of a medal) but I’m going to go out there and do my absolute best as well.”
When McCormack, then running in her maiden name of Britton, won her second title in Budapest in 2012, she celebrated double gold in a squad of Linda Byrne, Ava Hutchinson, Lee and Sarah McCormack.
Finn and McCormack were in the bronze medal-winning squad who achieved 87 points last December as Great Britain took the team title (21) from Spain (70).
Their senior men’s team will be led by Mick Clohisey who won the national championships on Sunday for the third time in succession.
Ireland have named squads for all six of the events in Hyères:
Mick Clohisey (Raheny Shamrock), John Coghlan (MSB), Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders), Ryan Creech (Leevale), Joe Sweeney (DSD), Sergiu Ciobanu (Clonliffe Harriers)
Fionnuala McCormack (Kilcoole, Lizzie Lee (Leevale), Caroline Crowley (Crusaders), Kerry O'Flaherty (Newcastle), Ciara Durkan (Skerries), Michelle Finn (Leevale)
Thomas Moran (Dunshaughlin), Brandon Hargreaves (Clonliffe Harriers), Hugh Armstrong (Ballina), Keith Fallon (GCH), Sean Tobin (Clonmel), Aaron Hanlon (Clonliffe Harriers)
Women’s Under-23 (2 athletes selected)
Shona Heaslip (An Riocht), Emma Mitchell (Banbridge)
Kevin Mulcaire (Ennis Track), Peter Lynch (KCH), Jack O’ Leary (Mullingar Harriers), Cathal Doyle (Clonliffe Harriers) James Edgar (Lisburn), Pierre Murchan (Celtic)
Hope Saunders (Clonliffe Harriers), Aoibhe Richardson (KCH), Isabel Carron (Skerries), Deirdre Healy (Ratoath), Nadia Power (Templeogue), Sophie Murphy (DSD)