Fionnuala Britton retains Euro Cross Country gold medal

Fionnuala Britton produced a magnificent run to retain her title in the senior women's race at Sunday's European Cross Country Championships.

Britton took the lead midway through the first lap in Slovenia and maintained a relentless pace.

The Irish athlete finished seven seconds ahead of Portugal's Dulce Felix with Britain's Gemma Steel in third.

Joe Sweeney was an excellent fifth in the senior men's race with Northern Irishman Paul Pollock a superb 26th.

The English-based Ulsterman Pollock ran the race of the life to finish ahead of several quality athletes including his Irish team-mate Andrew Ledwith who was 35th.

Sweeney was only eight seconds behind winner Atelaw Bekele of Belgium and two seconds adrift of bronze medallist Jose Rocha of Portugal.

Pollock was only 42 seconds behind the African-born winner.

Other Irish senior men's placings were Mark Hanrahan in 50th and Gary Thornton 54th.

Northern Irish athlete Kerry Harty finished 44th in the senior women's race in Velenje, two minutes and 38 seconds behind winner Britton.

Harty came in alongside her team-mates Claire McCarthy, Elish Kelly and Aoife Byrne who were 42nd, 43rd and 45th.

"That was the plan (to make the running) from that start and I knew I had to it," said Britton.

"After last year, this is the only medal I wanted. It's been on my mind for the whole year."

Steel's third place helped Britain take the senior women's team title with the Irish quintet finishing seventh.

Ireland's men's under-23 team told gold at last year's event but they finished 13th on Sunday with Michael Mulcare top Irishman in 33rd.

Jake Byrne took 24th in the junior men's event with Letterkenny runner Ruairi Finnegan in 66th while Siofra Cleirigh-Buttner was best Irish junior woman in 49th.

Britton's sister Una Britton was 38th in the women's under-23 race where Sara Treacy finished 18th.