Paul Pollock wins Irish Cross Country title in Dublin

Paul Pollock celebrates as he he crosses the finish line to win the Irish title
Paul Pollock celebrates as he he crosses the finish line to win the Irish title

Paul Pollock booked his place at next month's European Cross Country Championships by impressively winning the Irish title in Dublin on Sunday.

The Rio Olympian Pollock took control after six kilometres as he finished seven seconds ahead of Kevin Dooney with Hugh Armstrong in third.

Kerry O'Flaherty also secured her spot at the Europeans in Slovakia by finishing second in the women's race.

Shona Heaslip broke clear on the final lap to retain the title.

That left O'Flaherty facing a battle to secure the second automatic qualifying spot for the Europeans but the Newcastle athlete comfortably held off her Rio Olympics steeplechase team-mate Michelle Finn.

Leevale's Lizzie Lee was fourth and Scottish-based Armagh AC athlete Fionnuala Ross in fifth.

Repeat for Kerry

O'Flaherty, 36, also finished second behind Heaslip at last year's championships.

Pollock's impressive men's win confirmed the Annadale Striders athlete's return to form after injury forced him to miss the marathon at this year's World Championships in London.

The 31-year-old was clinching his third Irish cross country title while those in his wake included another Commonwealth Games steeplechase hopeful Adam Kirk-Smith, who had to settle for 10th spot.

Northern Irish successes at the championships in Abbotstown also included a men's junior triumph for North Down's Craig McMeechan as he produced an impressive closing late sprint to take the title.

McMeechan finished one second ahead of Raheny's Brian Fay and Leevale's Charlie O'Donovan with City of Lisburn's James Edgar sixth seconds behind the winner in fifth spot.

Seeley success

On a busy weekend of athletics, in-form duo Emma Mitchell and Gideon Kipsang both took first spots at the Joe Seeley Cup 10K event in Belfast's Ormeau Park.

Mitchell, who has set Northern Ireland records of 32 minutes and 51 seconds both on the track and the roads in 2017, broke clear of the gutsy Laura Graham over the closing lap to win by 19 seconds as she came home in exactly 34 minutes to land the concurrently run Northern Ireland and Ulster titles.

World Masters champion Kelly Neely took third in 34:59, 30 seconds ahead of Gladys Ganiel O'Neill.

With Kenyan Kipsang first across the finishing line in 30:39 in the men's event, second-placed Foyle Valley's Scott Rankin (30:56) clinched the Northern Ireland and Ulster titles with Neil Johnston (31:05) and Letterkenny's Danny Mooney (31:09) completing the podium spots.

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