National Cross Country Championships Preview

ByEmma Porter |

Irish athletics fans will descend upon Kilkenny this Sunday (Nov 19th) for what promises to be a stellar weekend of athletics action as Ireland’s best cross-country athletes go in search of national glory and European selection at the National Senior, Junior and Juvenile Even Age Cross Country Championships.

It will be the first time the senior races have been hosted in Gowran and those coveted podium places will be as sought-after as ever with the first three home in each of the senior, U23, and U20 races securing their place on the Irish team set to compete at the European Cross Country Championships in Brussels, Belgium on December 10th.

It looks ultra-competitive across the full schedule of competition and the 2023 edition of the National Cross Country Championships could throw up some surprises with athletes in both the senior men’s and women’s races taking on the 9,000m distance.

Darragh McElhinney (UCD AC) returns to defend his title in a stacked looking senior men’s race (2.30pm) which includes Irish 5,000m record holder Brian Fay (Raheny Shamrock) and recent Autumn Open Cross Country champion Keelan Kilrehill (Moy Valley) who will be just two of McElhinney’s main challengers.

A new champion will be crowned in the senior women’s race (1.45pm) in the absence of 2022 champion Sarah Healy. Many eyes will be on West Limerick’s Íde Nic Dhómhnaill who will look to add another title to her remarkable season which has already seen her win a national gold on the track in the 5,000m as well as claiming victory at the recent Autumn Open International Cross Country at the Sport Ireland Campus.

There will be no shortage of support for the local athletes with Peter Lynch (Kilkenny City Harriers) and Aoibhe Richardson (Kilkenny City Harriers) set to be among the leading contenders for senior honours, while hosts Gowran AC boast plenty of strength in depth throughout the juvenile races.

The action on Sunday will get underway with the U12 girls at 11:30 am (full timetable HERE) building to a crescendo with senior women’s 9,000m and senior men’s 9,000m from 1.45pm.


The senior women’s race looks wide open in the absence of last year’s top four placed finishers (Sarah Healy, Ciara Mageean, Michelle Finn, Ann Marie McGlynn).

Íde Nic Dhómhnaill (West Limerick AC) will be the favourite of many on the back of her impressive win at the Autumn Open in October and the increased 9,000m distance should do little to weaken her chances as she bids to do the Autumn Open/ National Cross Country double.

Nic Dhómhnaill will be joined on the start-line by a host of athletes who will be eying up national glory, many of whom starred at last year’s European Cross Country Championships.

International teammates Mary Mulhare (Portlaoise AC) and local favourite Aoibhe Richardson (Kilkenny City harriers) are sure to be right there as the leaders head for home, while Fionnula Ross (Armagh AC) is another who will thrive over the longer distance.

Edel Monaghan (DCH) ran a superb race at the recent Dublin championships and is sure to play a role as DCH look to defend the team title, while Fiona Everard (Bandon AC) could come into contention with the likely heavy underfoot conditions.

A strong looking entry from Dundrum South Dublin could well see them run into contention for the team honours if transitioning their success on the road this season to the grass.

Danielle Donegan (UCD AC) will look to show her class in the U23 division, but she will face plenty of competition for the podium places. Aoife O’Cuill (St Cocas AC) finished 5th at the Autumn Open last month and will once again go in pursuit of an automatic place on the European team.

The U20 race is likely to see the recent Autumn Open (U20) champion Avril Millerick (Youghal AC) in the mix alongside the ever-impressive Roise Roberts (North Belfast Harriers), while big performances can be expected from Amy Greene (Finn Valley), Clodagh Gill (Moy Valley AC), and Nicole Dinan (Leevale AC) to name but a few.


Darragh McElhinney (UCD AC) picked up his first national senior cross title in Donegal last year in ultra-impressive fashion. The Cork athlete will face what looks arguably an even tougher task to retain his crown with a host of contenders set to ensure there is no hiding places come 14.25pm on Sunday.

McElhinney enjoyed a stellar indoor season earlier in the year and was unlucky not to make a World Championships in the summer. A recent block of training should see the Cork athlete primed for another strong showing on Sunday with the reduced distance of 9,000m doing little to dampen his chances.

One of McElhinney’s closest challengers could be training partner Keelan Kilrehill (Moy Valley AC) who boasts some of the best recent cross country form on the back of his impressive ‘front-the-front’ win at the Autumn Open. Kilrehill takes his first step into the national senior cross country ranks this weekend and few would bet against him securing another top three finish.

Irish 5000m record holder, Brian Fay (Raheny Shamrock), comes into the weekend slightly under the radar but the Raheny athlete is a proven cross country performer and will be looking to unleash a winning kick for home as the field reappear into the main finishing area.

Efrem Gidey (Clonliffe Harriers) raced superbly at the recent Dublin Cross Country Championships and is another of the recent U23 graduates who won’t fear anyone. Gidey has the tactical speed to stay in touch and spectators could be in for one of the finishes of the year if all the likely contenders are still there heading into the final 200 meters.

Another of those contenders is Kilkenny’s Peter Lynch (Kilkenny City Harriers) who won’t be found wanting for support on Sunday. The 2022 bronze medallist returns from the US and will be primed for this one as he looks to improve on last year’s finish.

Others who will fancy their chances of breaking into the top three places include Pierre Murchan (DCH AC) who was second to Kilrehill at the Autumn Open, while the familiar faces of Sean Tobin (Clonmel AC), Cormac Dalton (Mullingar Harriers), Martin Hoare (Celbridge AC), Emmet Jennings (DSD), Finley Daly (Sligo AC), Hugh Armstrong (Ballina AC), and Cathal Doyle (Clonliffe Harriers) make this one of the deepest national cross country fields in years.

The senior team title looks hard to call but Clonliffe are sure to be right there again as they bid to retain the title. They will likely be pushed all the way by strong looking teams from fellow harriers in Mullingar and Kilkenny City.

The men’s U23 race will see Ennis Track with strong entry once more, led out by Mark Hanrahan (Ennis Track) in the likley absence of Dean Casey who is based in the the US. Sean McGinley (Finn Valley AC), Fergal Curtain (Youghal AC), and Cathal O’Reilly (Kilkenny City Harriers) will all eying a top three finish, while Callum Morgan (Candour Track) and Michael Murphy (Tullamore Harriers) are two to keep a close eye on as the race develops.

There is also no shortage of talent in the men’s junior race with some of the most exciting prospects in Irish athletics set to battle it out once more. Nick Griggs (Mid Ulster AC) will be back in action as he sets out to make it three national U20 cross country title in a row.

Griggs claimed a silver medal in the 3000m at the European U20 Track and Field Championships earlier this summer and is sure to have sights set on another tilt at European glory in December.

Away from Griggs, the race still has plenty of strength in depth with Niall Murphy (Ennis Track AC) continuing to impress, no more so than his win in the U20 race at the Autumn Open in early October by an impressive 26 seconds.

Jonas Stafford (Ashford AC) is another who will look to track behind Griggs, he too having represented Ireland at the Euro Cross last year.

Caolan McFadden (Cranford AC) provided one of the highlights of the 2022 national cross country championships in Donegal and looks to have continued his development this season, while Shane Brosnan (An Ríocht AC), Harry Colbert (Waterford AC), Billy Coogan (Kilkenny City Harriers), and Sean Cronin (Clonliffe Harriers) will all fancy their chances of following Griggs home.

There is sure to be plenty of drama across the schedule and it promises to be a thrilling day of action at this year’s edition of National Senior, Junior and Juvenile Even Age Cross Country Championships.

  • Entries: Click HERE
  • Timetable & Parking Information: Click HERE
  • Tickets: Click HERE (Please purchase tickets online as there will be no cash or card entry on the day). U16s go free and do not require a ticket.
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