Wicklow’s Emma O’Brien earned a late call-up for the Irish squad for the European Cross Country Championships, which were held in Hyeres, France on Sunday (Dec 13). The Sli Cualann athlete proved a vital member of the Irish junior girls’ team, as she performed valiantly to place 55th. Emma was also the second scoring member on the Irish girls’ team, showing the selectors made the right decision in adding her to the national squad. Incredibly, Emma is young enough to be able to compete in this age category for the next three years. It is also interesting to note that Wicklow cross country star Fionnuala Britton finished 74th in this race in 2001, when she was still under 18; Emma only moves into the under 18 age category next year.
Emma’s success comes as Sli Cualann Athletics Club launch an initiative to support junior cross country athletes. The junior girls’ team has been identified as having a strong chance at making a mark on the national stage for the next few years. To help them to achieve their full potential, a support programme has been developed which will see the young athletes receive specialist training, nutrition programmes and strength and conditioning plans.