European Cross Country: Paul Pollock targets Irish team medal

Paul Pollock in action at last year's European Cross Country Championships in Bulgaria
Paul Pollock will be running his sixth European Cross Country Championships in the south of France

Paul Pollock is cautious about his own chances at Sunday's European Cross Country Championships but believes a men's team medal can be achieved.

Pollock, 29, will be running for Ireland in the event for the sixth time while the women's team in Hyeres will include Newcastle's Kerry O'Flaherty.

"I've never felt I've run that well at the Europeans so I'm not making any predictions this time," says Pollock.

"But I think we've got a strong team so I'm pretty optimistic in that regard."

The Irish men's squad in the southern French coastal town will include Joe Sweeney, fifth at the championships in 2011, and Mick Clohisey who won the recent Irish Championships at Santry ahead of John Coghlan and Pollock.

"I think we can be there or thereabouts in the medal shake-up if enough of us perform to our capabilities," adds Pollock.

Kerry O'Flaherty has already secured an Olympic Games steeplechase spot
Kerry O'Flaherty will wear the Ireland vest again this weekend in France

"Joe Sweeney has a good pedigree at these championship and with conditions likely to be firm enough, I think John Coghlan, with his four-minute miler speed, should go well.

"Mick Clohisey is running well on the country as he showed at Santry after getting the Olympic marathon qualifying time in Berlin and Ryan Creech is a quality athlete too so I think we're looking pretty strong team-wise for Sunday."

Clohisey finished three seconds ahead of Pollock at the Berlin Marathon in September to put himself currently in line for an Olympic spot alongside Kevin Seaward and Sergiu Ciobanu, who both also achieved the Rio qualifying time in the German capital.

Pollock bravely ran a personal best of 2:15.38 in Berlin despite having missed three weeks of training immediately before the event because of an 11-centimetre quad muscle tear.

"I started the race not knowing whether I was going to be able to finish and felt the injury all through the race, although I tried to put it out of my mind, and hadn't any strength left over the last four kilometres.

"I had mixed feeling afterwards. But being able to run that fast despite having missed such important training told me that I was capable of going faster."

Pollock set to chase Rio marathon qualification in London

Pollock, who regularly trains in England with his fellow Northern Ireland man Seaward, under the guidance of coach Andy Hobdell, is likely to make another attempt at securing Olympic selection at the London Marathon.

"At the minute, the plan is probably to run the World Half-Marathon Championship in Cardiff on 26 March, which will be exactly four weeks before London.

"But over the next few months, it's all about staying injury-free.

"I missed a couple of days training last week because of a calf niggle but things have been going generally OK over the last few weeks so hopefully I'll run pretty well this weekend.

"After that, I plan to run the Greencastle Five-Mile Road Race on the 26th of December, which is always a well organised event."

Pollock impressively broke the course record in the Tyrone event last year after dipping up Gareth Turnbull's previous mark as he clocked 24 minutes and seven seconds.