Dan Mulhare won a record-equalling sixth Laois Credit Unions Cross Country title in Blandsfort Estate in Ballyroan last Sunday when he held off the challenge of his younger brother Michael in a high-quality 10K race.
Mulhare had been denied a six-in-a-row in last year's event when Michael recorded his first win but the two brothers battled it out again on the same course on Sunday with Dan pulling clear on the final lap and eventually winning by 17 seconds in a time of 32.35.
Michael was the star attraction after his European gold triumph with the Irish U-23 team before Christmas and he stood for photos before the event with a number of the county's younger athletes who were in Ballyroan for the cross country relay event.
But in the main attraction of the day, the brothers pulled clear of the field after the first lap and ran almost shoulder-to-shoulder for the next three. Then, on the final round of the course, Dan moved up a gear. It might have been the first Sunday in January but it's unlikely that there will be as high a standard competition in any sport in the county for the remainder of the year.
Dan was disappointed with his run in the senior European race in Portugal and while this won't necessarily make up for that, it's a nice way to begin the year as he now looks forward to the indoor season and his goal of achieving a qualifying time for the European Indoor Championships in March.
Dan's sixth win means he now joins St Abban's athlete Colm Burke on the top of the honours list and Burke was one of the first to offer his congratulations after he came in in third position. Burke, who won the first of his gold medals back in 1992, ran in his bare feet here and held off the challenge of Ballyfin's Cormac Fitzpatrick for the individual bronze medal.
In the team event, Portlaoise continued their dominance as they claimed gold for an amazing 21st year in succession. Veteran Martin McDonald, who finished ninth, played his part again, as he has done for every year since their first triumph in 1991.
Meanwhile, in the ladies senior 3K race, Mary Mulhare won her first gold medal with an impressive run. Second in last year's event to the five-in-a-row winning Claire Phelan, Mulhare endured a torrid 2010 season as she battled injury and illness but on Sunday she hinted at a return to her old self and was the clear winner from an early stage.
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