Steve Coughlan recalls LVAC participation at many World Cross Country Championships.
Friday, 29 March, 2024

Sandpitts Cottage, Islandbridge.

To go with the latest brilliant LV podcast on Mairéad Murphy who raced in the 1999 World XC in Belfast, and this year’s World Cross in Belgrade tomorrow, here’s a few things about Liffey Valley and the World Cross you mightn’t know, or you might remember, or you might even have been there…so now read on….

This Saturday the World XC championships are on in Belgrade with 8 Irish athletes competing in all. Don’t miss it on telly (Virgin Media Two 950am -120pm) or web, it’s a race with a truly great history. The race starts are a sight to be seen, like a cross between the Grand National and the Charge of the Light Brigade. They go out hard and very fast, and then it gets a bit tougher after that.

Liffey Valley has a long and distinguished connection with the “World Cross” going back to our early days with Tom Brennan, and even earlier with Jimmy Douglas and Malcolm Edger when the event was known as the International Cross Country Championships.

Jimmy Douglas

For some context, the World Cross was known as the toughest race of all to win, because everyone who mattered raced - fields were made up of all the greatest runners from 800 metres up to marathon. Think of it that way and you realise why making the Irish team for the World Cross ranks among the highest achievements for any Irish athlete. Not far below making the Olympics, really. Certainly, for club runners at national level, while you might not make an Olympic qualifying time, you could make into the shake-up in the National Senior and that got you into the mix for the World Cross team.

Traditionally National Senior XC championships were selection races so Tom Brennan earned his green international singlet for Rabat as the 1975 Irish champion at Belfield.

Tom Brennan

Tom’s first world cross was in Rabat, Morocco (LV’s Gerry Redmond ran in the Junior race there too (add pic). In 1976 Tom raced again for Ireland on the racecourse in Chepstow, Wales.

Tom Brennan 1976

In the days before Liffey Valley started in 1974, Jimmy Douglas of Avondale and later LV, raced for Ireland in what was then the International Cross Country. Jimmy’s race number that day (61) was made out of cotton (see pic) and still had the rusty pin marks many years afterwards. Malcolm Edger in his pre-LV days raced for NI in the International Cross too in 1969.

Jimmy Douglas Number

The 1979 world cross in Limerick is an iconic Irish memory for John Treacy’s second win in the Men’s race. Our own Nick Davis was the RTE radio commentator that day (doing about 4 hours LIVE broadcast with just Liam Nolan for company, no studio panels then !) and Kathryn Davis captained the Irish Women’s team. Nick also did the on-course commentary in Leopardstown 2002 when many LV club members were volunteer stewards around the course (see pic).

Alan Merriman was the next LV athlete selected for the 1993 world Cross in Johannesburg, and in 1999 Mairéad Murphy was the first LV woman to be selected for the World cross (see pic)

Alan Merriman


LV Men’s Coach Jim Davis has coached four times with Irish teams at world Cross over the years, and has many great stories, some of which are even printable.

Jim Davis and LVAC Crew

From a 61 minute 10k before joining LV, Jim coached Mairéad Murphy to making the world cross team for Belfast in 1999, taking the final place on the Irish team at Nationals, by outrunning another woman who had prepared at altitude beforehand. Afterwards Jim said the highest altitude in Mairead’s training preparation was the top of the triangle inside the Chapelizod Gate of the park !

Mairead & Jim

There’s been a few memorable LV trips to the World Cross too. 1999 in Belfast is remembered for Brendan Foster hob-nobbing with the LV crew for a few pints the night before Mairead’s race, and 2008 in Edinburgh was when the LV crew found out too late that the open road 5k beforehand in Hollywood Park went up Arthur’s Seat, not around it.


Tom Brennan, Alan Merriman and Mairéad Murphy all started in the Novice XC grade. It’s now 25 years since Mairéad raced for Ireland, so we’re well due other Liffey Valley athletes on Irish teams for the World Cross (and the Euro Cross is up there too these days). It’s time we wrote some new Liffey Valley history. It could be you who writes it, some year soon. Why not? Aim high.


Enjoy the World Cross, and see you down the clubhouse soon to start writing that new LV history 🏃🏼🏃‍♀️

Steve Coughlan


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