Tuesday 22 August 2017

Athletics: Cuddihy loss dents Irish hopes

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

IRELAND'S hopes of retaining their 'First League' status at the European Team Championship in Budapest this weekend have been hit by the loss of Joanne Cuddihy.

The Kilkenny 400m star had to pull out after spraining her ankle last weekend. Cuddihy had been named to run both the 200m and 400m, as well as the 4x400m relay, so she is a big loss, but team manager Patsy McGonagle stressed yesterday that she should be well recovered before the European Championships in Barcelona in five weeks time.

Niamh Whelan (200m) and Marian Andrews (400m) will take Cuddihy's place in the individual events, while AAI's choice to replace her in the relay team with Justine Kinney has certainly caught the eye.

Kinney (22) is a 400m hurdler from Britain, based in Loughborough, who has only recently declared for Ireland.

Her mother is from Ireland and she has an Irish passport and -- with a personal best of 57.13 from earlier this month -- she clinched the individual 400m hurdles spot ahead of Bronagh Furlong and Michelle Carey (who have season bests of 57.96 and 58.77 respectively), though both will be racing with her in the relay team.

Other last minute team changes see Kerry Harty (3,000m) come in for Mary Cullen and Mark Christie replacing Mark Kenneally at 5,000m.

Fionnuala Britton, who was expected to move up in distance after spending three months training at altitude in Kenya, has revealed she is sticking with the steeplechase for the moment. The European Team Championship replaced the Europa Cup last season and final positions are based on the combination of men's and women's scores.

Ireland won promotion from the third tier ('Second League') last year when they were second, behind Lithuania, in Slovakia. Back then Paul Hession, Thomas Chamney, Alan O' Brien, Derval O'Rourke and Britton all won their events, which were worth 12 points apiece.

Jason Smyth and David Gillick's form is also encouraging, but Eileen O'Keeffe, a regular top-scorer who is out for the whole season, is a big loss.

With the bottom two relegated, Ireland face a serious challenge just to survive as the First League includes Portugal, Sweden, Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Turkey and Estonia.

Irish Independent

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