Athletics: O'Rourke centre of attention 'indoors'
BARRING some dramatic developments over the next fortnight, including this weekend's two-day Woodies DIY Senior Indoor Championships in Belfast, Ireland will be sending a tiny team to next month's World Indoor Championships.
Indoor and outdoor times from January 2011 all count for qualification but, right now, only former World indoor champion Derval O'Rourke has been selected.
Ciaran O'Lionaird, sporting his new crew-cut and racing at the Tyson Invitational in Arkansas this weekend, will also get the nod and the Leevale duo could yet be Ireland's only representatives in Istanbul from March 9-11.
David Gillick, Paul Hession and Alistair Cragg have all expressed an interest in going to Turkey. However, none have raced indoors yet this year and the qualification deadline is February 27.
Hession had planned to race in the Odyssey Arena, but the Athenry flyer has been forced to pull out with an untimely Achilles twinge.
Irish-American pole-vaulter Tori Pena, who set a national record of 4.45m in Nevada last month, competes in the Millrose Games tomorrow, needing to to find another 7cm as the qualification standard is 4.52m.
Athletics Ireland may yet send a women's 4x400m relay team to Istanbul (there is no qualification standard) as part of their mission to get them qualified for the Olympics. That decision will hinge on the form the sprinters show in Belfast.
This summer's Olympics, and the earlier European Championships (June 27-July 1), mean a lot of athletes aren't racing indoors this season, but that doesn't mean the 'Nationals' will lack competitiveness or excitement.
O'Rourke has pulled out of a race in Stuttgart tonight in order to run in Sunday's sprint hurdles.
Ireland's world-class race walkers Robert Heffernan and Olive Loughnane should also prove crowd pullers, while the field for the men's 5km walk includes Letterkenny's Brendan Boyce, who has already qualified for the Olympics, Jamie Costin and also Colin Griffin.
Others to keep an eye on include Amy Foster (60m), Claire Bergin (400m) and Orla Drumm (1,500m), all of whom equalled or broke their personal bests recently.
European Youth Olympic medalist Karl Griffin (Tir Chonaill) will compete in the 800m, while Letterkenny's Daniel Mooney runs in the metric mile.
Kelly Proper, Mary McLoone and Claire Fitzgerald will be in action in the field events, which includes a promising high-jump tussle between Barry Pender (St Abban's) and Star of the Sea's Kourosh Foroughi.
Defending 60m champion Ailis McSweeney is currently recovering after Achilles surgery and reigning men's 400m Brian Gregan is competing for the DCU relay team in the Millrose Games, where in-form Providence senior David McCarthy (West Waterford) competes in the prestigious Wanamaker Mile.
The Coca Cola Larry McGuill Rás na hÉireann takes place in Oldbridge on Sunday and Athletics Ireland has entered an eight-athlete team including Emmet Dunleavy, Brian McMahon, Breege Connolly and Ciara Durkan.