Thursday 29 June 2017

Barr and English retain National titles to underline Rio credentials and lighten gloom

Athletics

Barr has Amsterdam in his sights after routing the field to retain his men’s 400m hurdles title in 50.28. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Barr has Amsterdam in his sights after routing the field to retain his men’s 400m hurdles title in 50.28. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

It was a dark, grey day in Santry, but for the first time this year the outlook for Ireland's Olympic athletes finally seemed bright.

Thomas Barr and Mark English spearheaded the revival, returning from injury to retain their titles with ease at the GloHealth National Senior Championships.

English, who had been out of action for over two months with a metatarsal stress fracture and resumed training only three weeks ago, added weight to the old adage about class being permanent, cruising away from the field in the home straight to win the 800m in 1:51.48.

"It was a good blow-out," said English. "The foot is completely pain-free now. I did only three sessions before that race, but I felt good and ran well."

English remains undecided about the European Championships, but Barr has Amsterdam in his sights after routing the field to retain his men's 400m hurdles title in 50.28.

"I'm delighted and relieved to have got around in one piece," he said. "With the conditions and the fact I've had only a few weeks' training, I'm really happy. Because I've missed so many races, I'll get into another week of training now and use the Europeans as race practice."

Elsewhere, former Olympian David Gillick rolled back the years with a third-place finish in the 400m in 46.44, which will earn him a spot on the Irish 4x400m team for Amsterdam.

The 32-year-old came out of retirement earlier this year after a four-year absence brought about by injury.

"Seven months ago I wasn't near a track," said Gillick. "Physically and mentally I wasn't in a great place but when I accepted where I was at, I got back to doing what I love."

The race was won by Brian Gregan, who overcame a long-running virus to book his place in Amsterdam.

Others to impress included Ciara Mageean, who cruised to victory in the women's 1500m in 4:24.33, and Michelle Finn, who got the better of Kerry O'Flaherty to win the 3,000m steeplechase in 9:46.81.

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