Lawler sights set on qualifying for Rio
Though clouds of doubt continue to linger over international athletics, three of Ireland's up-and-coming athletes are hoping 2016 will prove memorable for all the right reasons.
Marcus Lawler, Elizabeth Morland and Adam McMullen were at the headquarters of Irish athletics in Morton Stadium yesterday to launch the GloHealth National Senior Indoor Championships (February 27-28) and each of them was in positive mood about the year ahead.
For Lawler, who at just 20 years of age is Ireland's fastest man, the event in Athlone IT should prove an ideal testing ground ahead of a pivotal summer.
The Carlow IT student is hoping to make a mark at the European Championships in July - he was a European finalist at both junior and U-23 level - and also secure qualification for the Olympic Games in August.
"The transition to senior is hard enough," he admitted yesterday. "I need to develop, and I'm getting there. It's just about keeping the goals in sight and trying to improve your times year on year."
Despite the scandals engulfing his sport, Lawler's mind is firmly on the task at hand. "The sport is getting a lot of negative coverage and it's hard to listen to," he said.
"I love running, that's why I'm doing it, so I just block out the negative stuff and try to become the best I can be."
Though Lawler's eyes are now trained on senior success, 17-year-old heptathlete Elizabeth Morland, who finished 10th in the World Youth Championships last summer, is hoping for continued success in the junior ranks.
Despite the looming pressures of the Leaving Cert, Morland started her year off in perfect fashion by breaking the Irish senior pentathlon record last week.
"I don't have that much free time, and whatever I have is spent studying and doing homework, but things have been going well," she said.
"My coach, Feidhlim Joyce, has been pushing me and I've been getting stronger, so I'll try to make it to World Juniors this summer."
Another hoping to make his presence felt on the international stage is Adam McMullen, who added half a metre to his best effort in a season opener when long-jumping 7.70m last month.
"It's been a good start," he said. "The speed has been good and the technical side of jumps has been better.
"There's only ever been one Irishman over eight metres [Ciarán McDonagh], and that's getting a bit more realistic now."