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Saturday 26 July 2014

Irish young guns aim to make their mark in Tallinn

Cliona Foley

Published 21/06/2014|02:30

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Fionnuala Britton. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE
Fionnuala Britton. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

Just how quickly athletics moves has been underlined in the past week.

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Last Sunday, young Waterford 400m hurdler Thomas Barr (Ferrybank) was sitting pretty on top of the European rankings with his sensational world-class Irish record of 48.90 seconds.

Just 48 hours later, he was relegated to third after Britain's Niall Flannery (48:80) and Estonia's Rasmus Maji (48.87) went quicker in Ostrava.

Still, sitting third on the European rankings in a technical event is impressive stuff from an Irish 21-year-old and Barr is not the only young gun already making his mark this summer.

Of the Irish team competing in the European Team Championship (second division) in Tallinn over the next two days, Letterkenny's half-miler Mark English is ranked fourth in Europe, Kilcock's Paul Robinson is ranked fifth in the mile and ninth at 1,500m and quarter-miler Brian Gregan is at 16th with his first run of the season.

Fionnuala Britton, back working with coach Chris Jones, showed a return to form last weekend with a 3,000m personal best (in a mixed race) that has her ranked second in Europe. Lisburn flier Amy Foster has already equalled Ailis McSweeney's Irish 100m record this summer, Newbridge's Roseanne Galligan has run 2:02 for 800m and young Limerick sprint hurdler Sarah Lavin ran a lifetime best of 13:23 last weekend.

When Ireland hosted the European Team Championships in Santry last summer, quite a lot of the country's number ones were unavailable, so there was a fear of relegation. Yet the young guns took up the slack and finished in seventh. Brian Gregan won his individual 400m and anchored the 4x400m team to victory and the women's 4x400m finished a surprise third.

Those performances send them to Estonia now with highest ranking ever in the competition which has replaced the 'European Cup' and combines all the results, men's and women's, for final placings. Wearing the Irish vest for the first time is Kevin Batt, an Australian of Irish heritage (23), who won the NCAA Division 2 5,000m title last month.

ENCOURAGING

The big target for all Irish athletes this summer is the European Championships in Zurich in August, but there are already some encouraging early season signs and if they hold their top- eight position this weekend they will be doing well against the likes of Belgium, Estonia, Finland and Portugal.

Elsewhere, Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha will compete in Great Britain for the first time since his world-record run at London 2012 when he races at the Sainsbury's Glasgow Grand Prix at Hampden Park next month.

The Kenyan, whose victory in 1:40.91 at the Olympic Stadium was one of the highlights of the Games, will continue his comeback from the knee injury at the Diamond League event on July 11-12. He will return to the stadium the following month for the Commonwealth Games.

Sprinters Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce and Carmelita Jeter and Ashton Eaton will also compete at the Grand Prix, while Mo Farah has already confirmed his participation.

EUROPEAN TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP, LIVE, IRISHTV/IRISHTV.IE, 11.00am

Irish Independent

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