Injury-hit O'Rourke in battle to make it to London
DERVAL O'Rourke's participation in the Olympics is hanging in the balance after the two-time European silver medallist was hit by a sudden back spasm yesterday that forced her to pull out of the Woodies DIY National Championships.
The Leevale star was all set to win her 10th national title at Santry, but pulled out just beforehand. The sight of the former world indoor champion getting treatment from on-site physiotherapist Paul O'Neill added to the drama, and her coach Sean Cahill was clearly worried.
O'Rourke had raced twice in Loughborough on Saturday (13.27 and 13:20) and had shown no ill effects, so the problem came out of the blue.
"Everything was going to plan, she had done 42 minutes of her 45-minute warm-up, was about to go over one last hurdle flat out, and suddenly her back went into spasm. Our best hope now is that it is something neurological, a trapped nerve or something," said Cahill as O'Rourke headed home with instructions to take an ice-bath and some anti-inflammatories.
"If there's a muscle pull or tear in there then obviously that's not good at all. But we just don't know, so it's fingers crossed and she'll be back with the physio first thing in the morning."
O'Rourke's withdrawal robbed the national championships of one of its marquee attractions and left the women's sprint hurdles final with just three competitors (Mairead Murphy won in 14.47). More worryingly, it raises serious doubts about her ability to do herself justice in the Olympics, which are just three weeks away.
In contrast, Paul Hession gave himself the perfect send-off for London. The Athenry flier took the 100m title back from Jason Smyth when he came from behind to beat the Derry man on the dip.
The photo showed just one hundredth of a second between them, with Hession taking it in 10.37 to Smyth's 10.38 and Steven Colvert a distant third (10.59); the race ended Smyth's hopes of getting the Olympic standard (10.18).
Colvert, who only missed the Olympic 200m standard (20.55) by 0.02 seconds, won the 200m on Saturday after running 20.40 in the heats -- but the wind of +3.0 invalidated his time.
Amy Foster retained her 100m title in 11.60 ahead of Ferrybank's Kelly Proper (11.84) and Niamh Whelan (11.86), a day after Proper took gold in the long jump.
Yesterday's damp conditions were not conducive to fast times and 400m hurdles star Jessie Barr (22), a European finalist last week, was also disappointed not to get her Olympic standard but still retained her title impressively in 57.33, as did her younger brother Thomas in 50.87.
Crusaders' Brian Murphy retained his 400m title in 46.97, as veteran Paul McKee made an impressive comeback to take silver in 47.47.
Raheny's Siobhan Eviston showed last year's 800m victory was no fluke by when a late surge saw her overtake An Riocht's Laura Crowe to retain her title. Newbridge's Rosanne Galligan, who lost a shoe after just 300m, was third.
In the men's 800m there was a first title for Blarney/Inniscarra's Dean Cronin (18), while Clonliffe's David Flynn, who tore his Achilles tendon earlier this summer, made a miraculous recovery to win his first steeplechase title in 9:06.58.
In a fascinating men's 1,500m final, Darren McBrearty went too early on the last lap and was swallowed up in the final dust-up and finished third. Former European junior champion Colin Costello (Star of the Sea), in only his second track race this season, pipped Kilkenny's Eoin Everard on the line in 3:54.57.
Former 800m champion Orla Drumm took gold in the women's 1,500m, in which Olympic-bound steeplechaser Stephanie Reilly was only fourth.
Leevale's Mark Hanrahan won the men's 5,000m in 14:13.80 and Maria McCambridge, so disappointed not to get an Olympic marathon spot, was particularly emotional after winning the women's 5,000m in 16:02.52.
Of those who are definitely going to London, walker Colin Griffin (Ballinamore) won his first title in the 10km walk, Tori Pena took her third pole vault title in a row with 4.35m and Deirdre Ryan clinched her ninth high jump title.
The only Irish record broken was in the men's 4x400m where a Crusaders team of Brian Murphy, Jason Harvey, Eoin Mulhall and Richard Morrissey broke DCH'S old 3:12 record with a new mark of 3:10.59.
Meanwhile, Down native Ciara Mageean's hopes of securing a place in London look dead in the water after she missed out on the 1,500m qualifying standard in her final race before the deadling in Finland. The Portaferry native clocked 4:14.91 to finish third in the Savo Games, but needed 4:06.00.