Thursday 27 July 2017

O'Rourke and Co face tough challenge from Ireland's new order

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

SOME big names are absent -- including walkers Robert Heffernan and Olive Loughnane and the injured David Gillick and Ailis McSweeney -- but enough established senior stars will be involved to make for a high-quality Woodies DIY Senior Championships over the next two days.

And apart from the likes of Paul Hession, Derval O'Rourke, Alistair Cragg, Jason Smyth, Fionnuala Britton and Stephanie O'Reilly, Santry is worth a visit to see the emerging new wave of underage talent who have excelled internationally recently and looked primed to throw down the gauntlet this weekend.

Both Cragg and O'Rourke are competing in the Diamond League in London this weekend, which gives them a hectic schedule, but most others can concentrate on 'nationals' which offer the last opportunity for qualifying for this month's World Championships.

'B' standards will be accepted, but the weather forecast doesn't look promising for anyone hoping to book a late seat to South Korea.

Yet the women's 400m will be particularly competitive because it features Joanne Cuddihy, Michelle Carey, Marian Andrews-Heffernan, Claire Bergin and Joanna Mills, all battling for a place on the 4x400m team in Daegu.

European U-23 400m silver medallist Brian Gregan is saving himself for the upcoming World Student Games and dropping down to 200m, which already includes Hession (20.65 season best) and Steven Colvert (20.76).

Hession, as always, will be chasing a sprint double but Jason Smyth's 10.22 is fastest this year and Amy Foster's double hopes should also face a strong challenge from Kelly Proper.

Brian Murphy could take the flat 400m but the 400m hurdles, featuring the likes of Thomas Barr, Patrick Maher, Timmy Crowe and Paul Byrne should be a cracker.

Tallaght's Anthony Lieghio, who has taken such a chunk off his PB this summer, will be among those taking on Mark English in the men's 800m.

With Darren McBrearty out with a virus, young Paul Robinson (who ran 3:42 last week), Colin Costello and Rory Chesser will be among the main contenders in the men's 1500m event.

And Ciara Mageean, fresh from European junior silver, faces a tough 1500m field that includes World Championship-bound steeplechasers Britton and O'Reilly, Sara Louise Treacy and Orla Drumm who currently tops the rankings after running 4:14 last week.

Leevale's in-form Ciaran O'Lionaird, who ran that remarkable 3:34.46 in Belgium midweek, has plumped for 5,000m which pits him against Cragg -- who has run a superb 13:12 this summer -- and Sean Connolly, another athlete smashing his PBs at a variety of distances this year.

senior

With Loughnane extending her training in Spain, World Youth champion Kate Veale can take her first senior walk title.

High jumpers Kourosh Foroughi and Deirdre Ryan and pole-vaulter Tori Pena will all be worth watching, with the latter two setting new Irish records in the past week.

Perennial men's hammer champion Padraig White is expected to face a stiff challenge from teenager Killian Barry and America's Conor McCullough, a world junior medallist.

Action today starts with the women's hammer (noon) and most of the track finals take place tomorrow (11.30am to 4.0).

•ALISTAIR Cragg demonstrated excellent racing form ahead of this weekend's national championships when fourth in the 3000m at the Diamond League meeting in Crystal Palace last night.

Ireland' top 5,000m man overtook Mo Farah to take up the lead at the bell and while the double European champion came back at him and romped to victory in 7:40.15, Cragg was just out-run in the final strides, finishing fourth in 7:46.29 behind Kenya's Gideon Gallimba (7:44.30) and Australia's Collis Birmingham (7:45.04).

Irish Independent

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