Whelan fitness lift for Euro relay bid
Waterford's Niamh Whelan has passed a late fitness test to make the Irish women's 4x100m squad for next week's European Championships in Zurich.
The Ferrybank sprinter had to do a supervised individual time-trial at her training base in the University of Limerick on Wednesday to satisfy the selectors.
The 24-year-old (right), who was fourth in the European junior final in 2009, reached the European senior 200m semi-finals a year later, when she was also part of the Irish relay team that ran a national record of 43:95 in Barcelona.
Whelan was asked to prove her fitness after pulling out of the 100m final at the national championships three weeks ago with a knee niggle.
The relay squad also includes Amy Foster (Lisburn), Phil Healy (Bandon), Sara Lavin (UCD), Catherine McManus (Celtic DCH) and Whelan's Ferrybank team-mate Kelly Proper.
Healy, who shared gold with Foster in a dead-heat finish to the national 100m final, is still only 19.
What is notable about Ireland's 28-athlete squad is that 21 clubs are represented.
It features nine Leinster clubs in Clonliffe, Crusaders, St Coca's, Donore, Rathfarnham, Celtic DCH, Kilcoole, DSD and UCD.
Six from Ulster are represented (Letterkenny, Annadale, St Malachy's, City of Lisburn, Ballymena & Antrim and Shercock) and five from Munster (Leevale, Ferrybank, Togher, Bandon and Emerald).
Olympic race walker Laura Reynolds (Mohill AC) is the only athlete from Connacht.
The withdrawal of pole vaulter Zoe Brown leaves the team without a single field athlete, but the broad geographical spread is encouraging.
The men's relay team includes Cavan sprinter Craig Lynch of Shercock AC, a rural club that had the ambition and bravery to upgrade their cinder track to tartan in 2009.
Limerick city club Emerald AC are represented by hurdler Sarah Lavin, though, like Mark English, she technically represents UCD AC, where they are both on the university's elite 'Ad Astra' programme for high academic and sporting achievers.
English, like Olympic race walker Brendan Boyce, hails from Letterkenny AC and Paul Robinson has put small Kildare club St Coca's on the map, as Fionnuala Britton has done for athletics in Wicklow.
Ireland has won only 11 medals at this level – they were claimed by six athletes.
The most recent of them all came from Cork (Sonia O'Sullivan, Mark O'Sullivan and Derval O'Rourke), and world 50km walk champion Rob Heffernan (Togher AC) and Leevale's metric miler Ciaran O'Lionaird continue to carry the flag for the Rebel County.