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britton in for the long haul!

The sensational news that Fionnuala Britton is to make her marathon debut at the European Championships has overshadowed all other discussion of a championships which could be the best ever from an Irish point of view.

Britton's main target for the games is the 10,000m next Tuesday evening after a busy opening day.

First up of the Irish that day will be Zoe Brown in the women's pole vault. Brown was a genuine medal hope for the Commonwealth Games but failed to make a mark in the dreadfully wet conditions. After improving her personal best to 4.45m only a few weeks ago, her first target will be to make the final in a field where 24 athletes have gone over 4.50m.

Other Irish in action on Tuesday morning are Amy Foster and Phil Healy (100m), Christine McMahon (400m hurdles), Brian Gregan and Richard Morrissey (400m) and Sarah Lavin (100m hurdles).

Later in the day, Mark English (pictured, left), one of the team's best hopes of a medal, lines out in the 800m heats. Favourite to take gold is Pierre-Ambroise Bosse.

After him come 10 other athletes who have broken 1 min 46 secs, among them English who, with a time of 1:45.03, is ranked at No 4.

Then it's Britton's turn in what looks like a very open 10,000m, with 37 athletes running under 33 minutes this season, led by Britain's Julia Bleasdale with a time of 31:42.02.

On Wednesday morning, Thomas Barr, goes in the 400m heats, with semi-finals later in the day. With his Irish record time of 48.90 secs ranking him third in Europe, he has a great chance, although there are a number of very fast men just marginally slower than him.

Kelly Proper sets out her stall on Thursday morning in the 200m heats, and should progress at least to the semi-finals later in the day. Her time of 23.16 secs puts her 23rd in the rankings.

Friday morning sees Ireland's only current world champion, Robert Heffernan, attempting to win a European crown in the 50km walk.

With the men's 800m and 400m hurdles final taking place later in the day, the Irish team could be looking at three medals in one day, while also competing on Friday is the trio of 1,500m runners - Ciarán Ó Lionáird, Paul Robinson and John Travers.

Then it's the turn of Fionnuala Britton and team in the marathon on Saturday morning.

So what can we say? Cancel everything for the next week or so!


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