IRELAND has high hopes of taking medals at the two big international athletics events this week - the athletics programme at the World Student Games that started this morning in Gwangju, Korea and the European under-23 championships which gets underway in Tallin Estonia tomorrow.
At the World Student Games, UL's Thomas Barr is the big hope for a medal. Barr, who set a new Irish record of 48.65 seconds in Rome last month, is ranked No 7 in the world and first European.
He was first in action of the Irish team this morning, and, assuming he survives the heats, will line out in the semi-finals tomorrow and the final on Friday at 7pm (Korean time).
Also in action today are UCD's Ciara Everard in the women's 800m heats and John Travers, representing Athlone IT, in the 1500m. Everard showed that she is right back in form after a 2013 season marred by injury when she made the Irish team for the European Indoors. She then improved her personal best for 800m to 2:01.21 in May.
John Travers also competed at the European Indoors, and impressed more than a few by running a smart race in the 1500m final. Travers, who has a personal best of 3:37.27 for 1500m from last season, ran 3:41.43 at the Le Cheile meet in Leixlip.
Running the 5000m in Korea is Australian-born Kevin Batt, whose parents are true blue Dubliners. Batt, who tops the current Irish rankings for 5000m with a time of 13:39.61, had the surreal experience of running an extra lap in the 5000m at the European Teams Championships in Greece. Had the race ended when it should have, he would have finished second. Batt competes on Friday.
He's followed on Saturday by long jumper Adam McMullen, who is gradually closing in on the Irish record of 8.07m set by Ciarán McDonagh ten years ago.
His best overall is the 7.80m he jumped indoors in Athlone earlier this year. Ireland hasn't won a medal at the World Student Games since Eileen O'Keeffe's silver in the hammer in 2007.
Starting tomorrow in Tallin, Estonia is the European U23 Championships, where Mark English of UCD, ranked third in Europe this year for the 800m, must fancy his chances. He begins his campaign on Friday morning.
First up for the Irish team are the sprinters, with Carlow's Marcus Lawler and Cliodhna Manning of Kilkenny City Harriers running in the 100m heats tomorrow morning.
Following them is Dempsey McGuigan in the hammer qualifiers.
Irish men and women's 4x100m relay teams will also compete next Sunday on the final day of competition. Heats take place in the morning followed by the finals in the afternoon.