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Athletics: O'Rourke euro signs not ideal

After her great season last year when she won silver at the European Championships in Barcelona, Derval O'Rourke may struggle at this weekend's European Indoors.

A niggling groin problem has seen the Leevale athlete miss vital days of training and sitting out the Woodie's DIY Indoors. At the moment, O'Rourke's season's best time of 8.03 seconds from early last month ranks her eighth in Europe, with Norway's Christina Vukicevik topping the list with a time of 7.90 ahead of Carolin Nytra from Germany on 7.92. Both finished behind O'Rourke last year in Paris. Two years ago, the Leevale athlete finished third at the European Indoors in Turin with a time of 7.97 when she wasn't in top form. If she can repeat that performance, she may well sneak a medal.

Ireland's other great hope is Sligo's Mary Cullen, who took 3000m bronze two years ago with a time of 8:48.47. Cullen, who broke her arm last autumn and missed the cross-country season, ran 8:53.01 a few weeks ago in Birmingham. She then won the 1500m at the National Indoors in Belfast with a personal best time of 4:19.25.

Of the nine members of the team, three are men. Clonliffe's Brian Gregan and Darren McBrearty of Letterkenny, both just out of the junior ranks, have good chances of making finals.

After running 46.82 for 400m in Vienna last month, Gregan is currently ranked 12th on a European list dominated by French and British athletes. Topping the list is Estonia's Marek Niit who has a best time of 45.99, while second is French veteran Leslie Djhone on 46.13.

DCU student McBrearty, who celebrates his 20th birthday next Tuesday, ran a personal best 1:47.85 in Vienna to rank him 13th in Europe. Big threats include the Spaniards Kevin Lopez and Manuel Olmedo.

Irish-American Tori Pena goes in the women's pole vault after setting an Irish record of 4.41m last weekend. That would have seen her into the final at the last European Indoors.

Making up the team are long jumper Kelly Proper, 60m sprinter Ailish McSweeney, 400m runner Marian Heffernan and Dan Mulhare, winner of the Scottish Indoors 3000m.