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Big guns face Santry fight

With the European Track and Field Championships starting in just over a fortnight, Irish athletics fans can assess Ireland's chances at the Woodies DIY National Championships in Santry this weekend.

Some 28 athletes who have met European qualification standards must turn out in this weekend's showcase of domestic athletics to be considered for the Irish team.

Not all will run in their specialist events, although Paul Hession has confirmed that he will run in the 200m. The Athenry sprinter is coming into form at exactly the right time for Barcelona.

At the Cork City Sports he was credited with joint victory in the 200m after catching Brendan Christian of Antigua in the final few strides. Hession runs in Lausanne tonight.

Derval O'Rourke is a safe bet to win her eighth hurdles title at Santry, if she runs. She competes in Gateshead tomorrow, as does Thomas Chamney in the 1,500m. One of the most competitive races of the weekend could prove to be the men's 400m. Along with David Gillick, who ran 44.98 last weekend, a number of Irish men have gone under 48 seconds.

Best of the Irish at the Cork City Sports was Tullamore's Gordon Kennedy, who was fourth in 47.14, with Clonliffe's Brian Gregan fifth in 47.20 and David McCarthy of Le Chéile clocking 47.26. In France, Brian Murphy of UCC lowered his best to 46.89.

Equally hard to call are the women's sprints. In Belgium last week, Irish sprinters made it a 100m clean sweep, with Ailis McSweeney in 11.62 beating Amy Foster and Claire Brady. Also certain to be in the mix are Niamh Whelan and Kelly Proper.

Shaping up to be a thriller is the women's 400m hurdles, with six women under 60 seconds. Justine Kinney, with 57.40, is closely followed by Michelle Carey who ran 57.63 in Belgium 10 days ago and Bronagh Furlong with a 57.80 last week. Also under 60 seconds are Jessie Barr, Catherine McManus and Emma Peters.

Making a first appearance in Dublin is US-based pole vaulter Tori Pena, whose grandmother comes from Derry. Pena, who competed in the World Irish Dancing Championships as a 16-year-old, has a best of 4.35m.

In the men's pole vault, Dave Donegan of Clonliffe could well improve the Irish record after clearing 5m in Cork.

  • Pick up free family tickets for the championships at Woodie's outlets.