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London calling for Linda

DUBLIN athlete Linda Byrne lit up the Dublin Marathon by claiming her first national title and comfortably booking a ticket to next year's London Olympics.

The 25-year-old finished sixth overall in a time of 2:36.21 on her marathon debut, inside the 2:27 Olympic qualification standard designated by Athletics Ireland.

The result marks the highlight of the young Dundrum South Dublin athlete's career thus far after enduring injury ravaged campaigns over the past two years.

Byrne is a classy cross-country runner having previously finished fourth and sixth at the junior and under-23 European championships.



atmosphere

After losing her Sports Council funding two years ago, Byrne had considered quitting the sport and thanked those closest to her for keeping her eyes on the prize.

"When I came out of the under-23 age group there was a gap there. I wasn't making the senior times and I kind of lost my confidence, so I want to thank everyone who believed in me; my family, my friends and my coach (Enda Fitzpatrick)," said the part-time masters student in DCU.

"I knew I had to run under six-minute miles today to get the Olympic time. I was deliberately conservative starting out and it felt good until the 20-mile mark. But it was very tough. The thought of London, and the atmosphere, with everyone shouting for me, was a great spur.

"I had to take some time out last winter when I was a bit sick but then I got my confidence back and have been training hard since May. I think I've a lot of room for improvement still."

Tallaght AC's Sean Connolly also won his first national title yesterday but it was a bittersweet moment after his failure to make the men's Olympic qualification standard of 2:15.

The 29-year-old ran the gruelling 26.2 miles in 2:18.52 and finished 12th overall but couldn't hide his disappointment after the finish stating that blustery conditions had hampered his Olympic bid.

"Obviously it's nice to get a national title but I didn't get the time I was hoping for," he said.

Kenya's Geoffrey Ndungu won the overall men's competition and set a new Dublin record of 2:08.33 in the process.

Incredibly, the 27-year-old is not represented by a high profile agent and only travelled to Dublin because Balbriggan Town Council and Fingal County Council are twinned with German town St Wendel and paid for him to travel over.

The Germans help Kenyan athletes enter races abroad and in return their own athletes getting to train in Africa.

Ndungu received the first prize cheque fir €15,000 as well as a €5,000 bonus for breaking the course record.

Namibian Helaila Johannes (31) landed the women's overall title in 2:30.35, finishing ahead of Kenya's Emily Rotich and Ethiopa's Radiya Adilo.

Armagh's Paul Hannon retained the wheelchair title in 2:13.58.


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