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proper poised to measure up

AFTER breaking her own Irish long jump record 10 days ago, Kelly Proper of Ferrybank looks a sure bet to take a fifth national title at the Woodie's DIY Irish Indoor Championships at the Odyssey Arena Belfast this weekend.

Proper's jump of 6.62m at the Vienna Indoor Gala was three centimetres further than her previous record of 6.59m, set at the European Indoors last year.

Leevale's Derval O'Rourke is red-hot favourite to win the 60m hurdles after a stunning return to form. Last March she took bronze at the European Indoors with a time of 7.92 seconds -- her best since 2006. In August, she broke her own Irish record when finishing fourth in the 100m hurdles at the World Championships in Berlin.

In the high jump, DSD's Deirdre Ryan improved the Irish record to 1.93m over a year ago and needs to show form if she is to make the team for the World Indoors in Doha next month.

Kourosh Foroughi of Star of the Sea is favourite for the men's high jump after improving his indoor best to 2.15m in Nenagh earlier this month, where he attempted 2.18m. His rivals will include Barry Pender of St Abban's and Belgooly's Christopher Crowley.

Although Irish record holder Zoe Brown isn't competing, Saturday's women's pole vault features Ballymena's Claire Wilkinson taking on former Italian champion Sarah Semeraro of University of Ulster. Both are capable of at least 3.90m.

Former Olympic athlete James McIlroy plans a comeback at the Odyssey.

McIlroy, now 33, abruptly retired from the sport two years ago. In recent months the Larne athlete, a cousin of golfer Rory, has resumed training and hopes to qualify for October's Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Already qualified is Irish junior athlete of the year Ciara Mageean. She's aiming for a hat-trick of 1500m victories at the Odyssey.

In the women's 3k walk on Saturday, world silver-medal winner Olive Loughnane is certain of a warm welcome, while, for the first time, Robert Heffernan (Togher), Colin Griffin (Ballinamore) and Jamie Costin (West Waterford) line up together in the men's 5km walk. This race opens Saturday's programme at 4.15pm.

p RTÉ 2 will screen highlights of the Irish Indoors on Monday, February 8 (7-8.0pm)