Tuesday 21 May 2019

Athletics: Donegal's McDaid to be honoured as Letterkenny takes centre stage

Cliona Foley

DONEGAL may lay claim to Sam Maguire right now, but the county has also become a real athletics hot-bed and is now producing some of the country's best middle-distance runners.

So, it is particularly fitting that its most decorated athlete – Danny McDaid – is receiving a special honour at an ambitious event there in a week's time.

The track at the Aura Leisure centre in Letterkenny, although completed in 2007, is being officially named in McDaid's honour tomorrow week during an exciting early-season meeting where the feature event hopes to produce the first four-minute-mile ever run in the county.

Two-time Olympic marathon runner McDaid, the 'Flying Postman' from Glenswilly, who finished 11th and captained Ireland to team silver at the 1979 World Cross-Country Championships, remains as active as ever, still running daily and an avid supporter of Irish athletics at home and abroad.

He will certainly appreciate the quality on show as local boys Darren McBrearty, Ruari Finnegan and Danny Mooney will all take part in the invitational mile.

Paul Robinson (21) of Kildare club St Coco's has shown the best mile form this season and has already clocked two sub-fours in his young career, with a 3:58:47 PB from Santry last year.

Kenyan's Jonathan Kiplimo and Hillary Kipkorir are also coming in to ramp up the pace and see how many they can help dip under the magical mark, but that is just one element of a packed programme.

Fionnuala Britton (3,000m) and Brian Gregan (400m) will be among the elite fields and the men's 800m will showcase the class of local star Mark English, who was fifth in the World Juniors last summer and recently showed fast feet by dropping down to 400m at the Irish Intervarsities and clocking 47.30.

The sprints will attract many of those vying for places on the 4x100m squads for the European Team Championships in Dublin in June.

Ferrybank's Kelly Proper, fresh from breaking the Irish heptathlon record last weekend with her first major foray into senior multi-eventing, will compete in the 200m and long-jump and local star Mary McLoone of Tir Chonaill AC should provide stiff competition in the latter.

The schedule also has a very high class shot put competition, with Galway's Sean Breathnach taking on London Olympian Kim Christensen (Denmark) and Daniel Stahl (Sweden).

And it will also include two unusual one-hour track races, in which Maria McCambridge and John Travers are looking to set Irish records.

Putting together a top-class track meeting, outside of Dublin or Cork, is not easy, but perhaps nothing demonstrates why Donegal athletics is so strong right now than the ambition and drive behind this event and Letterkenny AC deserve massive kudos and support for it.

The club has also recently produced Olympic race walker Brendan Boyce, who will be part of a seven-strong Irish team racing at the European Cup in Dudince, Slovakia next day.

But it will not include Kate Veale, the 2011 World Youth champion from West Waterford who has been ruled out with a groin injury that looks set to keep her out for the rest of this season.

Irish Independent

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