Athletics: Mageean limbering up for last lap of schools' action
FEW athletics fans need a special reason to go to the annual Woodies DIY All-Ireland Schools Track and Field Championships, but there is an extra special one to bring them to Tullamore tomorrow.
Ciara Mageean (Assumption Ballynahinch) is sitting her A-levels in the coming weeks and has already been bombarded by US scholarship offers, so this is likely to be her last day in schools' action.
This time last year Mageean was the outstanding star of what is always a fantastic day of athletics at the Harriers stadium.
Her 800m victory in 2:05.38 broke Sonia O'Sullivan's 22-year-old Irish junior record and she also took the 1,500m title in what was only her first year in the senior ranks. That was no surprise to anyone who saw her win the Irish (senior) indoor 1,500m title two years ago when she was only 15.
Last summer she went on to win a silver medal at the World Juniors and gold at the European Youth Olympics, where her winning 1,500m time of 4:15.46 obliterated the event's previous record held, since 1991, by no less than Gabriella Szabo.
Mageean, who also incidentally won an Ulster colleges' camogie All Star this year, will not be the only distance star on show tomorrow.
Mark English (St Eunan's Letterkenny), who recently medalled at the World Youth Olympic festival, will compete in the senior boys' 800m. The intermediate 1,500m features last year's 800m champion Adam Ingram, who broke James Nolan's record with his 1:53.98 run here last year.
And with Shane Fitzsimons (St Joseph's Rochfortbridge) and Ruairi Finnegan (St Eunan's) both also setting provincial records in this year's qualifiers, this could be the best distance race of the day.
Diminutive Siofra Cleirigh-Buttner (Colaiste Iosagain), who took 12 seconds off the Leinster junior 1,500m record, is another one to watch.
Among the speedsters to catch are Seye Oglunlewe (Kings Hospital), Joan Healy (Col na Toirbhite, Bandon) and Patrick Maher (Davis College, Mallow), many of them chasing sprint doubles.
In the field events, the senior boys' long jump, featuring Eamonn Fahy (Kings Hospital) and Ciaran Dolan (St Michael's Enniskillen), is expected to be especially close and talented young Waterford walker Kate Veale is another who will feature in the morning's opening events.
Field action starts at 9.0 with the junior hammer, intermediate girls' high jump and junior boys' long jump, while the track action starts at 10.0 with the junior walks.