Wednesday 15 August 2018

Barr the big hope as Irish take to the track in Berlin

Thomas Barr. Photo: Sportsfile
Thomas Barr. Photo: Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

Never before has an Irish male sprinter won a medal at the European Championships, but never before has that feat seemed as likely as in Berlin this week, where Thomas Barr will carry the chief medal hopes for the 42-strong Irish team.

The 26-year-old Waterford athlete will open his campaign in tomorrow evening's heats of the men's 400m hurdles, where he should advance to Thursday's final.

There, he will line up alongside Norway's Karsten Warholm and Turkey's Yasmani Copello, who on current form should finish at the head of the standings.

But Barr, ranked joint-fifth this year, is ruling nothing out after rounding into form at the right time.

"It's going to be very tight so I'll be putting down my best in the semi-final. If I can get into a final, anything can happen. My confidence is good and I feel like I'm coming into form.

"But a senior championship medal does not come around easy, and if it happens it'll be very, very hard-fought."

First up on the track for the Irish is Gina Akpe-Moses, the reigning European U-20 champion who will make the daunting step up to senior level in this afternoon's 100m heats from 4.45pm Irish time. A huge breakthrough will be needed on her best of 11.46 for her to advance.

Advance

The same can't be said, however, for Phil Healy, who should advance to tomorrow's semi-final if she can produce something close to the national record of 11.28 she ran in Santry back in June.

It will be the start of a hectic week for the 23-year-old Bandon sprinter, who will be back on track on Friday morning for the 200m heats and also goes in the 4x100m and 4x400m.

With recent world U-20 high jump silver medallist Sommer Lecky ruled out through injury, Adam McMullen is the sole Irish athlete in the field events, and the 28-year-old will need to come close to his best of 7.99m in long jump qualification at 3.35pm today to secure a place in tomorrow's final.

Later in the week, hopes are high that Ciara Mageean can reproduce her medal-winning feat from this event in 2016 when she lines up for the 1,500m final on Sunday evening, assuming she advances from Friday's heats.

Though ranked eighth on season's bests, there is little separating the leading dozen, with the exception of British star Laura Muir who should cruise to gold if she arrives in full fitness.

Leon Reid will make his debut for Ireland in Wednesday's 200m semi-final after his transfer of allegiance from Britain was approved last Friday, and he will line up with a realistic chance of making the final on Thursday, which, if Barr makes good on his ability, could prove a memorable night for Irish sprinting.

Irish Independent

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