Walsh stars as schools records tumble
There may be issues facing Irish athletics at the highest level, but midway through the Schools Championships on Saturday, there was a moment when even the darkest of sceptics had to admit defeat.
The clock had yet to tick past 3pm in Tullamore, barely half of the mammoth 122-event programme completed, when we were handed a sheet with the list of records that had already fallen. By then, 16 of Ireland's best young talents had carved up the record books, and it didn't stop there.
The best performance of all happened far from the eyes of the crowd, Swinford's Michaela Walsh stepping into the hammer circle a little after 10am, and unleashing a heave of 62.79m, which added six metres to the previous schools' record and smashed her Irish junior record. It also moved her to second on the European junior rankings.
"Everything seems to be coming together," she said.
"I'm not looking at rankings but I'll just keep going and compete against myself. There's more left in me."
She later broke another Irish junior record when throwing 15.48m in the shot put. Walsh was back training in Mayo yesterday, her sights trained on next month's European Junior Championships in Italy.
And it was the women who stole the show on Saturday. Ciara Neville of Castletroy College, her focus narrowed to the 100m this year, blasted down the track shortly after a downpour to take the senior girls' title in 11.52, the fourth fastest time in Europe by a junior and the quickest any Irish schoolgirl has ever run.
"I was hoping to run that fast, but wasn't expecting it because of the absolute downpour," she said.
Later she took the baton in second place for the final leg of the 4x100m relay, then duly powered past her Mercy Mounthawk rival for the win.
Newport's Sharlene Mawdsley smashed the senior girls' 400m record (53.99), adding the title to her 200m win earlier in the day. Sommer Lecky of Strabane broke a 32-year-old record in the senior girls' high jump, hoisting herself over 1.81m.
On the boys' side, Aaron Sexton blitzed his rivals in the intermediate boys 100m and 200m, his times of 10.72 and 21.43 both records.
Mark Smyth also completed a sprint double at senior level, as did juniors Mervyn Shalemba and Rhasidat Adeleke.
The Ryan family made history with five siblings racking up a total of eight medals.
Anna won the junior girls' pole vault, Daniel the senior boys' 110m hurdles, David the intermediate boys' long jump, and Jack the intermediate shot put. Youngest brother Dillon finished fourth in the junior boys' pole vault.
Elsewhere, Marcus Lawler was in superb form in Salamanca, Spain, the Carlow sprinter clocking 10.27 for 100m (+2.1m/s) and 20.43 for 200m (+2.4m/s), both times above the legal wind limit of 2.0 m/s.
Mark English opened his season with a fourth-place finish in Boston (1:46.06).