Tuesday 26 March 2019

WATCH: Controversy rages as Thomas Barr is shoved out of 400m final at National Indoor Championships

Athletes from left, Cillin Greene of Galway City Harriers AC, Co. Galway, Thomas Barr of Ferrybank AC, Co. Waterford, Andrew Mellon of Crusaders AC, Co. Dublin, and Brandon Arrey of Raheny Shamrock AC, Co. Dublin, competing in the Men's 400m
Athletes from left, Cillin Greene of Galway City Harriers AC, Co. Galway, Thomas Barr of Ferrybank AC, Co. Waterford, Andrew Mellon of Crusaders AC, Co. Dublin, and Brandon Arrey of Raheny Shamrock AC, Co. Dublin, competing in the Men's 400m

Cathal Dennehy

Controversy raged at the Irish Life Health National Indoor Championship as Thomas Barr fell victim to a clash during the 400m final, the 26-year-old pushed out of the race in Abbotstown by Andrew Mellon.

The two-lap race is renowned for its physical contact as runners break lanes after the first lap, and when Barr reached that point  he looked poised to slot into second place behind leader Cillín Greene.

But as he moved towards the rail entering the turn, a three-way collision with Brandon Arrey and Mellon ended his chance in an instant, Mellon defending his space and giving Barr a firm shove into the outer lanes.

"He was a foot behind and came trying to dive through the gap that was closing," said Barr. "I'm much smaller and slighter than he is and he pushed me out of the way. But that's indoor 400 running. I probably should have kept an eye on the peripherals."

Out front, Greene produced the performance of his life to take gold in 47.19, the 20-year-old adding his name to the Irish team for next week's European Indoors, while Mellon was perhaps lucky to avoid disqualification in second with 48.02.

"When I saw the time I was in shock," said Greene. "I was running blind so didn't know about the controversy but my plan was to get out hard. I've no weight on me at all so if I got a push that was my race gone."

Barr had carried a niggle into the race and when he lost several metres from the push, he chose not to continue, visibly annoyed as he slowed to a stop.

"I went with my gut and said there's no point carrying on – I was going to find it tough to get back up with the lads. I probably should have stayed a little bit wider but that's a lesson learned. It's a completely different ball game indoors."

Ireland's three medal hopes for the European Indoors all passed their final test with flying colours, Mark English, Phil Healy and Ciara Mageean all highly impressive when taking gold.

English barely broke sweat to claim the 800m title, the UCD athlete coasting to victory in 1:51.77.

"My plan was to get the win, first and foremost – to take the lead at 600m and hang on for dear life," said English, who looked far more comfortable than his words suggested. "My fitness is definitely as good as it has been, if not better."

Healy also gave herself the perfect send-off to Glasgow with a dominant win in the women's 400m, the Bandon athlete blasting through the first 200m and coming home a clear winner in 52.81. Afterwards, she squeezed in a session of 150-metre reps on the Abbotstown track, her sights set on next week's event, for which she is ranked fourth in Europe.

"Everyone can talk about medals, but the pressure is what you put on yourself," said Healy. "I'll go out there, it'll be my race, my lane, and I'll have two races before I can even think of a medal."

Joseph Ojewumi earned the title of Ireland's fastest man after taking the men's 60m in 6.78, a hair ahead of Marcus Lawler (6.79), while Molly Scott took the women's title in 7.32. On Saturday Mageean was a dominant winner of the 3,000m in 9:02.57, the perfect tune-up ahead of her medal tilt over 1500m in Glasgow.

The biggest shock of the weekend came in the men's 1500m with Eoin Pearce outlasting former champions Kieran Kelly and Eoin Everard to take gold. "I can't believe it," said Pearce. "Every dog has his day."

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