Connolly aiming for Olympic mark
A number of elite Irish marathoners will be chasing national titles and possible Olympic qualifying standards in Monday's National Lottery Dublin Marathon.
Sean Connolly of Tallaght AC should be the top Irish contender in the men's race, which also incorporates the Woodie's DIY National Marathon Championship.
Last April Connolly ran 2:17.23 for his marathon debut in Rotterdam and his aim in Dublin is to run comfortably inside the Olympic Marathon 'A' qualifying standard of 2:15.00 -- something that has already been achieved by Mark Kenneally of Clonliffe Harriers in the recent Amsterdam Marathon, where the Dubliner ran 2:13.55.
Another serious contender will be Andrew Ledwith from Fr Murphy AC in Meath. Ledwith has turned in some impressive road performances since coming home from America earlier this year. A former athletics scholarship student at Iona College, Ledwith will be making his marathon debut.
Joe McAllister (St Malachy's AC) and Brian Maher (KCH) are two other Irish athletes who can be expected to deliver top-drawer performances.
The Irish women's title promises to be strongly contested, with Maria McCambridge (Letterkenny AC) and Dundrum South Dublin runners Linda Byrne and Ava Hutchinson among the favourites.
Other close contenders include Rosemary Ryan (Bilboa AC), Siobhan O'Doherty (Borrisokane AC), along with Gladys Ganiel and Breege Connolly from Belfast.
The Olympic 'A' qualifying standard of 2:35.00 will be the other big target for the Irish women, and McCambridge will be hoping to improve on her personal best of 2:35.29 set in Paris two years ago.
Byrne will be making her marathon debut in Dublin and her recent time of 1:59.42 for a three-quarter marathon event in Athlone suggests the former DCU scholarship student could be on course for a special performance. Byrne is coached by former Irish international athlete Enda Fitzpatrick.
Byrne's DSD clubmate Hutchinson is the current national women's cross-country champion and national half-marathon gold medallist.
Ryan won the recent Limerick Women's Mini-Marathon and O'Doherty, Ganiel and Connolly are each capable of delivering something special.
The Marathon Mission-- a joint project by the Dublin Marathon and Athletics Ireland aimed at reviving Ireland's proud history in the classic event -- has been a great success and the leading Irish contenders in Monday's race have all benefited in some part from this innovative programme.