Saturday 14 December 2019

Cork chief Hodgins angry at stars' lack of support


Cliona Foley

CORK City Sports (CCS) chairman Dick Hodgins hit out yesterday at what he perceived as a lack of support for their meeting by some of Ireland's athletes.

"I could understand if it was clashing with a Diamond League meeting or something of such importance," he said ahead of the 60th edition of the famous event in Cork IT tomorrow (2.0 start).

"It is not even our top stars often, but the next level. I don't know if it's their coaches' fault, or themselves, but they often seem to have an over-inflated sense of themselves and where they should be racing."

Several of Ireland's international stars -- Paul Hession, Olive Loughnane, Robert Heffernan, Kelly Proper and Marian Heffernan -- will be among tomorrow's attractions.

Local hurdles heroine Derval O'Rourke is a big supporter of the event but is absent this year because she is part of the Irish 4x100m team who are racing in Le Chaux du Fonds tomorrow.

And Hodgins criticised Athletics Ireland for that clash, saying: "It's not as if AAI didn't know the date of our meeting. Taking the women's relay team away on the same date is depriving us of most of our top women sprinters."

But with the 4x100m team already qualified for the World Championships in late August, and high-quality relay races extremely hard to come by, AAI have elected for the Swiss meet.

With no title sponsor anymore and annual running costs of €120,000, Cork's entirely voluntary committee battle hard every year to keep the country's top international event on the road.

"It is very hard financially," Hodgins admitted. "We could not do it without the help of the Sports Council and the Cork City Council, and some event sponsors that we've fortunately retained.

"We have to fund all the international athletes that come in, which is why it's so important for us that our top Irish people compete here."

This year's CCS has still attracted plenty of national and international attractions. Beijing 1,500m silver medallist Nick Willis (New Zealand) lines up in a metric mile that also includes Australia's 800m champion James Kaan.

World bronze medallist Renny Quow (Trinidad & Tobago) and Michael Mathieu (Bahamas) are two big names in the 400m, while the shorter men's sprints will include Panama's Alonso Edward (world silver medallist behind Usain Bolt in Berlin), Rondell Sorrillo (Trinidad & Tobago) and Antigua's Brendan Christian.

The field events include former world long jump champion Tianna Madison. Her USA compatriot Amber Campbell is a 72m hammer thrower.

Several of Ireland's leading juniors -- including Mark English, Liam Markham and Joanna Mills -- will miss the meet because they are away on international duty at the Mannheim Junior event.

Elsewhere, Alistair Cragg and sprinter Jason Smith will take part in the Clonliffe '125 Grand Prix' which takes place in Santry next Friday.

•The TriAthlone Olympic, sprint and try-a-tri races will take place in Athlone tomorrow starting at 3.0 and not on Sunday as stated in yesterday's 'Up and Running' diary. We apologise for any inconvenience.

Irish Team -- Mannheim Junior International (July 2-3) -- Boys: M English (Letterkenny) 800m, L Markham (Ennis) 1500m, J Dowling (DS D) and P Scanlan (Leevale) 400m, E O'Halloran (Leevale) 110mH, M Kavanagh (DSD) 200m, A Doyle (Mid-Ulster) and J McCabe (Dunboyne) Hammer.

Girls: J Mills (Ballymena & Antrim) 400m & Long Jump, S Maughan (Castlebar) Long Jump.

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