Emerging star Healy out to make Euro grade
ONE of Ireland's best young sprinters is ready to take on all-comers at the Woodies DIY Junior and U-23 Indoor Championships on Sunday – including her own sister.
Phil Healy (Bandon AC) has come flying out of the indoor traps, last weekend recording the seventh fastest 60 metres (7.43 seconds) by an Irishwoman, despite only turning 20 in the past month.
A first year nursing student in UCC, where she is on a sports scholarship, the West Cork flier has now moved into the U-23 category.
That means that Sunday's opponents at Athlone International Arena will include her sister Joan, another former multiple Irish schools sprint champion who is two years older. Joan is also in UCC, so they do some training sessions together but Phil has attributed her brilliant start to the year to some other changes.
She has a new coach in Wexford's Shane McCormack, and she says the proximity to UCC's great training facilities has also helped.
Her personal best at the end of 2013 was 7.58 but she opened the new season with 7.46 in Athlone two weeks ago and clocked 7.43 in winning the Cardiff Grand Prix.
The reigning Irish schools 100/200m champion, she was just outside the medals at European Juniors last summer, fourth in the 100m, where she ran her 11.63 PB.
Just three days after finishing her Leaving Cert, she was part of the 4x100m relay team that was second at the European Team Championships in Santry.
"I'm delighted to have started the season so well but there's a long way to go," she said.
"The World Indoors standard (7.32) is fairly steep, but the 100m standard for the Europeans next summer (11.40 'A', 11.60 'B') is something I definitely have my sights on."
Athlone IT's brilliant indoor facility is expected to attract record numbers this weekend, with the Irish Masters tomorrow and the U-23s and Juniors on Sunday. Marcus Lawler, Zac Irwin, Sarah Lavin, Thomas Barr, Alanna Lally and Siofra Cleirigh Buttner will be among the rising underage talent in action.
Elsewhere, Chris Jones has confirmed that he is taking a step back from coaching two-time European cross-country champion Fionnuala Britton but will still be involved with her in an advisory role.
"I believe that, at a certain stage of their career, athletes need to take more ownership of their training and drive things on themselves so I'm happy to take a step back but still advise Fionnuala whenever I can," he said.