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Hammer blow for Ireland as McCullough to make US return

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Conor McCullough, pictured here at last year's National Senior Track and Field Championships, has submitted a transfer request to rejoin USAT&F

Conor McCullough, pictured here at last year's National Senior Track and Field Championships, has submitted a transfer request to rejoin USAT&F

Conor McCullough, pictured here at last year's National Senior Track and Field Championships, has submitted a transfer request to rejoin USAT&F

IRELAND is losing its only world-class thrower Conor McCullough to his native America, less than two years after he switched allegiances.

McCullough represented USA when he became the world junior champion at hammer in 2010, two years after winning silver at the same event. He is the son of two-time Irish Olympian Conor McCullough Snr, but was born and reared in California.

McCullough competed in Santry at the Irish nationals in 2011 and 2012 and, in July 2012, when he first switched allegiance, threw an Irish U-23 record of 75.09 metres. The 'A' standard for the 2012 Olympics was ridiculously high (78m), but 74.96m subsequently made the final in London and 75.09 would have ranked him ninth in that final.

McCullough first wore the Irish vest officially in autumn 2012, but has now submitted a transfer request to rejoin USAT&F.

Athletic Ireland's high performance director Kevin Ankrom told the Irish Independent that McCullough "feels more comfortable competing for America and wasn't really comfortable in the Irish vest".

"It is incredibly disappointing," Ankrom admitted, "but you cannot argue with somebody's loyalty and that's obviously how he feels." McCullough's U-turn is unfortunate timing as it occurs just when the standard nationally in field events is coming under scrutiny.

The standard of Ireland's throwers and jumpers cost promotion to Europe's Superleague at the European Team Championships last weekend.

Ireland topped the second division in track standings, but finished seventh overall because so few points were won in the field. Europe is a hot-bed of throwing and they were facing several Olympic champions.

An eighth place from hammer-thrower Dempsey McGuigan and ninth for Tralee's Claire Fitzgerald in the women's shot were the best results. Ireland have regularly used the 'granny rule' to recruit abroad for first and second generation talent to fill gaps in the roster, of which Alistair Cragg is the outstanding example.

Top pole vaulter Tori Pena is Californian, McGuigan is British-born with an Ulster mother, while 5,000m runner Kevin Batt (23), who debuted last weekend, is Australian.

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Another acquisition last September was Australian Liam Zamel-Paez (25), a 2.29m high jumper who is currently injured.

In the meantime, the standard of Irish sprinting and hurdling has soared and Thomas Barr's sensational 48.90 last week currently ranks him ninth in the world at 400m hurdles. AAI are now working to try and get a lane for him in major meetings like the Diamond League.

But forget Lausanne, London or the Glasgow GP, you can go to Leixlip tonight and see the rising Ferrybank star for free.

Kildare club Le Cheile are opening their new track with a high-class inaugural meeting that will feature Barr and Irish seniors Rose Anne Galligan, Laura Crowe, Batt and some top Australians, including Ian Dewhurst, a 49.5 man in 400 hurdles.

It begins at 6.0, with the senior races from 7.45. It is testament to this 10-year-old club's ambition that it has built its own track for €600,000.


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