Thursday 14 December 2017

Hession books spot at London Games

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

MUCH has been made of Ireland's rising wave of underage talent in recent weeks, and the young guns proved exactly why at the Woodies DIY Senior Track and Field Championship in Morton Stadium yesterday.

Paul Hession won the 'Athlete of the Meet' award and a €500 bonus for winning the 200m in a time of 20.51, which also secured qualification for the 2012 Olympics and the upcoming World Championships. And there were expected victories too from Ireland's other world-class Daegu-bound athletes Derval O'Rourke, Alistair Cragg, Deirdre Ryan and Robert Heffernan.

However, rising walking star Kate Veale -- who clocked a junior record of 21:30 at 5,000m -- was one of several teenagers to provide the big talking points.

Another was rapidly improving 19-year-old hurdler Thomas Barr from Dunmore East, whose older Jessie sister helped seal a double gold for their family and club (Ferrybank AC) yesterday.

Barr (18) -- sixth at the recent European juniors -- won his first Irish senior 400m hurdles title in a blistering time of 50.06, which not only knocked nearly half a second off his own recent PB but was the third time in a month that he has broken his own Irish Junior and U-23 records.

UUJ's Jason Harvey also knocked three seconds off his PB when taking silver in 50.65, ahead of Barr's training partner Timmy Crowe (51.38) and the first two home also qualified for next summer's European Championships.

Barr shares the same date of birth, with three years difference, with his older sister Jessie (22) who also took 400m gold yesterday, running 57.38 to beat defending champion Justin Kinney.

Shock of the day came when World and European junior silver medallist Ciara Mageean was beaten in the 800m, paying a heavy price for her electric early pace.

The 19-year-old went through 400m in sub-58 seconds and Laura Crowe (An Riocht) was the only one able to go with her, but Mageean faltered in the last 50m and when she stumbled a few strides out from the finish line, Raheny's Siobhan Eviston (27), who timed her run perfectly, came through to nick gold as the Down star fell across the line.

Despite taking silver, Mageean looked inconsolable afterwards yet showed tremendous guts to come back and win gold in a terrific women's 1500m final, saying afterwards: "That's what athletics is about, taking risks!"

This time she waited until the back straight to pounce, but still had to survive a terrific challenge from Stephanie Reilly, winning in 4.16.36 from the Wicklow veteran (4.16.43), with Fionnuala Britton taking bronze.

Two of the men's marquee distance events were also won by young tyros.

Paul Robinson (20), who already went sub-four this summer, followed in the footsteps of his St Coca's clubmate David Campbell by winning the 1500m in 3:50.41. Letterkenny's Mark English (18) won a fantastic 800m from which Ciaran O'Lionaird withdrew with a bug.

English took up the lead in the home straight to win in 1.50.22 and, in a thrilling finish, St Abban's Brian Kelly got up to nick silver (1.50.83) ahead of Anthony Lieghio (1.50.88), reducing one-time leader David McCarthy to fourth. With his work done in the 200m Hession skipped the 100m, leaving Jason Smyth to win his second 100m title in 10.52, but North Down's Amy Foster took double gold in the women's sprints.

Cragg looked extremely impressive when retaining his 5,000m title and both O'Rourke and Heffernan took their ninth national titles in 100m hurdles and 10,000m walk. Heffernan wasn't expected to race at all after a recent injury but revealed that he felt in such good form in training yesterday morning that, halfway through a planned 40km session, he decided he would quit and race instead and cruised to victory in 40 minutes and 12 seconds.

Joanne Cuddihy underlined her welcome return to form by winning the women's 400m title in a time (52.15) that was inside the 'B' standard for World Championships and the Kilkenny star said it was "just a dream to be back and injury-free".

Crusaders' Brian Murphy (28) finally got his long-awaited Irish track title after running in his 11th Irish 400m final, winning in 46.68 before producing the day's best quote: "I stuck around until the rest of them all died off!"

Princeton University student Conor McCullough -- a world junior champion for America who has dual citizenship and may yet declare for Ireland -- won the hammer with a 72.67m throw, which moved him to fifth on the all-time Irish list, directly behind his father Conor's 74.16m best from 1988. He later took silver in the discus behind Clonliffe's Tomas Rauktys.

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