AILIS McSWEENEY has withdrawn from the Irish team that departed for the European Team Championships in Izmir, Turkey, yesterday due to an Achilles problem which has cost her four weeks of sprint training.
"I've had this niggle for years and probably just didn't stop training quickly enough this time," the Leevale sprinter (above) revealed. "But I got back to full training this week and, thankfully, the final date for qualifying for the World Championships is not until August 15, so there's still plenty of time."
McSweeney missed out on a place in last summer's European 100m final by just one hundredth of a second, so she is a big loss to the Irish team -- individually and in the relay, in which Amy Foster will be doubling up to replace her.
The women's 4x100m team, who have already qualified for the World Championships, have secured lanes in the Diamond League in Lausanne (June 30) and in La Chaux du Fonds (July 2), which Mcsweeney has targeted for her comeback.
While McSweeney is out, one particularly welcome inclusion is Kilkenny quarter-miler Joanne Cuddihy, even if she is only running in the 4x400m relay.
Cuddihy was fourth in the 2007 World Championships semi-final when she broke 51 seconds and has since completed her medical studies.
She has been dogged with injuries since 2007 and it was feared she might retire prematurely, but the KCH star has reaffirmed her desire to make the 2012 Olympics and returns from Australia this weekend, where she has been training full-time since the start of the year.
Otherwise, the team features all of Ireland's marquee names. Derval O'Rourke will be using it for her first outdoor hurdles race this season and David Gillick and Jason Smyth are among those returning from America to take part.
Ireland compete in the First League of the ETC, which is technically the second division and the top three finishers will be promoted to the Superleague.
Finishing positions are based on a nation's combined points (men and women) and, given the opposition -- Belgium, Croatia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland and hosts Turkey -- and the fact that Ireland finished eighth (of 11 teams) last year, they will be doing well just to hold their place.
Of the two Irish steeplechasers who got the Olympic qualifying mark last weekend, Fionnuala Britton is running the 5,000m, while Stephanie O'Reilly is racing over the barriers.
The team doesn't include Alistair Cragg as it was selected before he ran his Olympic 'A' qualifying time of 13:12 last weekend, but he should be boosted by likely reinstatement on the 'carding' grant scheme, from which he was dropped last year, when AAI meet with the Sports Council next week. US-based O'Reilly is also expected to be recommended for first-time funding.
Next month's European Youth Olympics also take place in Turkey (Trabzon) and Siofra Clerigh-Buttner, Aisling Croke, Ruari Finnegan, Ciara Giles-Doran, Karl Griffin, Megan Kiely, Ben Kiely, Sarah Lavin, Marcus Lawler, Matthew Martin, Grainne Moynihan, Amy O'Donoghue, Greg O'Shea and Sean Tobin have been selected to compete in the athletics section.