Metric mile showdown should set Santry alight
Four of Ireland's best and brightest to battle it out for chance to compete on Euro stage
A BATTLE between four men for only three 1500m slots at next month's European Championships should provide a thrilling climax to the GloHealth National Senior Championships in Santry this weekend.
Ciaran O'Lionaird's winning time of 3:37.72 at the British Milers Club earlier in the week has really thrown the cat among the pigeons in the tussle for the three metric mile places available on the Ireland team for Zurich.
The 'Nationals' were already expected to provide plenty of thrills and spills as some high-profile athletes are still chasing the qualifying standard for the Europeans from August 12-17.
With the qualification deadline looming on Sunday night, Kelly Proper (200m), Brian Gregan (400m), John Travers (1500m) and Karl Griffin (800m) have all clinched the necessary times in the past week.
O'Lionaird's mid-week success in Watford, in only his second run since an injury setback in late May, made him the fourth man to get inside the 3:39:30 standard already.
St Coca's Paul Robinson (below) tops the rankings with 3:36.45, followed by Donore's Travers (3:37.27), Leevale's O'Lionaird (3:37.72) and West Waterford's David McCarthy, who has run 3:39.14 indoors and 3:39.59 outdoors.
Kilkenny's Eoin Everard is another potential contender as he has already come agonisingly close with a season's best of 3:39:64.
Only the winner of Sunday's 1500m final (at 4.55) gets automatic selection and the fact that the other two spots will be "at the sole discretion" of the selectors doesn't make things too clear.
Athletics Ireland said yesterday that "selectors may consider the following (but will not be limited to), championship potential, consideration of fastest qualification times and (based on) current form".
But a 'first three past the post' option would surely have been the simplest and most transparent criteria.
The bottom line is that someone is going to be disappointed after a 1500m final that looks set to provide a fitting highlight to two great days of competition.
Twenty-nine athletes have already achieved the necessary European Championships standard and the team will be confirmed next Monday.
They include pole vaulters Zoe Browne and Tori Pena, whose battle tomorrow (2.30) should be fascinating.
Pena is the national champion and record-holder (4.60m), but Browne has matched her season's best with her own 4:45m lifetime best in the past week and has already beaten her at the Cork City Sports.
None of the country's top 800m women have yet achieved the 2:01:30 European qualifying mark and Laura Crowe will not be defending her Irish title after calling an early end to her season yesterday due to a persistent niggle.
Ireland's best European medal hopes like Thomas Barr (400m hurdles final, 2.10 Sunday), Mark English (800m final, 2.30 Sunday) and Fionnuala Britton (5000m, 6.05 tomorrow) will be among the headline acts, but Barr's closest rival Jason Harvey is out with an ankle strain.
Versatile Ferrybank star Kelly Proper, last year's 'Athlete of the Meeting', ran the second-fastest Irish 200m (23:16) a week ago, but she is opting for the 100m and long jump.
Talented sprint hurdler Ben Reynolds (North Down) has run 13:65 this year with an slightly illegal wind (+2.1) so he is still chasing the necessary 13:65 qualifying time.
With just a €10 admission (U16s free) and new title sponsors GloHealth providing a Mile Challenge fun-run (11.00) on Sunday, as well as a Fitzone that will provide spectators with the opportunity to test their own speed, jumping and reaction times, it promises to be an action-packed two days.
The action starts at 2.0 tomorrow and at noon on Sunday and the full timetable is available on www.athleticsireland.com. RTE 2 television will broadcast 90 minutes of highlights on Sunday (6-7.30).
meanwhile, tonight's Monaco's IAAF Diamond League meeting has much to live up to after 2013's offering of seven world-leading marks and four IAAF Diamond League records.
But with Asbel Kiprop hoping to improve upon his stunning 1500m best of 3:27.72 last time round and six male high jumpers who have cleared 2.40m or higher this year, plus an 800m that brings together Olympic champion and world record-holder David Rudisha, world indoor and outdoor champion Mohammed Aman and 20-year-old Olympic silver medallist NIjel Amos, the 2014 Herculis meet looks ready for the challenge.
Kiprop's effort – which saw him record the fourth fastest time in history ahead of Britain's Mo Farah, who set a European record of 3:28.81 – was one of the four IAAF Diamond League records at the Stade Louis II stadium last July, the others coming from Amantle Montsho in the 400m (49.33), Renaud Lavillenie in the pole vault (5.96m) and the US women's 4x100m team (41.75).
DIAMOND LEAGUE, MONACO
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