Monday 20 May 2019

Mills only victim in selection farce

Eamonn Sweeney

Eamonn Sweeney

During all the brouhaha over the selection of Catriona Cuddihy on the Irish 4x400m relay squad for the Olympics and her subsequent replacement, after an appeal, by Joanna Mills, one question was never really asked. Why?

Why was Cuddihy chosen in the first place when there seemed no good reason for her selection over Mills? The decision has been portrayed as a marginal call with it being noted that Mills had run 54.41 this season to Cuddihy's 54.59. Yet Mills' personal best is 53.89, run last year when finishing fourth at the European Junior Championships. Cuddihy's PB is that aforementioned 54.59, run last month.

After the appeal Cuddihy suggested she deserved to be selected because lately she'd been running a second faster than Mills. But the gap between the athletes was apparent last week when Mills ran a season's best of 54.17 when qualifying for the World Junior semi-finals in Barcelona, almost half a second faster than Cuddihy has run. Even the 54.52 which a tired Mills ran the following day when failing to qualify for the final is faster than the Kilkenny runner's PB.

There is no logical reason why Cuddihy should have been selected ahead of Joanna Mills. Stories which suggested that there were two victims in this scenario and focused most of their attention on a tearful Catriona Cuddihy were missing the point. There was one victim and it was Joanna Mills. That there's still a possibility of Mills being denied her rightful berth by procedural wrangling is a further disgrace.

What makes the affair more troubling are the explanations given to Mills for her omission. The Ulster woman was told she was being excluded because of a lack of international experience, odd given that her European Junior performance was outstanding and she was a member of the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games squad. And, most puzzlingly of all, it was suggested that the athletes were being selected because of their potential for improvement. Given that Mills, who's 19, is already running much faster than Cuddihy, who's 25, it seems fairly obvious who has the greater potential.

There should be resignations over this. Because anyone responsible for this glaring miscarriage of justice simply isn't fit to guide the destinies of our young athletes. Even by Athletics Ireland's standards, this is a shocker.

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