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O Lionaird back on track after painful lost year


Ireland's Ciarán O Lionáird with the bronze medal he won in the Men's 3000m Final last year

Ireland's Ciarán O Lionáird with the bronze medal he won in the Men's 3000m Final last year

Ireland's Ciarán O Lionáird with the bronze medal he won in the Men's 3000m Final last year

Ciaran O Lionaird will make his long-awaited return to competition in the mile at the Drake Relays in Iowa tomorrow, a full year since his last race.

The sight of the Leevale star winning a bronze medal in the 3,000m at the European Indoors in March 2013 raised great hope that he had finally put behind him the injury problems that made his London Olympics experience such a disaster.

But he revealed subsequently that he still wasn't fully right and said that medal only "papered over the cracks" of a long and complicated Achilles injury.

He took the hard decision to write off last year's outdoor season to make time for surgery and went to a top specialist in Sweden to remove a tendon that was aggravating his Achilles problem.

O Lionaird (26) is still Ireland's fourth fastest man in history over 1,500m (3:34.46 from 2011), with PBs of 13:33 and 28:32 for 5,000/ 10,000m.

He has undergone a patient rebuilding process with his Nike training group in Oregon and his progress will be monitored in the hope that he will lead Ireland's men's team at this summer's European Championships.

The last time O Lionaird raced he was part of an Irish distance medley team that finished fifth in 9:26 at last year's Penn Relays.

Athletics Ireland also have a team racing there this weekend, made up of Brian Gregan, Paul Robinson, John Travers and John Coghlan.

Ireland's top race walkers, led by World 50km champion Robert Heffernan, depart tomorrow for Hong Kong, where they have a holding camp before one of their two biggest events this season, the World Cup in Taicang, China.

Heffernan doubled up at the 20km and 50km at the last Olympics and 2010 Europeans (where he was fourth in both).

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But he is concentrating on the longer event only in Zurich and his preparation will include just one other 20km race, in Germany, in three weeks' time.

Olympians Brendan Boyce (Letterkenny) and Laura Reynolds (Mohill), 28th and 20th respectively at the London Olympics, are also competing in China, as are young walkers Luke Hickey (UCC) and Cian McManamon (Westport).

Athletics Ireland's two-day Congress, which only occurs every two years, is being held in Cork this weekend, and the Rebel city also hosts a Samsung Night Run on Sunday (9.0) which takes place simultaneously with their Dublin 10km.

Elsewhere, Ireland's top triathletes are taking part in the second round of the World Series in South Africa.

Bryan Keane and Conor Murphy are looking to continue their excellent form of 16th and 22nd in the first round in Auckland on Sunday, while Aileen Reid is making her seasonal debut tomorrow.

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