Over 600 athletes from 12 national teams are coming to Dublin for the European Team Championships division 1 match at Santry starting in ten days time on June 22. Places in the prestigious Super League are the reward for the top three teams.
Despite the presence of strong squads from Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Sweden and Switzerland, the home team will hope to hold its own.
For athletes such as Brian Gregan, Fionnuala Britton and Derval O’Rourke, the competition provides a valuable early test of their fitness ahead of the World Championships in Russia later this summer.
Gregan, who will compete in the 400m, is in flying form and his 45.83 last month was enough to rank him eighth in European. He underlined his fitness with a new personal best of 21.05 for 200m at the AAI Games held in Santry last Sunday. Among those he is likely to face in ten days time are Pavel Maslak from the Czech Republic who ran 45.50 last Sunday, and Kevin Borlee of Belgum with a 45.56 time from June 1.
Since her first appearance for Ireland at the European Cup in 2000, Derval O’Rourke has been a mainstay of the team. Although she hasn’t recorded an outdoor mark so far, O’Rourke is an athlete who always rises to the occasion as proved by her fighting fourth place at the Europeans Indoors. Good news for O’Rourke is that while Anne Zegre of Belgium from Belgium could be a threat after running 13.01 last weekend, no-one else has come close.
If Deirdre Ryan is fit, she could pick up points in the high jump with Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium with 1.90 the highest ranked from the visiting teams, although she’s hasn’t competed since April.
American-based pole vaulter Tori Pena’s new Irish record of 4.60 set in California last week puts her fifth on the European rankings, with Czeck Republic’s Jirina Svobodova on 4.61 just ahead of her.
Newly-crowned Irish heptathlon champion Kelly Proper is likely to finish among the top three in the long jump, with Erica Jarder of Sweden and Romania’s Alina Rotaru her chief rivals. Big favourite to win the 5000m is twice European cross-country champion, Fionnaula Britton
So a competition not to be missed, with tickets still available for both days and a special deal on offer for clubs through Athletics Ireland. Setanta Ireland will show all the action live, as will TV stations in Finland, Estonia, Czech Republic, Portugal and Bulgaria.
*West Waterford’s David McCarthy produced the road run of the weekend when he won the Patrick Bell 5km in Bohermeen in 14 min 26 secs. McCarthy was on his own for much of the race, leaving Colin Costello from Star of the Sea and Dunshaughlin’s Robbie Matthews to battle it out for second place. First woman was Fionnuala Ross from Armagh.
Freddy Keron Sittuk’s Irish odyssey continued as he led home 900 finishers at the re-scheduled Larne Marathon. Sittuk’s time of 68.20 put him just clear of second placed Alan O’Hara from North Belfast Harriers and Clonliffe running machines Gary O’Hanlon. First woman was Julie Balmer of North Down.
*Fionnuala Britton of Kilcoole is already confirmed for the SSC women`s International Mile at the Morton Games in Santry on Wednesday July 17 (7.15pm). Also entered are former NCAA cross-country, 5,000m and 3,000m indoor champion Angela Bizzari and Riocht’s Laura Crowe. Spain’s Igor Bychlov a London 2012 finalist and winner of the IAAF Challenge in Beijing with a 5.60 effort last month, goes in the pole vault. For early bird tickets at €8, see www.mortongames.ie.
*Entry is still open for Friday night’s Braveheart Trail 5km along the banks of the river Boyne through medieval Trim in Co Meath. Entry is €15 for a truly unique race in an area used for the Mel Gibson film “Braveheart”. T-shirts go to early entries with loads of spot prizes plus the usual prizes in senior, juniro and master categories. Enter via www.runireland.com or on the night. Also on offer is the Junior Braveheart 1km for U12 and U16 boys and girls. The event kicks off the town’s Haymaking Festival.
*With the Irish summer as erratic as always, the organisers of Sunday’s Tommy Lynam Mid-Summer 5km in St Anne’s Park Raheny (11am) are taking no chances. All who finish will get a complimentary rain cape! Also on offer are a special medal and healthy snacks. Entry is €20 with surplus going to Childline. Race HQ is near the Red Stables in St Anne’s Park.
*Griffeen Park in Lucan hosts its inaugural Parkrun 5km on Sunday (9.30am). Entry is free; pre-register at www.parkrun.ie/griffeen.
*Watch out for TV coverage of the Aviva All Ireland Schools’ Track & Field Championships on Setanta Ireland over the next few days. Confirmed times are tomorrow Thursday June 13 at 7pm and Saturday June 15 at 4:30pm.