Derry Track Club’s Cathal McLaughlin picked up a second European Masters’ medal in as many months while Conor McIlveen has been selected for the IPC European Athletics Championships to be held in Grosseto, Italy on June 10 – 16.
Cathal McLaughlin combined a stay at the club’s training camp in Portugal with an opportunity to compete in the European Masters’ Non Stadia Championships in Monte Gordo.
McLaughlin took up the baton on the second leg of the 3 x 4K cross country relay in a remote third spot and handed over in the same position to help Ireland to bronze medals.
A month earlier the local company director had taken a bronze medal in the cross country team race held in conjunction with the European Masters’ Indoor Championships in Ancona, Italy.
Meanwhile McIlveen was delighted with his first international selection. He is one of a team of nine Ireland is sending to the IPC European championships in Grosseto which will attract an entry of 600 athletes. It is the first time that McIlveen will represent Ireland in IPC competition and also is an opportunity for him to stake a claim to a place on the Irish team for the Paralympics in Rio later this year.
“It’s no more than Conor deserves,” said DTC coach Malcolm McCausland. “He only came down to us in January 2015 when his target was to break 64 seconds for 400m. Since then he has impressed me with his dedication and work ethic.
“He has deservedly improved immensely to the point where he can now run two laps at that target pace which could see him win the gold medal in his class at Grosseto.”
The 26-year-old IT specialist travels to Italy on June 6. He runs the 1500m final on June 12 with the semi-final of the 800m on June 15 and hopefully the final on June 16.
A persistent drizzle did not spoil an excellent afternoon’s athletics at the Belfast International Meeting held on the Mary Peters Track and organised by Beechmount Harriers, Athletics NI and the Irish Milers’ Club.
Irish record holder David Gillick continued his return to the elite level of the sport after the 32-year-old Dubliner had retired from athletics through injury after failing to make the London Olympics.
There were glimpses of the old Gillick who won two European Indoor titles as he put in a dramatic charge down the final straight. But on this occasion it was too little and too late as England’s Theo Campbell went on to complete a rare 200m and 400m double in 46.24 seconds. Gillick took second in 47.24 – almost a second faster than his season opener in Italy the previous weekend.
There was also a warm welcome for another prodigal in the mixed 3000m race. Ciara Mageean cut her athletics teeth at the Mary Peters track but since moving to study at UCD she had not been seen for several years.
Again all may not have gone to script as the Portaferry woman probably arrived looking to better her excellent indoor mark of 8:55.09 but had to settle for 9:07.47 after falling off the lead pack early in the race.
John Travers hopes of a sub eight minutes clocking in the A 3000m were scuppered by some poor pacemaking that saw the opening two laps covered in only 2:14. At that point the Donore Harrier ran out of patience and threw in a 61.5 circuit before going on to break the electronic beam well clear in 8:03.69.
Further down the field there were outstanding performances from two young Northern Ireland athletes with City of Lisburn’s James Edgar recording 8:14.55 to qualify for the World Juniors while 8:35.95 will put North Down’s Craig McMeechan in line for selection to the European Youth Olympic Festival.
The 1500m races produced contrasting last laps. Kilkenny’s 800m specialist Ciara Everard took up the lead in the women’s race just before the bell but faded to fourth over the final furlong as England’s Rowena Cole came through to win convincingly in 4:19.58.
Dan Studley followed pacemaker Niall Tuohy through even 60 second laps to 1200m where he found himself well clear when the Waterford man stepped off the track. The Bristol & West athlete, who was fourth in Armagh last year, was able to keep his form to win by almost three seconds in 3:45.77.
Behind him City of Derry’s Fintan Stewart got a European Youth qualifier with an excellent 3:57.31 mark. Earlier Ballymena Runners’ James Hamilton had qualified for the Rio Paralympics, winning the 1500m B race in a personal best 3:59.71.
World University Games 1600m relay bronze medallist Kamil Gurdak also adopted front running tactics in the men’s 800m. Taking up the pace from the gun, Gurdak kept his metronome-like stride going all the way to the line reached in an impressive 1:48.54 as compatriot Matusz Borkowski stole through behind him to make it a Polish one-two.
Like all good hosts meeting director Eamonn Christie kept the best wine to last. Kerry woman Laura Crowe led at the bell in the women’s 800m and had only 2015 winner Alexandra Bell for company with 200m to go. Crowe still led halfway down the homestraight only for Scotland’s Katy Brown to come with a late charge to snatch victory on the line in 2:04.05. Further down the field City of Lisburn’s Kelly Neely took three seconds off her own Irish record with a 2:05.56 timing. (For report of Field events – see Inside Track on Friday)
Brandon Connolly was second in the Junior men’s 2000m Steeplechase despite complaining of breathing problems while Shane McGowan, Matt Doherty and Conor Doherty all improved their seasonal bests in the 800m.
Conor McIlveen turned in another fighting performance in the 1500m to record yet another personal best. Results on Athletics NI webpage.
Occasional heavy showers did not detract from a good afternoon of competition at the Lifford-Strabane AC Open Meeting incorporating the Donegal championships. An impressive turnout of competitors and supporters shrugged off typical Irish bank holiday weather to enjoy some impressive performances across the spectrum of events.
Much has rightly been written about the revamped Mary Peters Track facility in Belfast but to see what a small club in a rural town can achieve is worth the visit to Lifford alone. A seven lane mondo track with a spacious gym and changing rooms must be the envy of every club in the country.
Last year Irish Schools’ Senior champion Roland Surlis showed he has wintered well with a smooth victory in the 800m. The Annalee athlete sat off the pace until the final bend before battling through against the win on the homestraight for a credible 1:57.26 seconds clocking.
Shane McGowan, making his debut in the Derry Track Club vest, came through strongly to take second in 1:58.99 ahead of the host club’s Alan McGinley who was happy with his 1:59.27 timing in third. Omagh 15-year-old Enya Haigney caught the eye with a win in the women’s race in 2:17.10.
Another Irish Schools’ champion Aaron McGlynn was a class apart in the 400m. The Finn Valley powered his way to the front from the gun and already enjoyed a healthy lead at the halfway mark. A 50.38 clocking was impressive in the circumstances and augurs well for a good season ahead for the Finn Town man.
The longer races both followed a similar pattern. Finn Valley’s Oisin Gallen was too strong for the opposition in the 1500m coming home well clear in 4:12.17 and City of Derry’s Fintan Stewart had things all his own way in the 3000m winning by 25 seconds in 8:57.03.
Omagh Harrier Toni Moore took the women’s 1500m in 5:02.62 while Ann-Marie McGlynn clocked a promising early season 9:32.73 in winning the women’s 3000m. There was a Finn Valley double in the 200m with the county titles going to Shane Irwin (23.73) and Janine Boyle (26.71)
The Field events were not as well populated and more affected by the elements than the Track contests. Nevertheless Irish Masters’ champion Aiden Gillespie from Rosses AC managed to produce a 6.00m leap to win the Long Jump. Finn Valley’s Aine Kerr got out to 5.60m to win the women’s event. Gillespie’s team mate Fodhla McFadden was also in good form winning the women’s Triple Jump with a 10.57m effort.
There is never any shortage of javelin throwers in Lifford-Strabane catchment area and that proved the case again with local man Sean McBride coming out top in a good competition with a throw of 55.98m. Full results on Lifford-Strabane AC facebook page.
Derry Track Club’s four-time Paralympic gold medallist Jason Smyth made a much-awaited start to the season when he clocked an impressive 10.45 (+1.3) seconds for 100m in Florida.
That was only good enough for fifth in the C Final won by Germany’s Christian Blum in 10.31 seconds. Blum was European Indoor silver medallist in the 60m at the 2015 European Indoor Championships. Smyth had earlier run a 10.47 (+1.2) in his heat.
Smyth is a walk on for Ireland’s Paralympic team in Rio this year but requires at least a B mark of 10.38 seconds if he is to be selected for the mainstream European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam.
Six years ago Smyth made history when he became the first Paralympic athlete to qualify for the Europeans and reached the semi-final in the Mont Juic Stadium in Barcelona.