Donegal dust-up on the cards at National Championships

Mark English (above) will face strong competition at the National Senior Track & Field Championships from fellow Donegal athlete Karl Griffen (below)  
Inside Track with Malcolm McCausland

THE USUAL 11th hour rush for qualifying times, last minute dashes for selection and a battle for top spot in Donegal should liven up the National Senior Track & Field Championships at Morton Stadium in Dublin this weekend.  

Twelve months ago, Ulster athletes dominated the women’s track events, picking up no fewer than five titles on the final afternoon in almost perfect conditions.

Mary Cullen makes her first appearance at an outdoor Irish track championships in eight years as she chases a world qualifying time of 15:20.00 in the women’s 5,000m. The career of the 32-year-old has been blighted by injury and, consequently, apart from a European Indoor 3,000m bronze medal in 2009, she has not fulfilled her huge potential. She opened her track season impressively in the United States in June with a 5,000m in 15:29.99, but fell short of the world mark again in Heusden (15:26.46) and London (15:32.76) last month.

It will take a mighty effort from the Providence College graduate to grind out a sub 15:20 effort on her own at Morton Stadium. Otherwise, it could be another disappointing year for the north Sligo athlete.
Kelly Proper is another athlete looking for the world qualifying time in the 200m (23.20), but is among a group of runners still inside the new IAAF quota system that could see them secure selection for Beijing. 

There are no selection worries in the 800m for Letterkenny man Mark English who bounced back to form with a season’s best of 1:45.49 at the London Anniversary Games. That mark qualified him for next year’s Olympics but, closer to home, he has Donegal town youngster Karl Griffin snapping at his heels.  

While English has been grabbing the headlines for the past number of years, Griffin has been making steady progress through to international class. At only 20, and two years younger than English, the Éamon Harvey-coached athlete inflicted a rare defeat on his former idol when he beat fellow UCD student English back into eighth place in the final of European U23 Championships in early June. 

No doubt that stung the normally inscrutable English and he will be keen to inflict some measure of revenge on Sunday. But the improving Griffin should not be underestimated in what could be a slow tactical affair that is typical of these championships.

There is other northern interest in the women’s sprints, where Amy Foster will be looking to retain her 100m title. Portaferry’s Ciara Mageean will probably contest the 1,500m, where she still holds hope of selection for the Worlds in Beijing under the quota system. Elsewhere, Thomas Barr is bidding for his fifth 400m hurdles title and World champion Robert Heffernan competes in the 5,000m Walk alongside another Donegal man, Brendan Boyce.

The men’s 400m holds a special attraction, with a number of athletes competing for the relay spots for Beijing. Dubliner Brian Gregan is the favourite for the title with a season’s best of 45.85, but Shercock’s Craig Lynch could seal a relay spot.

For those who cannot attend the championships, there will be an hour-long highlights package on RTÉ2 at 8pm on Sunday evening.


THE International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has made a robust defence of its doping policies and practices in the wake of the allegations made last weekend by The Sunday Times and German TV company ARD.

The IAAF has described the allegations as “sensationalist and confusing” and based on data that was not, in itself, conclusive. It also points out that the same data was openly published by the world governing body four years ago.

The Sunday Times and ARD reported they were given access to the results of more than 12,000 blood tests conducted by the IAAF between 2001 and 2012. They claimed these showed more than 800 athletes, including many from Russia and Kenya, had given blood samples that were “highly suggestive” of doping or “abnormal”. 

In its response, the IAAF has said that: “The published allegations were sensationalist and confusing: the results referred to were not positive tests.”  

It also pointed out that a large proportion of these blood samples were collected in a period before the implementation of the Athlete Biological Passport and, therefore, could not be used as proof of doping.

While the finger is being pointed firmly toward Russia and Kenya, Irish athletes have not been innocent either, with Cathal Lombard (2004), Martin Fagan (2012) and Steven Colvert (2014) all banned for using EPO. In addition, thrower Tomas Rauktys was banned subsequent to testing positive for prohibited substance Stanozolol at the National Championships in 2013.

Meanwhile, speculation is rife as to the identity of the British athlete alluded to in The Sunday Times article. The person is question, according to the report, threatened to sue the newspaper if named. 


IRELAND'S athletes made an impressive start to the World Masters’ Athletics Championships that kicked off in Lyon, France this week.  

Undeterred by the heat, which was well into the 30s, the Irish picked up two gold and one silver in the cross-country events held on the opening morning. 

Mick Traynor followed up his European Masters’ cross-country title in March by winning the World M50 title. The Raheny Shamrock runner had more than a minute to spare over the Swedish silver medallist, with a time 25:44 for the 8km course. Traynor combined with Tom O’Connor and Michael Cornyn to lift team bronze medals out of the nine competing countries.

Carmel Parnell was the runaway winner of the women’s F60 race as she broke the tape over a minute and-a-half ahead of the Australian runner-up. The Leevale athlete, who recently celebrated her 60th birthday, was timed at an incredible 32:10 for the eight kilometre distance. 

Donore Harrier John Dunne gave the day a silver lining for the Irish with a runner-up spot in the M35 race, losing out on the gold by just four seconds, in a time of 25:21. 

North Belfast Harrier Paul Elliott was a credible sixth in the M60 age group.


EVERYONE who has entered the third ASICS Belfast City Half Marathon on Sunday, September 20 can expect to receive their official race packs shortly.  

The event organisers have processed the first batch and entrants can expect a package containing their bib number, timing chip, route map, sponsorship form, medical guidance and race day instructions.

“With only four weeks left to our entry closing date, we will continue to post out on a daily basis,” said Claire O’Reilly, the events manager with Belfast City Marathon. 

“Entrants should receive their race packs within one week of completing their entry application. The packs will include all that is required for entrants to take their place at the start line in Ormeau Park on Sunday, September 20 2015.”

The Belfast City Half Marathon kicks off this year at 9am in Ormeau Park and will follow a route bypassing some of the major landmarks of Belfast. Entrants will receive their tech t-shirt and medal at the finish line.  

There is on-line registration at or contact the office directly on 028 9060 5933. Final closing deadline date is Sunday, August 30.


Friday, August 7
7pm: Hadlow Donaghadee 5K Run, Donaghadee Community Centre
7.30pm: Stanley Reid Memorial 5 Mile Classic, Loughrey Campus, Cookstown

Saturday, August 8
9.30am: Parkrun, various venues 
11am: Kells and Connor Half Marathon, K&C Community Centre
12pm: Leitrim 5 Mile Road Race, Liatroim Fontenoys GAC
1pm: National Senior Track & Field Champs, Morton Stadium, Dublin.

Sunday, August 9
10am: Riverine 10K, Lifford 
11.45am: National Senior Track & Field Champs, Morton Stadium, Dublin.


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