Athletics

David Gillick leaves it late for Belfast International entry

 David Gillick is a late entry for the Belfast International at Mary Peters track
Picture by PA
Malcolm McCausland

IRISH 400m record holder David Gillick is a late entry in tomorrow afternoon’s Belfast International Athletics Meeting at the Mary Peters Track.

Meeting director Eamonn Christie has drawn on his wide network of contacts in the sport to put together a splendid programme with the help of Athletics NI, the Irish Milers’ Club and Beechmount Harriers.

Nine months ago you would have thought there was as much chance of 32-year-old Gillick running competitively again as Leicester City winning the Premier League. He had not raced since July 2012 and was pursuing a high profile media career after winning Celebrity MasterChef Ireland the following year. 

He even published a book David Gillick’s Kitchen in time for last Christmas and it looked as though athletics had heard the last of the Dubliner who was European Indoor champion on two occasions. However, despite his successes, all was not well in Gillick’s world with him having difficulties adjusting to life away from the track.  

Gillick explained: “For almost three years I’ve struggled. I thought I could walk away from the sport and simply just get on with my life. The real world has proven hard. There was a massive part of me suddenly missing and I didn’t know how to fix it.”

Fast forward to last weekend and Gillick heads to Dublin Airport at 5.30am to make his way to a minor meeting in Italy.  With no form, he has had to beg his way into the race and only then on account of a sympathetic promoter who has heard of his culinary exploits.

From being one of the top one lap runners in Europe only a few years ago, he now finds himself rooming with two Italians well down the athletics food chain. Fortunately, the weekend has a happy ending with Gillick putting in an encouraging run for fifth place, albeit in the B race, and a respectable 48.05 seconds timing.

“I don’t know if this is the one thing that will fill that void and fix me – I’m sure it is more complicated and will require ongoing management – but I think we all have challenges we want to face but find a reason to turn the other cheek and carry on regardless.

“It’s taken four years and it wasn’t pretty but I feel a sense of pride and contentment I haven’t felt in a long time,” said Gillick.

That 48.05 mark will not set the world alight but for the former Ballinteer footballer it has given him the encouragement to move forward. After three years of silently suffering with depression he has found a goal. 

He will not admit at this stage if that goal includes a place on Ireland’s 4x400m relay team for Rio but with Mark English and Tomas Barr currently injured and Brian Gregan struggling for form, the way is open. 

After missing out in 2012 through injury after years of training, it would be ironic if he were to qualify for Rio on a few month’s work. Leicester City did the seemingly impossible and David Gillick is back. The next chapter in what could be Gillick’s own fairytale and an extraordinary 2016 continues at the Mary Peters.

Other highlights tomorrow include the Star of the County Down, Ciara Mageean, in the 3000m and top class fields in the men’s and women’s 800m and 1500m.  For followers of the field events, there is plenty of action too with top class startlists in both long jump competitions, the men’s shot and discus as well as the women’s triple Jump.

The competition starts at 1pm with a warm-up 110m Hurdles race for men followed shortly later by 800m races for the top U15 boys and girls. The men’s 3000m is at 2.30pm and the whole meeting climaxes at 5pm with what promises to be a cracking women’s 800m.

Athletics

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