Athletics

From Rome to the Mary Peters Track for Ciaran Mageean

Ciara Mageean will compete in Belfast this weekend after a good run in Rome on Thursday evening
Malcolm McCausland

THE road to next year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia starts tomorrow when the Northern Ireland and Ulster Senior Open Championships (incorporating U18 – U20) take place at the Mary Peters Track. Local enthusiasts face an eight-hour programme, with Commonwealth Games aspirants under a three-line whip to make a competitive appearance at the meeting if they want selection for the Gold Coast next spring.

Ciara Mageean, who showed good early season form to finish 10th in the 1500m at last night’s Golden Gala Meeting in Rome, is entered in both the 800m and 1500m. After running the metric mile in Rome, she will probably turn out over the shorter distance, where the best of the opposition is probably City of Lisburn’s Erin McIlveen.

That leaves the door open for a tantalising duel in the 1,500m where Emma Mitchell, who has qualified for the 10,000m at the Commonwealths, goes head-to-head with Kerry O’Flaherty, who still has to attain the consideration standard for the 3000m steeplechase which she ran at the Rio Olympics. Ann-Marie McGlynn, who won the Evening Herald Women’s 10K in Dublin earlier in the week, should add a little spice to the encounter if she decides to compete.

The men’s 1,500m could be the event of the championships with Adam Kirk-Smith, qualified in the steeplechase, switching down in distance to take on Glasgow Commonwealth representative Danny Mooney and his training partners Conor Bradley and Darren McBrearty.

Expect some team tactics from the latter trio who are all coached by Teresa McDaid. Neil Johnston, unbeaten on the track this season, could be the joker in the pack.

The men’s sprints should liven up a long day with young pretender 16-year-old Aaron Sexton, fresh from a sensational double at the Irish Schools’, possibly taking on the old guard of Jason Smyth and Leon Reid. Christian Robinson, Craig Lynch and Dean Adams could make up two quality finals.

Dublin City Harrier Catherine McManus and Megan Marrs look to be the pick of the female sprinters.

The field events have drawn a relatively good entry with the province’s top two long jumpers Adam McMullen and Ben Fisher set to go head-to-head.

High jump star Sommer Lecky should light up that event, while another schools’ record-breaker Ellie McPherson is listed in the pole vault entries alongside an interesting pair, Sarah McKeever and Georgia Pickles, from the Sale Harriers club in Manchester.

ULSTER'S rising stars were in record-breaking form at the Irish Secondary Schools’ Track & Field Championships in Tullamore. Northern performers impressed across the age groups at the highlight of the academic athletics season. Over 1,000 young athletes took part after qualifying through district and provincial finals.

Sommer Lecky lived up to her reputation as one of most promising young athletes in Europe by rewriting the high jump record in the senior girls’ age group. The 17-year-old Strabane Academy pupil cleared 1.81m to add a centimetre to another Ulster athlete Ursula Fay’s 32-year-old record.

Senior girls was a productive age group for northerners with Belfast High School’s Ellie McCartney setting new figures in the pole vault, while Sacred Heart, Omagh’s Toni Moore and Castleblayney’s Niamh Malone picked up titles in the 1,500m steeplechase and 400m hurdles respectively.

James Edgar from Friends’ School in Lisburn played the waiting game to perfection to take the senior boys’ 5,000m gold. North west schools within a few miles of each other supplied the winners of three throwing events. Holy Cross, Strabane’s Gareth Crawford notched up a win in the javelin while the two schools in Raphoe, the Royal and Prior and Deele College, sent out James Kelly (shot putt) and Conor Breslin (hammer) respectively to lift titles.

Davicia Patterson was the star of the intermediate girls’ category with the Hunter House College pupil scorching to a 38.80 seconds clocking in winning the 300m. Bailieborough CS scholar Jade Williams took the hammer gold back to Cavan and there was success too for Belfast High’s Iona McPherson in the triple jump and Methody’s Anna McCauley in the high jump.

Aaron Sexton’s sprint double in the intermediate boys’ was one of the highlights of the meeting. The Bangor Grammar student opened with a record-breaking 10.77 (+0.5) seconds timing in the 100m. He was even more impressive later in the afternoon taking a massive third of a second off the 200m record with 21.43 (-0.8) mark despite running into a slight breeze.

Eoghan Byrne from St Colman’s, Newry was a convincing winner of the 400m and Malachy’s Cormac O’Rourke produced his now usual devastating finish to wipe out the opposition on the home straight of a very competitive 800m.

Hazelwood College’s Megan Lenihan was the only Ulster winner in the junior girls’ competitions with a victory in discus but northerners more than atoned in the equivalent boy’s age group bringing home no less than five titles.

St Colman’s Iarlaith Golding lived up to his name by winning both the 80m hurdles and high jump, clearing 1.80m in the latter. Ballymena Academy’s Jonathan Cochrane excelled in the triple jump, while Deele College added a second hammer title through Jude McCrossan.

And for good measure Larne Grammar triumphed in the 4 x 100m thanks to some slick baton passing.

The minor boys also saw its share of Ulster successes. Grosvenor Grammar’s Dylan McBride added the 800m title to his cross country crown in impressive fashion while Ben MacAilin came all the way from Gairmscoil Chú Uladh in west Donegal to win the 75m hurdles gold.

The Methody lads capped a splendid day for the northern province with an emphatic win in the relay.

THIS WEEKEND"S SCHEDULE

FRIDAY

7.30pm: Donoughmore N.S. 5K, Castlefinn, Co Donegal

SATURDAY

9am: Pete’s Alternative Triathlon 10K, Hazelwood Park

9.30am: parkrun, various locations

11am: Donegal Runway 5K, Carrickfin

12pm: Stunerz n Runnerz – Meadowbank Sports Centre, Magherafelt.

2pm: Enniskillen 10K, Lakeland Forum

SUNDAY

11am: Scoil Eoin Baiste 5K, Carrigart

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