Thomas Barr heads Ireland team in Finland
RIO Olympics 400m hurdles fourth-placer Thomas Barr leads the Ireland team at this weekend's European Team Championships League One competition in Vaasa, Finland, with firm hopes of maintaining the team's place in what is the second tier of the competition.
It is a rare opportunity for athletes to take part in an international team competition, with both male and female competitors from the 12 countries contributing to the final team score.
The Ireland team produced arguably its best ever result two years ago with a sixth place when the same division was held in Greece.
The strong Irish selection would probably be happy to accept a repeat of that performance as they prepare to take on strong teams from Finland, Norway and Sweden (who were relegated from the Super League in 2015 and are now intent on a quick return to the top echelon).
Belgium, Switzerland and Turkey are also fielding strong squads and are likely to be in the final shake-up for the three promotion spots.
Thomas Barr will feature in the 400m hurdles, which could be the race of the meeting with three of the top six finishers from last year's Olympics competing.
Barr, fourth in Rio, will renew rivalry with Yasmani Copello from Turkey and sixth-placer Rasmus Magi from Estonia.
He also faces Sweden's Karsten Warholm who beat him into third place in the Oslo Diamond League last Thursday and former European champion Kariem Hussein from Switzerland.
Donegal man Mark English looks likely to score big points in the 800m, where he is clearly the fastest on paper this season with a 1:45.42 mark, but he will need to watch out for Denmark's Andreas Bubbe – a 1:44.89 man at his best.
English is one of a number of Ulster representatives in the Irish squad with Ben Reynolds (110m hurdles) and Adam McMullen (long jump) expected to score well.
There are debuts at this level for Castlederg high jumper Sommer Lecky and Banbridge's Emma Mitchell (pictured) in the 3000m.
Other northerners are Amy Foster (100m), Christina McMahon (400m hurdles), Ann-Marie McGlynn (5000m), Kerry O'Flaherty (3000m steeplechase), Dempsey McGuigan (hammer), Christian Robinson (4x100m relay) and Andrew Mellon (4x400m). Middle-distance star Ciara Mageean, however, gives the meeting a miss to concentrate on her preparations for the World Championships in London which start in early August.