No marathon spot for Ireland at Olympics as hopefuls fall short in London

Stephen Scullion first Irish finisher, but is eight minutes shy of qualifying mark

Alexander Mutiso Munyao and Peres Jepchirchir
Alexander Mutiso Munyao and Peres Jepchirchir with their trophies and medals on the podium after winning the men’s and women’s elite races during the TCS London Marathon yesterday (John Walton/PA)

IRELAND will not have a representative in the men’s marathon at the Paris Olympics later this year following Sunday’s London Marathon. All three hopefuls fell well short of the qualifying standard with the deadline under two weeks away.

It looked for a long time that Hiko Tonosa would be on the start line at the Hotel de Ville on August 10, but the Dundrum South Dublin athlete was on target for the 2:08:10 mark for a long way but ran out of steam after 30 kilometres and failed to finish.

Belfast man Stephen Scullion did finish, but was almost eight minutes outside the required time with a 2:16:04 timing. It was always a long shot that miler turned marathoner Sean Tobin would meet the mark and so it proved as the Clonmel AC also threw in the towel around the same place as Tonosa. Ireland’s other man in the elite field Martin Hoare had a steady run for 2:22:59, but surprise of the day, from an Irish perspective, was Willie Maunsell, a clubmate of Tobin, who ran a personal best 2:16:34 in the mass race.

Kenya’s Alexander Mutiso Munyao held off 41-year-old running legend Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia to win the men’s race in 2:04:01. The British duo of Emile Cairess and Mahamed Mahamed finished third and fourth to secure places in this year’s Olympic Games.

Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir proved the strongest of the four women at the head of the field with just 800m to run. Jepchirchir set a new women-only world record of 2:16:16, bettering by 45 seconds the previous mark set by fellow Kenyan Mary Keitany in 2017.

At home southern athletes dominated the elite men’s race at the North Belfast Harriers Afternoon of 5000m Races at the Mary Peters Track on Saturday. Jack Fenton, from the St Abban’s club in Laois, recorded the fastest time of the day with a 14:01.90 hand timing.

Tallaght AC’s Cormac Dixon was next quickest with a 14:04.8 mark and he was followed at some distance by Annadale Striders’ Brhane Gebrebrhan in 14:12.0.

England-based Emily Haggard Kearney was the runaway winner of the elite women’s race in a new North Belfast Harriers’ club record of 16:09.81. Next fastest was Dundrum South Dublin’s Emma McEvoy in 16:33.60 followed by Annadale Strider Hannah Gilliland in 16:48.36.

Mallusk Harrier Adam McCann (17:01) and the host club’s Claire McAtamney (19:34) recorded the respective fastest male and female times at Friday night’s Tafelta Friendly 5000m Series in Magherafelt.

Meanwhile, on the international stage, Donegal man Mark English was 12th in the 800m at the opening Diamond League fixture in Xiamen, China recording a time of 1.47.02 in a race won by world champion Marco Aron of Canada in 1.43.61.

Raheny Shamrock Brian Fay was 12th in the 5000m with a time of 13.14.97 behind Ethiopian Lamecha Girma who stopped the clock at 12.58.96. Highlight of the meeting was a new world pole vault record of 6.24m by Sweden’s Armand Duplantis.  The 24-year-old has now cleared a full eight centimetres higher than anyone else ever.