AT last weekend’s three-day European indoor championships in Glasgow, televised ‘live’, the Irish team won two bronze medals, which should inspire a new generation of athletes to follow in the footsteps of Ciara Mageean and Mark English.
Only one of the 16-member Irish team was from Cork, and that statistic needs to change. Phil Healy, from Bandon, but based in Waterford, learned how tough the 400m is.
Drawn in lane six, she ran quickly out of the blocks, as she does in all her 400m races, but slowed within metres of the finish line, to be passed by two other runners. That was agonising to see.
The best lane to draw is not six, but five, because it gives an athlete the opportunity to focus on a runner outside of them and to pace themselves better.
Drawn in lane two for the semi-final, Healy again gave it everything, but luck just was not with her. She nearly hit the deck after being clipped in the home straight by the Italian athlete to finish third, the end of her championships.
The 400m is one of the toughest events in athletics, especially indoors, and requires a huge amount of practice to get the pacing exactly right.
An increase in stamina work would make Healy a stronger athlete in the closing stages of her races. Her decision to concentrate on the 200m for the outdoor season won’t help in that regard.
Overall, the performances of the Irish team, apart from Mageean and English, were below par.
Meanwhile, SPAR, major sponsors of European athletics since 1996, have decided to extend their involvement by signing a deal all the way to 2027.
The Irish universities cross country championships were held in Galway last Saturday, but there was little to cheer about in the performances of Cork runners.
Aisling Kelly, of UCC, was the best-placed Cork runner, finishing tenth in the women’s race, with Emma Donlon, of UCC, next, in 25th. UCC finished fifth team, behind runaway winners, DCU, while CIT did not have a team.
Abdi Mahamed, from CIT, was best of the Cork colleges, in 30th, in the men’s race, with CIT seventh team and UCC eighth, a long way behind winners, DCU.
Damian Madigan, from north Cork, was 14th, in the UL colours.
The poor showing of Cork runners at university level follows on from the Irish Life health national intermediate championships, in which Cork county board was unable to enter teams in the men’s and women’s race.
The intermediate grade is a step below senior, so the Cork pipeline to senior athletics doesn’t give much hope for the future.
The Irish Life health All Ireland schools cross country championships take place in Clongowes Wood College, in Kildare, on Saturday.
Many of the competitors will have been inspired by the European indoor championships and will, no doubt, be gearing up for big performances.
One of the big surprises in the Munster schools championships was the victory of Tommy Connolly, from CBC, in the senior boys’ race, after an intriguing battle with Frank O’Brien, from Midleton CBS.
O’Brien has dominated clashes between them this season and may have been lulled into a false sense of security when Connolly changed his race tactics, settling in behind his rival until the closing stages of the race.
On Saturday, they will have to contend with Efrem Gidey, from Tyrellstown, who dominated the Leinster championships.
Laura Nicholson, from Bandon Grammar School, was an impressive winner of the senior girls’ race at Munster level and will play a big part in the distribution of medals on Saturday.