SPECTATORS made a welcome return to athletics competition at the Irish Life health national senior championships over the weekend.
And, they witnessed a superb meet full of thrilling competition.
Covid restrictions meant the meet was spread over three days rather than the usual two.
Body language can be very revealing, and that was certainly the case in the women’s 800m.
After qualifying easily from her heat, alongside junior runner Maeve O’Neill of Dohenys, Louise Shanahan of Leevale took control of the race as she headed the field when they broke from lanes after 100m.
This is not her usual way of racing, preferring to sit and kick in most races. This was a ‘new’ Louise Shanahan.
And she stayed in control of the race throughout before kicking for home in the final straight, throwing her arms into the air in delight as she crossed the line for her first senior title in a time of 2:03.84.
O’Neill was 8th in 2:08.57 for a new PB.
Five athletes remained in the pole vault with the bar at 4.30m, including David Donegan of Clonliffe Harriers who holds the championship best of 5.06m as well as eleven national senior titles.
Also involved was Conor Callinan of Leevale who cleared 4.00m at the second attempt, and followed with first time clearances at 4.20m and 4.30m. He followed with a second time clearance over 4.40m, while Michael Bowler from Enniscorthy cleared at his third attempt.
Neither of them was successful over 4.50m in the cold windy conditions to leave Callinan the winner.
He’ll be seventeen in the next few weeks to make him the youngest ever winner of a national senior title, replacing Antoine Burke who was 18 days older when he won the high jump in 1992.
Phil Healy of Bandon was never challenged as she strolled to victory in the 400m in a time of 52.33.
However, it was a different matter in the 200m where she was up against the teenaged 100m winner Rhasidat Adeleke of Tallaght, the Irish record holder.
Adeleke was fastest out of the blocks and lead into the straight before Healy’s strength and experience gradually brought her past her rival to win the title in a super fast 22.83 which would have been a new Irish record except the wind was over the legal limit.
Michelle Finn of Leevale won her fourth successive 3,000m steeplechase title, displaying a greatly improved stamina that allowed her power away from her rivals to win in 9:36.94, with clubmate Jessica Coyne fourth in 10:42.35.
Finn was also fourth in the 1,500m in 4:23.28.
Conor Morey of Leevale won bronze in the 100m in 10.61, with clubmate Colin Doyle fourth in 10.64 for a new PB.
Both sprinters also featured in the 4X100m relay win of Leevale, along with Ciaran Dee and Sam Healy in 42.42.
Darragh McElhinney of Bantry and UCD, preparing for the 5,000m at the European U23 championships, was fourth in the 1,500m in 3:49.56, one place ahead of Charlie O’Donovan of Leevale in 3:50.71.
Seventeen year old Nicola Tuthill of Bandon had her best throw of the hammer competition in the second round with 61.55m, adding 9cm to her previous PB to place second.
Megan Moynihan of West Muskerry was fourth with 50.20m.
Another silver medal went the way of Aoife O’Sullivan of Liscarroll who cleared 1.75m in the high jump, and David Cussen of Old Abbey was third in the men’s high jump with a clearance of 2.00m.
Michael Healy of Youghal was third in the Weight for Distance with 7.37m.
There was a 1-2-3 finish for Cork athletes in the women’s pole vault won by Clodagh Walsh of Abbey Striders with 3.45m, with Una Brice of Leevale second with 3.35m, the same height as Ciara Hickey of Blarney Inniscarra in third.
Sam Healy of Leevale jumped 7.33m in the second round of the long jump, but fouled four of his first five jumps, leaving him in fourth position going into the last round.
His final jump was measured at 7.50m to put him in the lead, but then had to watch Adam McMullen of crusaders jump 7.51m to win the title by the narrowest of margins. Shane Howard of Bandon was a close third with 7.43m.
The Irish junior team won the 4X400m relay in 4:42.51, well inside the standard for the European junior championships, with Lauren McCourt of Bandon and Maeve O’Neill of Doheny’s on the team.
RTÉ devoted just under three hours of live coverage to the championships, but disgracefully concentrated on track events only.
There were some fantastic field events but they chose to ignore them.
Athletics Ireland CEO Hamish Adams should communicate the disgust of athletics followers to RTÉ immediately.