148th National Championships set to continue illustrious history


148th National Championships set to continue illustrious history 

The 148th consecutive Irish Life Health National Athletics Championships is set to be a celebration of the sport in testing times this weekend (August 22-23).

A championship that looked on the brink will now count the Covid-19 pandemic amongst the challenges, including two world wars, it has faced to keep its illustrious history intact.

And while winning and medals take centre stage, this championship will ultimately celebrate the resilience and goodwill amongst the association and all its stakeholders.

 Unfortunately, some of the athletes won’t be able to compete this weekend (August 22/23) due to varying restrictions along with the fans and coaches who will not be able to attend as it is a behind closed doors event.

The 5 sessions of the first weekend, along with the second weekend, will be streamed in entirety on the Athletics Ireland YouTube channel. The final session this Sunday evening will have live coverage on RTE 2 from 17:30-19:55.

Some of the athletes named in this preview may not be able to compete subject to not meeting the requirements.

How to follow 

Top list for 2020 outdoors HERE

First weekend timetable HERE 

Entry list HERE 

Watch on Athletics Ireland YouTube HERE 

Live on Sunday on RTE 2 at 17:30

Full preview

Hammer time

The women’s hammer will be the first event of the championship at 10:30am where Michaela Walsh (Swinford) will be aiming to retain her national title. Nicola Tuthill (Bandon) tops this year’s standings with a best of 58.24m with Ciara Sheehy (Emerald) and Ciara Murphy McHugh (Claremorris) among some of the other competitors in the hunt for the medals.

Sean Mockler (Moycarkey Coolcroo) is one the rising talents in the throws and he heads the men’s entrants in the hammer with a personal best throw of 65.79m this season in Cork. Among the strong men looking to be in the winners enclosure are Adam King (Clonliffe Harriers), Brendan O'Donnell (Lifford Strabane), Simon Galligan (Clonliffe Harriers) and Robert Higgins (Na Fianna).

The women’s long jump completes the first session alongside the men’s 5,000m heats and the U20 men’s 5,000m where Michael Morgan (Sligo) and Dean Casey (Ennis Track) are two of a talented bunch to look out for. 

Sophie Meredith (St Mary’s Limerick) jumped a personal best of 6.14m to head the women’s long jump standings at the Fields Events Festival in Morton Stadium. The event can be topsy turvy depending on who gets their run-up right and Ruby Millet (St Abban’s), Jennifer Hanrahan (Tallaght), Sarah McCarthy (Mid Sutton), Lydia Mills (Ballymena & Antrim) and Saragh Buggy (St Abban’s) are among the leading contenders but there are a number of other women who could spring into contention among the 23 entrants.            

Going long in Session 2

26 men are entered for the men’s long jump with Adam McMullen (Crusaders) and Shane Howard (Bandon) set to duke it out. McMullen has the longest jump among the entrants this year with 7.32m but it’s set to be a good contest with last year’s defending champion Howard who got great coverage during lockdown for his unconventional training on the farm. Joseph McEvoy, Eoin Keenan, Brian Lynch (Old Abbey) and Matt Cotter (Raheny Shamrock) 6.72m will be among those looking to win a medal. 

Michelle Finn (Leevale) tops the rankings for the women’s 5,000m this year but should face good competition from Annmarie McGlynn (Letterkenny) in a field that also includes two other Olympians –  Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle) and Breege Connolly (City of Derry). Finn will also run in the women’s 1500m and then the 3,000m steeplechase next week. The women’s 5,000m will be seeded on times with no heats.  

The U20 women’s 5,000m includes Holly Brennan (Cilles) and Aoife Coffey (Lucan Harriers) in a field which will be looking to gain experience at this distance.

Strong men take centre stage in session 3

The strong men will be to the fore in the third session in the Weight For Height which always provides an entertaining spectacle. The WFH has 56lbs for senior men including Sean Breathnach (Galway City Harriers), the 35lbs for U23 and U20 men. The heats of the 400m hurdles and 1500m  take place in this session to round out the first day’s action.

Super Sunday

The high jump men and javelin are the medal events for the fourth session. Former world U20 silver medallist Sommer Lecky (Finn Valley) is in  the women’s high jump and has a season’s best of 1.85m in a field that includes rising multi-events star Kate O'Connor (St Gerard’s Dundalk), Aoife O'Sullivan (Liscarroll) and Shannon Sheehy (Clonliffe Harriers).

The men’s high jump sees David Cussen (Old Abbey) go in as the leading jumper with 2.16m along with other entrants Nelvin Appiah (Longford),  Geoffrey Joy-O'Regan (Sun Hill Harriers), Ciaran Connolly (Le Cheile), Joseph McEvoy (Nenagh Olympic) 1.95m and Francois Kulik (Sli Cualann). Another interesting entry is former national champion Kourosh Foroughi (Star of the Sea).

O'Connor and Rice look to star in Javelin 

Kate O'Connor (St Gerard’s Dundalk) is scheduled to have a busy day and is way out on her own on the current women’s javelin standing with 51.15m. Aoibhinn McMahon (Blackrock  Louth), Katie Moynihan (Leevale) and Katelyn Reid (An Riocht) are among the medal contenders.         

Stephen Rice (Clonliffe Harriers) leads the men’s standings with 68.44m  javelin throw at the Field Event Festival that was basked in glorious sunshine. Conor Cusack (Lake District Athletics), Gareth Crawford (Lifford Strabane), Shane Aston (Trim) and Cathal Scanlon (Leevale) will be hoping to make their mark in the competition.

Session 5 live on RTE 2

The fifth and final session of the weekend will be live on RTE 2 with the men’s 5,000m final first to air. John Travers (Donore Harriers) goes into the race as last year’s 1500m champion and will start as favourite having also won the indoor 3,000m title earlier this year. Rising distance runners Efrem Gidey (Clonliffe Harriers), who won bronze in the U20 race at the European Cross Country Championships, and Darragh McElhinney (UCD) bronze medallist in the European U20 5,000m on the track look like two chief competitors. 

The 400m hurdles are next on the blocks with Niamh Malone (Monaghan Phoenix) currently atop the season’s list with 61.45 with Laura Frey (Lagan Valley), Deirdre Murray (Na Fianna) and Nessa Millet (St Abban’s) among her chief rivals.

Cathal Locke (Dooneen) is atop the men’s top list for 2020 in what is a very open race that includes John Fagan (Clonliffe Harriers), Jason Harvey (Crusaders), and 110m hurdles specialist Matthew Behan (Crusaders).

Speed is of the essence

There are a number of hurdlers in the women’s 100m with Sarah Lavin’s (Emerald) 11.67 personal best topping this year’s standings. Molly Scott (St Laurence O’Toole), Sarah Quinn (St Colman’s South Mayo), Lauren Roy (City of Lisburn) and Joan Healy (Leevale) will be among those in the mix. And, of course, Ireland's fastest woman Phil Healy (Bandon) is entered and will be looking to add more more gold to her treasure chest. 

The men’s 100m is also very open with Mark Smyth (Raheny Shamrock), Marcus Lawler (St Lawrence O’Toole), Jason Smyth (Derry Track Club), Dean Adams (Ballymena & Antrim), Sean O’Driscoll (Raheny Shamrock), Stephen Gaffney (UCD), Conor Morey (Leevale) and Paul Costelloe (Emerald) among the entrants. Lawler just heads the entrants on time with 10.79 but there is no clear favourite based on form this year.  

One lap wonders

The women’s 400m has 29 entrants with Sophie Becker (Raheny Shamrock) the fastest in the field this year with 53.94 seconds. Nessa Millet (St Abban’s) who ran a 55.01 pb recently, Rachel McCann (North Down) who also ran a recent pb of 55.42 and Ellie O'Toole (Newbridge) among the field.         

Chris O’Donnell (North Sligo) is a clear leader in the men’s standings with his recent 46.16 clocking and he came home early from Loughborough in order to fulfil the 14 day window in the country to defend his title. Kieron Ludwig (Emerald), Andrew Mellon (Crusaders), Cathal Crosbie (Ennis Track) and Paul Murphy (Ferrybank) are among a field that has a lot of depth for the medal rostrum.

Metric milers to round out the programme

The 1500m will complete the first weekend’s action. Amy O’Donoghue (Emerald) has the leading time of the entrants this year with 4:18.69 with Maisy O’Sullivan (St Abban’s), Iseult O’Donnell (Raheny Shamrock), Ellie Hartnett (UCD), Michelle Finn (Leevale) and Aimee Hayde (Newport) among those who look likely to be in the mix for the medals. 

The men’s race sees Paul Robinson (St Coca’s) on the comeback trail and he faces the likes of Andrew Coscoran (Star of the Sea), Sean Tobin (Clonmel), Luke McCann (UCD) and Jonny Whan (Clonliffe Harriers).

Whan has had a breakout summer with personal bests over the 800, mile, 3,000m and the 1500m which he currently heads the season list for. Sean Tobin narrowly missed on breaking the 4 minute mile for the first time on Tipperary soil with a 4:00.38 clocking in Moyne. Coscoran will be aiming to add the outdoor title to the indoor one he won in record time earlier this year. It promises to be an exciting weekend.  

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