There is less than 36 hours to go to this weekend’s 2013 European Athletics Team Championships in the Morton Stadium, Santry, where both Irish teams will be striving to be give it their all and more in their chosen athletic events, in the challenge to retain our coveted 1st League status against stiff European opposition over the two days.
The dynamic Irish men’s team for this highly anticipated championship is, like their Irish female counterparts, a heady mix of seasoned internationals with new and up and coming talent, all ready and raring to go to give the other 11 athletes, from as many countries, as strong a challenge as possible for top event points, in the 20 disciplines to be contested over Saturday and Sunday.
On the track and on the field, we can expect this focused and determined Irish Men’s team to compete full-on for every single point up for grabs.
In the men’s 100m, the vastly experienced Irish International and 2012 Olympian Jason Smyth (25, City of Derry AC) will lining up to do battle with some of Europe’s fastest straight line sprinters. Smyth’s SB of 10.36 will encourage the driving Derry athlete on in the face of tough opposition, none faster than Dutch sprinter Churandy Martina who goes into the event with a SB of 10.16, joint fastest with the Bulgarian dash specialist Denis Dimitrov. Smyth won a bronze medal for Ireland in these championships in the 4x100m relay in 2011
Over 200m, we can too expect another fast one this weekend. Our representative will be new Schools’ Champion young Marcus Lawler (18, St Laurence O’Toole AC). Can the Irish Schools Champion with a fascinating SB of 20.87 take on the Olympic 400m finalist Jonathan Borlée of BEL, who has a seasons best of 20.73, and double European 400m finalist Pavel Maslak (CZE., SB of 20.67) on home tartan, and win top-end points for Ireland? A salivating proposition.
The one-lap charge that is the 400m promises to be another blow-out of speed and strength. Brian Gregan (Clonliffe Harriers AC) will have plans to come off the 2nd bend in a good position and then push on for a performance worthy of his ever improving talent. The big man from Tallaght has set two new PB’s over 200m and 400m (21.05 & 45.53) over the past fortnight and will be ready for whatever challengers come his way. They are likely to be in the shape of Belgium’s Kevin Borlee (SB 45.56) and Liemarvin Bonevacia (NED, SB & PB of 45.84). Gregan will be hungry to do well – particularly after being tripped indoors over 400m last March at the European Indoor Championships in Sweden.
In the classic middle-distance events of 800m and 1500m, Ireland will have two upcoming and improving athletes in Anthony Leighio (Tallaght A.C.) and Eoin Everard (Kilkenny Harriers AC).
Leigho, the Arkansas Senior and Eamonn Coghlan coached, has a personal best of 1.48.74 and will be looking forward to competing well in front of a home crowd. Ranked in the top half of the field, the ones to watch will be Kazi of Hungary and Kubista of the Czech Republic, who both have run sub 1.47.1 this season. Over the metric mile, Everard will be competitive; his PB from earlier this month of 3.42.29 will stand to the 27 year old, and he too will be eager to keep tabs on athletes the calibre of Jakub Holusa (CZE), who has run a non-slow 3.38.71 so far this season.
In the distance events this weekend, Ireland will have a trio of young, hungry and developing athletes. In the 3000m, West Waterford AC’s in form David McCarthy will play his part and compete for high-end points and Ireland’s overall league status. The 2010 European U23 XC Team gold medal winner has the very useful PB of 7.56.71 and will revel in the chase on the day against Estonia’s Tidrek Nurme (PB 7.51.63) and Finland’s Niclas Sandells (PB 7.53.12), amongst others.
Shane Quinn (Ferrybank AC) will be following in his father Brendan’s footsteps when he competes over 5000m in these prestigious championships this weekend. The Providence College athlete posted a new PB time of 13:48.90 in California last April for the event. Belgium’s in form Bashir Abdi may be the one the hold onto over the latter stages of this 12 lap athletic novel, having run a more than respectable 13.30.91 this year.
In the 3000m Steeplechase, Dunleer AC’s Thomas Cotter will be ready to give it all and everything in this most challenging of track races. The Wichita State athlete has been in top form so far this season, improving his PB on a couple of occasions to an impressive 8.41.02. Bulgaria’s Mitko Tsenov, with a PB of 8.27.09 clocked this year, should prove to be the one to follow, and Ireland’s Cotter will certainly endeavour to.
In the sprint hurdle events, the 110m H and 400m H, Ireland’s choices of Ben Reynolds (North Down AC) and Jason Harvey (Crusaders AC) will be looking to jump to it and be quick with it in the hunt for real points for Team and Country this Saturday and Sunday.
NI Record holder Reynolds (PB 13.75) goes in to this championship weekend having run a solid 13.95 for this speed and technical event, and will know that he or Hungary’s Balazs Baji (SB 13.46), or indeed any of the other 10 competitors on the day, can take top points given the right race.
Jason Harvey, 21, has also been in excellent form this year, and edged closer to the 50-second barrier in the 400 metres hurdles when finishing third at a meeting in Belgium earlier this month, when he posted a time of 50.27 for the ‘man-killer’ event. Could Harvey break one of the longest standing Irish records in the books this weekend, held by Tom McGuirk with 49.73, set back in 1996? Estonia’s in-form Rasmus Magi (SB & PB 49.51) may well drive the young Irishman on in this regard.
On the Field too of course, there will be no let up among this Irish men’s team in ambition, drive for points and overall league status.
In the High Jump, Simon Phelan (Clonliffe Harriers AC) will be hoping to land a big one in his home stadium, and in front of an expected large home crowd. Phelan cleared 2.14m last month in Loughborough and will be no doubt endeavouring to better this, and perhaps his 2.15m 2007 PB against the quality opposition, particularly with the likes of the Czech Republic’s Jaroslav Baba (PB 2.36m) jumping too.
Brian McGovern (Ballinamore AC) will go for Ireland in what promises to be a very exciting Pole Vault competition.
McGovern completed his preparations for this European Athletics Team Championships in clear fashion when he won the pole vault at the USATF East Region championships in New York last weekend. McGovern’s winning vault of 5.30m was just 6cm off his own Irish record of 5.36m, set in Tempe, Arizona, only last March. The young Manhattan College student, (22), will also take his previous experience of this highly competitive team championships from 2009, when he vaulted for Ireland in the event in Izmir, Turkey. Jan Kudlicka (CZE), with a SB of 5.76m, will be one to watch out for.
In the Long Jump and Triple Jump, two Leevale AC clubmates, David Quilligan and Denis Finnegan respectively, will have the honour of jumping for Ireland. Quilligan, with a good SB of 7.44, goes in knowing that the Swiss athlete Yves Zellweger (SB 8.03m) will be ‘up’ for the contest too, but that the home crowd atmosphere can push him, and Finnegan in the TJ (SB 15.17m), to new lengths.
Colin Quirke (Crusaders AC) will have the extra distinction of competing for Ireland in two events this weekend, in the Discus and Shot Putt.
In the men’s Discus, Estonia’s 2012 Olympic Champion Gert Kanter (SB 65.23m) should lead the way in this most iconic of events, but Quirke (SB 52.80m), who will be following in his Irish Olympian father Paul’s footsteps competing for Ireland in this event, and Eirk Cadee of the Netherlands who has thrown an impressive 64.48m this season, and others will be digging deep to ‘get one out there’ and take away good points for their Team.
In the shot, Quirke, who has set a new PB of 17.14 this season, and the other 11 putters will be hoping to stay in contention with Ladislav Prasil (CZE) who has putt 21.47m this season thus far.
Ireland’s Padraig White (Dunboyne AC, SB 66.09) will be looking to give the performance of his life in this strength but technical discipline that is the Hammer Throw in Santry, in just over 48 hours. The 2012 Olympic Hammer Champion, Krisztian Pars of Hungary, who has also been training in Dunboyne this week in preparation for this European Teams event, and who has thrown a smartly impressive 80.45m so far this season, will start a worthy favourite.
Finally, our two men’s relay squads in the 4x100m and the 4x400m will realise that every stride will count on the day to bring Ireland home in the place they need.
The men’s 4 x 100m relay team of David Hynes (Menapians AC), Dean Adams (Ballymena & Antrim AC), Steven Colvert (Crusaders AC), and young Marcus Lawler (St Laurence O’Toole AC) will be holding onto the baton and their hearts for a competitive run and have all been in good form in early season training.
Likewise our 4 x 400m relay team of Brian Gregan (Clonliffe Harriers AC), Jason Harvey (Crusaders AC), Dara Kervick (Carrick on Suir AC), and Richard Morrissey (Crusdaders AC) will be striding and striving to get the baton round safely and bring it down the home straight in a top points position, to the shouts and cheers of the huge crowd expected this Saturday and Sunday.
David Gillick (DSD AC) and Joanne Cuddihy (Kilkenny City Harriers) have been named as the Men’s and Women’s Team Captains for this prestigious European Athletics Team Championships 1st League event.
Patsy McGonagle, Irish Team Manager:
” I am delighted to have two very experienced European Team participants and Olympians in Joanne and David on board. Their experience and pedigree will add to and support the Irish team over what promises to be two very competitive days of European athletics in Santry. David and Joanne both enthusiastically accepted the invitation and their vast experience of international competition, in this event and others, will give the whole Irish team a real benefit.”
Kevin Ankrom, Director of High Performance:
“The European Athletics Team Championships will be a showcase event for Athletics Ireland and I look forward in seeing the spirit of the Irish team come together. We have an opportunity to expose our athletes to a high calibre international competition on our own home soil and we will take full advantage of this opportunity.”
The challenge to the Irish Team to keep it’s 1st League status will be one that all of the fifty strong Irish Athletics Team, together with support staff, will relish, in what will no doubt be the highest quality athletics meeting ever staged in Ireland.
The Morton Stadium is expected to be full with Irish supporters for the two days of competition to give real support to the Irish Team in their endeavours to finish in the top 10 European teams over the weekends some 40 events.
The Irish Team for the European Athletics Team Championships will be competing against teams from eleven other European countries in Santry in just over a day’s time. These teams are:
Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Sweden and Switzerland.
Dublin has hosted this prestigious event on five previous occasions, the last being in 1997.
Over 650 athletes, from twelve European Countries, will be competing in twenty events for Men and Women over the two days in Santry.