Ireland’s finest race walkers will be in action at the Woodie’s DIY Senior Indoor Championships in Belfast’s Odyssey arena this weekend.
London-bound Robert Heffernan (Togher AC), who has just returned from two months quality training in Australia will be targeting an impressive 14th national title. Robert Heffernan said “I love competing in the indoor national championships and this year we have a really top quality field, which is exciting as it’s not often that Irish spectators get to see top class race walkers in action.” Heffernan who won his first indoor title aged 19, beating the then favoured Pierce O’Callaghan commented that “I am looking to win it and take my 14th title and hopefully if the crowd get behind me I can get close to the record”
Heffernan will be joined by Brendan Boyce (Letterkenny AC) who achieved the Olympic 50k qualifying time last September. Silver medallist over the last two years Colin Griffin (Ballinamore AC) will be hoping to test his form over the shorter distance and get the year off to a good start after a disappointing 2011. Jamie Costin (West Waterford AC) will also hope to be in medal contention as he seeks to qualify for his fourth Olympic Games. Michael Doyle (Tara AC) who competed in the World Student Games will also take to the start line.
Derval O’Rourke (Leevale AC) will line up in the women’s 60m Hurdles with a season’s best of 8.16 set at the Indoor Classic Meet in Vienna. The Cork woman will compete in the PSD Bank Meeting in Stuggart Germany on Friday before returning for the Irish championships. The former World Indoor champion is pre-selected by Athletics Ireland for the World Indoor Track and Field Championships which take place in Istanbul on the 9th-11th March. In the Men’s 60m Hurdles, Irish U23 Record Holder Ben Reynolds will look to retain his title but he will need to contend with Senior record holder Peter Coghlan (Crusaders AC) who is on the comeback trail.
With Olympian Paul Hession (Athenry AC) having to pull out of the Men’s 60m due to a slight Achilles strain the title is likely to go to one of the up and coming stars; David Hynes (Menapians A.C), Dean Adams (Ballymena and Antrim) or Hession’s training partner Steven Colvert (Crusaders AC). In the Women’s 60m, Amy Foster (North Down AC) is likely to take the title after equalling her personal best of 7.44 at the University Championships last weekend. Foster will face competition from Clare Brady (Celbridge AC), the 2010 champion while reigning champion, Ailis McSweeney will not be competing as she is recovering from surgery to her Achilles tendon.
In the 400m Claire Bergin (Dundrum South Dublin) will be the strongest contender. Bergin produced an impressive personal best double in the 200m (24.50) and 400m (54.57) at the Vienna Classic Indoor meet last week. Bergin’s teammate in the Irish 4x400m relay, Marian Heffernan has opted to compete in the 60m and 200m for speed work. In the Men’s event, last year’s champion Brian Gregan (Clonliffe AC) will be competing in the Milrose Games with the DCU Medley Relay team leaving the battle to last year’s medallist’s Kieran Kelly (Raheny AC) and Paul Scanlon (Leevale AC) and 400m Hurdler Jason Harvey.
In the Women’s 800m, UCD scholarship athlete Ciara Everard (UCD AC) will be out to retain her title after breaking Sonia O’Sullivan’s 22 year, U23 indoor record when running 2:05.76 at the Intervarsity’s Championships. Laura Crowe (An Riocht) was second in that race in 2.06.80 and will also be a contender. The Men’s 800m looks like it is a wide open competition some of the bigger names missing but there could be an interesting battle between young 400m specialist Billy Ryan of Ferrybank and European Youth Olympic medallist Karl Griffin (Tir Chonaill AC).
Orla Drumm (DSD AC) will be hoping to take the 1500m title following her recent personal best in Vienna of 4.18.61 but will face opposition from Kelly McNeice (City of Lisburn) and Sara Tracey (Moynalvey AC). In the men’s 1500m Daniel Mooney (Letterkenny) who set a new personal best of 3.45.78 at the McCain City Challenge in Sheffield is likely to have it all his own way.
Mark Christie (Mullingar) will be odds on favourite to take the 3000m title with an outdoor time of 8.08.29 from Oordegem last summer. While, Hazel Murphy (DSD AC) should dominate the women’s 3000m.
Irish Indoor Record Holder, Kelly Proper (Ferrybank AC) will be looking to improve on her season’s best of 5.98m. She will face opposition from Mary McLoone (Tir Chonaill AC), last year’s champion who got the better of Proper at the AAI Games with a winning jump of 6.13m. European U23 track and field finalist, Kourosh Foroughi (Star of the Sea AC) will compete against last year’s indoor champion Barry Pender (St. Abbans AC) in the Men’s High Jump. Pender has shown good earlier form setting an indoor personal best of 2.16m at the University Games to get the better of Foroughi.
Claire Fitzgerald (Tralee Harriers AC), National Senior outdoor Shot and Discus champion is continuing to dominate the Irish throwing scene at senior level and will likely have it all her own way in the women’s Shot Putt event. The favourite in the men’s event will likely be Sean Breathnach (Galway City Harriers A.C) the defending champion.
RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (worldwide) will be showing highlights of the Championships on an OB Sports special on Monday 13 February at 7pm on RTE 2.
This is the ninth Irish Indoors meeting in the North, which has been made possible by the generous assistance of title sponsor Woodie’s DIY and funding partners Belfast City Council.
Woodie’s DIY Irish Indoor Athletic Championships is also sponsored by accommodation partner the Premier Inn who have three hotels based in Belfast- Titanic Quarter (120 rooms), Waring Street (171 rooms) and Alfred Street Hotel (148 rooms).
Tickets are available from Ticketmaster outlets or the Odyssey box office. Visit www.indoorathletics.net for more information.