There will be top class track and field action at the Odyssey Arena tomorrow (4.00pm) and Sunday (12:30pm) when Ireland’s best athletes will be competing n the Woodie’s DIY Irish Indoor Athletics Championships. The event is organized by Athletics Northern Ireland and Athletics Ireland with support from Belfast City Council.
For some the weekend will be the last opportunity to impress the selectors who will immediately select the Irish team for the European Championships in Paris in two weeks time.
One athlete who intends to be in Paris but has now decided to give the Odyssey a miss is European silver hurdles medalist Derval O’Rourke. The Cork girl has withdrawn from both Belfast and Birmingham as a precautionary measure following a niggly groin problem. However the former World Indoors champion has shown in the past that she has the capacity to bounce back from such a setback. She intends to race in Paris with the aim of at least repeating her silver medal outdoor success of last year.
The Women’s 3000m where Sli Cualann’s Fionnuala Britton is just an agonizing 0.70mseconds short of the qualifying time of 9 minutes flat. She will be helped to improve on this time by in form clubmate Stephanie Reilly who set no less than four PBs in Boston in recent weeks including a time of 9.11.24 for 3000m. Also entered is Irish steeplechase Roisin McGettigan and Newcastle’s Kerry Harty.
Sligo’s European bronze medalist Mary Cullen has switched to Sunday’s 1500m final where she will clash with Portaferry’s Ciara Mageean. Cullen who has already achieved the Paris 3000m qualification standard will be competing in the Birmingham Grand Prix tomorrow.
Ferrybank’s Kelly Proper is hot favourite to retain her long jump title. She won the Aviva Trials Series title last week in 6.35m which equals her winning Odyssey time from last year. There should be a fascinating battle in the Women’s Pole Vault where NI record holder Zoe Brown faces Finn Valley’s Tori Pena who recently booked her flight to Paris with a new Irish record of 4.30m in New Mexico.
In the 5K Walk Irish Olympian Robert Heffernan should have little difficulty retaining his title from Ballinamore’s Colin Griffin. Heffernan was 4th over both 20K and 50K in last year’s Europeans and his good recent form was reflected in a new Irish 30K record in Cork.
There will be intense interest in the Men’s 800m which features Letterkenny’s Darren McBrearty who ran a superb 1.47.87 earlier this month in Vienna which ranks him 7th in Europe. However he will face team mate Mark English who recently set a new Irish Junior record of 1.48.63.
RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (worldwide) will be showing highlights of the Championships on an OB Sports special on Monday 21 February at 7.00pm.
This is the eighth 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.
Tickets are available from Ticketmaster outlets or the Odyssey box office. Visit www.indoorathletics.net for more information.