Sweeney favoured to end long wait for local success in Dublin Marathon
Lack of elite overseas runners opens the way for first Irish men’s winner in 20 years
DSD club-mates Joe Sweeney and Maria McCambridge are the favourites to win the Airtricity Dublin Marathon on Bank Holiday Monday. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Not since John Treacy survived a minor hamstring cramp in the last mile to win the 1993 edition has the Dublin Marathon produced an Irish men’s winner – although the long wait, it would appear, is about to end.
Predicting marathon winners is always a risky business, especially when so much can and often does go wrong over the 26.2 miles. It doesn’t help either that this October Bank Holiday Monday is not ideal for marathon running, the stormy St Jude a little too close for comfort for the record entry of 14,500 runners.
What is certain is that there will be no elite international field, initially for financial reasons, then the logistical. Earlier this year, still without a headline sponsor, the Dublin organisers were forced to cut the elite race fund entirely, which meant no invitations were sent to the typically dominant East Africans (Kenyans, for example, winning 11 of the 19 men’s races since Treacy’s victory).
By the time Airtricity came on board as race sponsors it was too late to go back on that. By then the leading Irish marathon runners had been told Dublin was essentially there for the winning, and in fairness it was too late to go back on that, too.
All this means it will be something of an anti-climax if the first man to reach the finish at Merrion Square is not Irish, and it’s not necessarily guaranteed. The pre-race favourite is Joe Sweeney, even though he’s making his marathon debut, and if everything goes to plan for the 28 year-old Dubliner there is no reason why he can’t win.
Coached for former two-time Dublin Marathon winner Jerry Kiernan, Sweeney – all 6ft 2in of him – certainly has excellent marathon potential, racing 30km (about 20 miles), last year, in 1:34, which equates to about a 2:12 marathon. But lots of people say the marathon begins at 20 miles, and Kiernan himself is cautiously optimistic about Sweeney’s chances.
“Unless my eyes are deceiving me, Joe looks to be in pretty good shape,” says Kiernan, “and to be quite honest, I’d be disappointed if he didn’t win. Of course these things can blow up in your face, especially when it comes to your first marathon. He’s unusually tall for a marathon runner, and I would be concerned about him carting his big frame around, but he’s tough.”
One man Sweeney won’t have for company is Paul Pollock, the first Irish finisher last year, who managed ninth place overall, clocking 2:16.30, the fastest Irish men’s time run in Dublin in 13 years. Pollock isn’t running this time as he’s still recovering from his 21st place, and second European, in the World Championship marathon in Moscow just over two months ago.