Fresh Irish sprinting talent shines in Tullamore

Oliver Swinney takes senior 100m while Lucy-May Sleeman claims sprint double

Part of the fun in watching the annual showcase of pure athletics talent that is the Irish Schools Track and Field Championships is the wondering of what they might all become.

Back after a two-year absence no thanks to Covid-19, Saturday’s day-long event in Tullamore presented plenty more evidence of fresh Irish sprinting talent, as has been the trend of recent years, especially in the face of our distance-running tradition.

Shining bright among them was Oliver Swinney from Dominican Portstewart, who took the honour of Ireland’s fastest schoolboy after winning the senior boys 100 metres in 10.59 seconds, his almost exaggerated sprinting style certainly working to impressive effect.

Swinney got the better of Nkemijika Onwumere from St Declan’s, Cabra, who clocked 10.81, and who also had to settle for second later in the day in the 200m.


Swinney had secured a World Under-20 standard last week with a 10.47 clocking, the Portstewart teenager clearly indicating there is more to come.

In the last edition of these championships in 2019, Aaron Sexton from Bangor Grammar School declared himself the fastest schoolboy in Irish athletics history, improving the senior boys 100 metres to 10.43 seconds. His talent is now being showcased with the oval ball at Ulster rugby, although at this point it seems Sweeney will stick with athletics.

Ireland’s fastest schoolgirl is now Lucy-May Sleeman, who reinforced that status with a senior sprint double, the student at Bruce College in Cork taking the 100m first in 11,96, looking an absolute class apart, before returning to win the 200m in 24.78.

Among the many other double gold medal-winning performance on the day was for Lucy McGlynn from Coláiste Cholmcille, Ballyshannon, winning the senior girls 100m/400m hurdles. McGlynn narrowly missed the World Under-20 standard last weekend, the swirling wind not helping fast times here.

The senior men’s 400m hurdles was won equally impressively by Seán Carmody of CBC Cork in 56.18 seconds, two-time Olympian Thomas Barr a previous winner in this event.

The sunny conditions did eventually give way to light rain, the highlight of the middle-distance events a senior 1,500m/2,000m steeplechase double for Seán McGinley St Eunan’s, Letterkenny.

McGinley took the longer distance first, in 6:02.87, then lined up for a quality senior 1,500m where Scott Fagan from Castleknock CC was favourite, after claiming gold in All-Ireland schools’ cross country which included Irish Under-20 10,000m record holder Dean Casey.

But McGinley made his move with 200m remaining and Fagan couldn’t response, settling for third, as the Donegal student took the win in 3:58.17

After taking second in the senior boys’ high jump, Adam Nolan from Scoil Chonglais, Baltinglass bounced back to win the 110m hurdles in 14.73. Evan Hallinan of Presentation Athenry took that high jump title. There was another mild surprise in the senior boys’ 800m when Oisín Kelly of Loreto took the win in 1:54.57

Gallen sisters Caoimhe and Adrienne were representing St Columbas, Stranorlar and made it a family double in their respective hammer competitions, Adrienne winning the senior with a best of 49.44, younger sister Caoimhe, throwing the lighter hammer, winning with a best of 54.30

Conor Callinan had already claimed a famous treble of indoor pole vault titles, the student at Coláiste an Chroi Naofa in Cork winning the senior title with a first-time clearance countback.

In the field there was also a big win for Leane Healy of Coláiste Muire, Ennis, who won the senior javelin with a throw of 41.24, while in the intermediate boys’ 1,500m steeplechase, there was a gun-to-tape victory for Billy Coogan from Kilkenny CBS.

One of the closest finishes of the day was left for one of the last and longest races, Fagan, Diarmuid Fagan of Coláiste Mhuire, Mullingar winning the senior boys’ 5,000m in 15:18.10, just .40 ahead of Jonas Stafford of East Glendalough.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics