Even without the inclusion of several leading athletes the Irish team selected for next week’s European Indoor Championships in Istanbul won’t travel without medal hopes and aspirations.
Central to them in Mark English, the Donegal doctor returning to the same stage where he has twice won medals before over 800 metres – bronze, four years ago in Glasgow, and silver in Prague in 2015.
English is also a two-time European medal winner outdoors, the latest of coming in Munich last August, having also won bronze in Zurich back in 2014. He’s well primed to challenge again, winning a ninth national senior indoor title last Sunday, placing sixth in 1:48.76 at the Millrose Games the week before, having run an excellent 1:46:57 in Boston the week before that.
The team of 15 athletes is without Ciara Mageean, who like English won bronze over 1,500m in Glasgow in 2019, but has cut short her indoor season due to lack of fitness. Sarah Healy is also recovering from injury, while Rhasidat Adeleke, who has recently set national indoor records over 200m and 400m, remains committed to the University of Texas and the NCAA championships the weekend after next.
World Indoor 60m hurdles finalist Sarah Lavin is included, and having run under eight seconds again this season will fancy her chances of a final place at least, while Commonwealth Games heptathlon silver medallist Kate O’Connor is also eying a podium place.
Israel Olatunde, who on Sunday broke the 16-year-old Irish indoor 60m record, clocking 6.57 seconds, is ranked seventh best in Europe this season, also a potential finalist.
The Irish women’s 4x400m relay team is included as one of only six qualifying nations and will compete in a straight final. Sophie Becker, Cliodhna Manning and Sharlene Mawdsley will all run the individual 400m as well as that relay.
There is still the potential for some late additional Irish selections based on the Road to Istanbul qualifying ranking laid down by European Athletics.
Irish women’s 60m record holder Molly Scott has also been selected, pending a fitness test given her lack of racing this season. Andrew Coscoran and Luke McCann will lead the charge in the men’s 1,500m, and are certainly capable of making the final, as is Darragh McElhinney in the 3,000m, the UCD student displaying a dashing turn of speed to defend his national title last week.
Irish team for European Indoor Athletics Championships, Istanbul, March 2nd-5th.
60m: Israel Olatunde (UCD); 800m: Mark English (UCD), John Fitzsimons (Kildare); 1,500m: Andrew Coscoran (Star of the Sea), Luke McCann (UCD); 3,000m: Darragh McElhinney (UCD).
60m: Molly Scott (St L O’Toole), Joan Healy (Leevale); 60m H: Sarah Lavin (Emerald); Pentathlon: Kate O’Connor (Dundalk St Gerards); 400m & 4x400m: Sharlene Mawdsley (Newport), Sophie Becker (Raheny Shamrocks), Cliodhna Manning (Kilkenny City Harriers); 4x400m: Phil Healy (Bandon), Miriam Daly (Carrick-on-Suir), Niamh Murray (Bray Runners).