Irish prepare for tough opening skirmishes at European Indoors

Action gets under way in Poland on Thursday with four Irish athletes in action

With two original selections not making it as far as their start line, for the remaining team of Irish athletes the often tricky and sometimes treacherous task of negotiating the opening rounds of the European Indoor Championships starts for real on Thursday evening.

Despite the continuing lockdown across many European countries, the 36th edition of these championships have drawn a record 733 athletes from 47 nations to the Arena Torun in Poland, where even without the presence of live spectators the atmosphere will be one of proper championship racing.

After Ciara Mageean’s withdrawal on Monday, Darragh McElhinney was also forced to withdraw from the men’s 3,000m, the young Cork runner returning what he described as a “weak positive” Covid-19 test on Wednesday, which despite several negative tests either side of it, meant he wasn’t permitted to race.

That did allow a late call-up for Brian Fay, the Raheny runner already qualified in the 1,500m, where Ireland a full quota of three athletes already, who will fly to Poland for the heats of the 3,000m, which don't take place until Saturday.

Thursday evening's opening session will see four Irish athletes in action, beginning with Michelle Finn in round one of the women's 3,000m (6.30pm); with the top four finishers, plus the four fastest non-qualifiers to progress, Finn will likely need to improve on her lifetime best of 9:02.34, clocked earlier this year.

Four heats of the men's 1,500m follow (7.20pm) and includes the three Irish representatives in Andrew Coscoran, Paul Robinson, and Luke McCann.

With only the top two in each heat, plus the four fastest non-qualifiers, this will be properly competitive, 22 year-old McCann drawn in the same heat as Norway's Jacob Ingebrigtsen, who is attempting a 1,500m-3,000m double, with the 29-year-old Robinson among the most experienced of the fourth and final heat.

Irish in action on Thursday

(all times Irish)

18:30: 3000m Women - Round 1, 4 Heats: Michelle Finn (Leevale)

19:20: 1,500m Men – Round 1, 5 heats: Andrew Coscoran (Star of the Sea); Paul Robinson (St Coca's); Luke McCann (UCD).

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