No surprises as big four set up 1,500m showdown

Robinson, McCarthy, Travers, and Ó Lionáird all safely into tomorrow’s final at the National Championships

So the stage is now set for a fascinating 1,500 metres showdown at the National Track and Field Championships at Santry - after the four main contenders safely negotiated the qualifying heats this afternoon.

All four have already qualified for next month's European Championships in Zurich: Paul Robinson, David McCarthy, John Travers, and Ciarán Ó Lionáird, but only three athletes can compete, that selection being based on tomorrow afternoon's final.

First to ease their way through the opening heat this afternoon were Robinson and McCarthy, who raced with near perfect tactics. McCarthy was first across the line, winning in 3:52.90, with Robinson just a stride behind in third, the first four assured of a place in the final.

The second heat saw Ó Lionáird make a sweet move down the backstretch and cruise home in 3:54.35, again with Travers just a stride behind.

All four will now go head-to head tomorrow afternoon (set for 4.45pm). Whoever wins will be automatically selected, with Athletics Ireland then having “sole discretion” to decide which of the other qualified athletes are selected, and “may consider (but will not be limited to) championship potential, consideration of fastest qualification times and based on current form”.

Also progressing to his final with the minimum of fuss was Mark English, who won the first 800 metres heat in 1:56.76, a veritable stroll in the park. Declan Murray ran considerably quicker to win the second heat in 1:52.47, although English will surely be in a class of his own in tomorrow's final as he looks to maintain his winning streak towards Zurich.

There were some titles up for grabs this afternoon, including the men's 10,000 metres, where Michael Clohisey from Raheny Shamrocks made an impressive break five laps from home to win in 29:58.30.

Dublin marathon champion Sean Hehir was chasing hard, but was actually caught for second on the run in, passed by Eddie McGinley from Annadale, with Hehir thus having to settle for third. It was a first senior title on the track for Clohisey, who has also won the national senior cross country.

Both 200 metres titles were also decided, although the track judges couldn't decide the men's winner - and instead awarded a dead heat between David Hynes of Menapians and Eanna Madden from Carrick-on-Shannon, who were both clocked at 21.42 seconds. Kelly Proper from Ferrybank was a convincing winner of the women's event, clocking 23.22 seconds to go with the long jump title won earlier in the day.

Fionnuala Britton - also Zurich bound - later won the women's 5,000 metres, despite the best efforts of Maria McCambridge. However Britton broke clear with three laps remaining and came home a comfortable winner in 15:39.39.

Back in the field, Zoe Brown got the better of Tori Pena in the women's pole, clearing 4.30 metres to Pena's 4.20 - although both have also qualified for Zurich.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

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

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