Phil Healy just a little off track at Morton Games

Athletics: Home crowd got behind Cork woman who broke Irish 200m record on Monday

Ireland’s Phil Healy finishing in second place and Maggie Barrie of Sierra Leonean finishing first in the JWT Folk Women’s 400m at the Morton Games in Santry. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Ireland’s Phil Healy finishing in second place and Maggie Barrie of Sierra Leonean finishing first in the JWT Folk Women’s 400m at the Morton Games in Santry. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

So near or either just too far – first Phil Healy and then Ciara Mageean reaching out for a home victory at the Morton Games in Santry, only to run a little long or short of track. And they weren’t the only ones.

Making the most of the bright summer evening and fresh enthusiasm around the sport, the home crowd reached out too. For both Healy and Mageean it was one of the last chances to shine before the European Championships in Berlin – now just over three weeks away – and it still served that purpose.

Not so bright for another Berlin contender, Mark English pulling up 80m short in the 800m, falling onto the inside of the track and clutching his left calf muscle. A bronze medallist in the 2014 Europeans in Zurich, his participation in Berlin next month is in serious doubt.

And falling what might feel wonderfully short of the still-magical four-minute mile barrier was 19-year-old Brian Fay from Raheny, who clocked 4:00.45 in the headline race, the Morton Mile. It was won by the American Sam Prakel in 3:55.80, with John Travers best of the Irish in sixth with a season best of 3:57.34. Fay would have become Ireland’s youngest-ever outdoor sub-four minute miler, but that quest will have to wait for another day.

Breaking barriers

Healy has already been breaking barriers of late, on Monday in Cork becoming Ireland’s fastest woman on the double. She moved down to 400m here, already decided on the 100m/200m in Berlin, and came within her last dying strides of a home victory. Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

Leading into the home stretch by a couple of metres, the Cork woman pressed hard on the pedal and had the home crowd pressing her on too, only for Maggie Barrie of Sierra Leone to get past in the final metres, winning in 52.63.

Healy was next in 52.88, shy of her best of 52.08, but, having run an Irish 200m record of 22.99 in Cork on Monday, a satisfying run nonetheless. She also got the better of the French woman Elea Diarra, third in 53.01.

“It felt a little bit windy the whole way around, to be honest,” said Healy. “But this evening was all about pushing myself again, seeing what was there, and I just didn’t it have it for the last 30 metres, and that’s just all the races in my legs from during this week.

“But it was fun moving up to 400m again and, just like Cork on Monday, the atmosphere was absolutely super, and these are the kind of meetings and crowds that we need in Irish athletics, and there’s no reason we can’t see this kind of crowd at the national championships next weekend. It’s about getting behind the athletes as well.”

Late invite

Healy has got a late invite for Saturday’s London Diamond League, over the 100m – as did Thomas Barr, who also got himself a lane in the 400m hurdles. 

At times in the evening it felt a sort of throwback as much as a sort of homecoming, the sun stretched flat on the terraces and young fans of the sport hanging around the athletes looking for an autograph. Ultimately the international athletes stealing all the glory, on the 60th anniversary of the world mile record set here by the Australian Herb Elliott, with his 3:54.5. 

Mageean also dropped down to 800m, aiming for the 1,500m in Berlin having won bronze in Amsterdam two years ago. Closing fast down the homestretch, she left it a little too late to catch the American Hannah Green, who made her move from 200m out, winning in 2:01.66, with Mageean finishing faster than anyone – only not fast enough to catch Green.

“I think in the last 200m I knew, and definitely happy to win here, it’s been a great experience,” said Green. Mageean still snatched second, running a season best of 2:02.13, the second fastest of her life, and fresh off a season best over 1,500m, certainly rounding into form for Berlin. Síofra Cléirigh-Büttner also ran well to come through for fourth in 2:02.63.

Homecoming

With her European under-18 championship medals already in the bag, Sarah Healy – the fastest 17-year-old 1,500m runner in the world bar none – enjoyed a sort of homecoming against an international field several years her senior. With the American Emily Lipari winning in 4:08.11, Healy put herself close to the front only for efforts of late to take some toll, and she drifted back to finish 11th in 4:17.36, still an excellent time for her age. 

That Morton Mile ended up producing 11 sub-four miles in the end, Prakel just getting the better of his American team-mate Lopez Lomong, current national 10,000m champion, who took second in 3:56.58, with another American, Henry Wynne, third in 3:56.86. 

No homecoming for Sommer Lecky, unfortunately, the Donegal athlete nursing a slight injury days after winning silver at the World Under-20 championships in Tampere, Finland, when jumping 1.90m. 

Still there was an Irish performance to savour in the field when Stephen Rice of host club Clonliffe Harriers threw a new personal best and national under-23 record of 75.89 in the javelin, taking second behind Dutch winner Lars Timmerman’s 76.40 – and moving Rice to second on the Irish all-time list before Terry McHugh, his national record of 82.72 standing since 2000.

No Irish joy either in the men’s 5,000m, Brett Robinson from Australia biding his time before gunning down an international field to win in 13:26.51, with reigning European champion Adel Mechaal of Spain. Best of the Irish was marathon specialist Stephen Scullion in seventh, clocking 13:50.04.

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