World Athletics Championships - The lowdown on the Ireland squad

Ian O'Riordan profiles the 16 Irish athletes competing in Beijing and when they are competing

Irish men’s 800metre champion Mark English has a relatively easy opening heat at the IAAF World Athletic Championships. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho.

Irish men’s 800metre champion Mark English has a relatively easy opening heat at the IAAF World Athletic Championships. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho.

 

(In order of appearance, times Irish)

Mark English (UCD AC) – Men’s 800m (heats Saturday, 4:50am)
After a rollercoaster summer, emotionally and physically, English signed off for Beijing with his fastest time this season (1:45.49) at the London Diamond League, before winning another national title and, with a relatively kind heat draw (albeit with the top Bosnian Amel Tuka), can certainly make the semi-finals.

Thomas Barr (Ferrybank AC) – Men’s 400m hurdles (heats Saturday, 11:35am)
Big progression again this summer, particularly with his Irish record of 48.65 seconds, followed by his gold medal run at the World University Games, although faces a tricky opening heat (drawn in lane nine), and will probably need to break his Irish record to reach the final.

Alex Wright (Leevale AC) – Men’s 20km Race Walk (Sunday, 1:30am)
Training partner of defending 50km champion Rob Heffernan, Wright will also go in that longer distance and, at 24, certainly has long-term potential to someday follow in Heffernan’s footsteps. His current best of 1:22.09 ranks him 39th of the entries.

Tori Pena (Finn Valley) – Women’s pole vault (qualification, Monday, 2:30am)
No stranger to this level of competition, although Pena has yet to make the impression she once promised, her season best of 4.50m ranking her 28th of the event entries.

Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle), Sara Treacy (Dunboyne), Michelle Finn (Leevale) – Women’s 3,000m steeplechase (heats, Monday, 2:45am)
All women qualified thanks to the targeted run at the Letterkenny International last month. While the American Jamie Cheever took the win – her time 9:40.99 –second place went to O’Flaherty (9:42.61), third to Finn (9:43.34), and fourth to Treacy (9:44.15), those times also good enough to qualify for the Rio Olympics. O’Flaherty looks best primed to make the final, although standards are high, with 38 entries ranked above them.

Ciara Everard (UCD AC) – Women’s 800m (heats, Wednesday, 3:25am)
One of four Irish athletes to qualify under the new event quota system, rather than inside the qualifying standard; Everard certainly won’t be out of her depth, although will need to improve personal best of 2:01.21 to make the semi-finals.

Ben Reynolds (North Down AC) – Men’s 110m hurdles (heats, Wednesday, 4:20am)
Also qualifying under the quota system, the 24-year-old Reynolds ran a personal best of 13.48 this season, which ranks him 30th among the entries. A kind heat draw could see him progress to the semi-finals.

Kelly Proper (Ferrybank AC) – Women’s 200m (heats, Wednesday, 12:15pm)
Her season best of 23.24 was just shy of the 23.20 standard, although again Proper made the event quota, although ranked just 55th of the entries, progression to the semi-finals looks a very tall order.

Robert Heffernan (Togher AC), Brendan Boyce (Letterkenny), Alex Wright (Leevale) – Men’s 50km Race Walk (next Saturday, 00.30am)
So, two years after becoming only the third Irish athlete to win a World Championship gold medal, Heffernan is back to defend that title, albeit with mixed form. He dropped out of the European Championships last summer, started this season well but was recently disqualified at the National Championships. But with all the top Russian walkers withdrawn over doping, and the leading Frenchman Yohann Diniz absent through injury, Heffernan, 37, won’t be far off, if he can last the pace. He can certainly last the distance, and if still in the hunt close to the finish the rest may well take care of itself.

Men’s 4x400m relay heats (next Saturday, 3:40am) – From: Thomas Barr, Mark English, Brian Gregan (Clonliffe Harriers), Brian Murphy (Crusaders), Timmy Crowe (Clonliffe Harriers), Richard Morrissey (Crusaders)
The last of 16 countries invited under the quota system and, whichever quartet does line up for the heats, will need to improve considerably on the season best of 3:05.07 to have any chance of making the final.

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