World championship contenders make class pay


Peter Coghlan, the national high hurdles record holder, signed off for the world championships with the type of performance which has established him as the Irish Athlete Of The Year, at Tullamore yesterday.

Although his time of 13.75 seconds was some way outside his best, Coghlan's technique was as impressive as ever as he skimmed across the barriers to win, untroubled, from Paul Conroy of DCH.

For the man who rates among the top 20 in the world in his event, it was all mildly reassuring as he contemplates the bigger tests stretching ahead of him in Seville next week.

The proximity of the world championships lent an added dimension to the finals of the national inter club leagues sponsored by Mazda. And for Terry McHugh, Ciaran McDonagh, and Ciara Sheehy, the occasion was made all the more memorable by their late addition to the squad going to Seville.

After some agonising near misses in recent weeks, McHugh finally achieved a B qualifying standard for the javelin when getting out to 78.47 metres, quite his best of the season. Since the deadline for the acceptance of entries expired last Tuesday, special permission will have to be obtained from the organisers to validate his selection.

If McHugh's credentials are found to be in order - and his best 1998 figures of 79.73 metres would appear to satisfy the IAAF's requirements in this area - it will enable the DCH veteran to embellish a remarkable record in major competitions.

With the exception of the 1991 world championships in Tokyo when a back injury put him out of competition for a period, he has been part of every Ireland squad since the 1988 Olympics at Seoul. And given that he he has also taken part in two Winter Games in that period, it amounts to compelling testimony of his qualities as a competitor.

Doubts about McDonagh's fitness for the long jump were dispelled when in a solo test, he cleared 7.94 metres. Four of his six attempts were fouled but the evidence of his recovery from hamstring trouble was conclusive enough in the end.

Sheehy's achievement in winning a bronze medal in the European Under 23 championships in Riga, was the barometer for her late selection for the 200 metres and she illustrated her well being with a fluent win over Karen Shinkins in 24.02 seconds.

That was a useful warm up exercise for Shinkins's appearance in her specialist event, the 400 metres, and she duly extended her winning sequence when putting some 20 metres between herself and Emma McIlroy in a time of 54.02 seconds.

The corresponding race in the B division produced a fine performance from the Kilkenny sprinter, Emily Maher who, in her first competitive run at the distance, displayed admirable maturity to edge out the more experienced Zoe Arnold in 55.65 seconds.

With Thomas Coman showing no adverse reaction from a recent injury when winning the 400 metres B race in 48.21 seconds, faster than the A winner, Eugene Farrell, it now looks certain that Ireland will be represented in the 4 x 400 metres relay event in Seville.

Overall, the world championship contenders in action in the marathon meeting, made their class pay emphatically. The exception was in the women's 800 metres A final in which Waterford's Elaine Fitzgerald, moving down from the 1500 metres, had to search deep to find the reserves of strength to beat Maria Lynch.

Lynch, revelling in the pressure of running her race from the front led until well into the finishing straight. And even when passed by Fitzgerald some 40 metres out, she rallied again to close to less than half a metre. With Susan Smith Walsh also scoring well, Waterford did exceptionally well on their promotion to the top division but, unfortunately, for the medium sized crowd who turned up at Tullamore, the anticipated meeting of the UCD clubmates, James Nolan and David Matthews did not materialise in the 800 metres A final.

Nolan restricted himself to running a leg of the 4 x 400 metres relay while Matthews switched to the 400 metres in which he finished third behind Eugene Farrell (DCH) - and the Dundrum-South Dublin athlete, Robert Daly.

In the absence of the Big Two, Daniel Caulfield and David Kelly went on to fight out an exciting finish to the 800 metres with Caulfield holding on in the face of Kelly's challenge to win in 1 minute 55.07 seconds.

Thanks in part to those successes by Caulfield and McHugh, DCH reclaimed the mens A title with a total of 148 pts, points, 28 in front of the holders, Crusaders with DSD third on 111.

The struggle for supremacy in the women's A championship was much more finely balanced before Ballymena and Antrim won with 111 points, seven more than DSD and eleven ahead of the defending champions, DCH.

Kilkenny, thriving on Emily Maher's contribution took the women's B title from Tirchonaill with the corresponding men's award going to Lisburn, convincing winners over Waterford.