Neville shines brightest on star-studded evening

Neville shines brightest on star-studded evening
Ciara Neville (Emerald AC) celebrates with Aoife Lynch (Donore Harriers) after winning the women’s 100m sprint at the National Senior Track and Field Championships in Dublin’s Morton Stadium last evening. Picture: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

A moment of arrival for Ciara Neville, packed into 11.33 blissful seconds of blazing speed, which passed by in a bright, brilliant blur.

The Limerick teenager’s 100m victory proved the undisputed highlight of yesterday’s Irish Life Health National Senior Championships. It was the second fastest time in history by an Irishwoman and a championship record.

For many years Neville has been on the radar of all with their eyes on the next generation of Irish stars, the 19-year-old Emerald AC athlete carving up the underage record books throughout her teens. Earlier this month she finished fifth in the 100m final at the European U23 Championships, and on Saturday the signs were ominous as she coasted to victory in her heat in 11.40.

But that time did not count for qualification purposes as no wind reading was recorded, an embarrassing oversight by officials which left Neville hugely frustrated. “I used it to fuel me on and to be more determined,” she said.

In the final she rocketed out of the blocks and powered away from the field, crossing the line in disbelief. “I was screaming on the inside and I was just delighted,” she said. “I still think there’s more in me.”

It was behind only the Irish record of 11.28 run by Phil Healy last year. “Phil is a class act so I’ll just be using her to fuel me on to catch up with her,” said Neville.

Phil Healy was in action in the 200m, Ireland’s fastest woman again showing her class and powering to gold in 23.33, just 14 weeks after breaking her foot in a freak accident while warm weather training in Malta.

“From what I’ve come from, I’m really happy to put that performance out there,” she said. “It’s up there with my top performances. I knew there was a quick time in me.”

Mark English won his seventh title in the men’s 800m with the minimum of fuss, the UCD athlete taking his sixth straight victory at the event in 1:48.15.

“I knew it’d be a tight race but that was good,” said English. “It was like what a World Championship heat would be like.” The recent medicine graduate at UCD admitted he will likely relocate abroad after the World Championships ahead of the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Teenage star Sarah Healy again showed her class in the women’s 1500m, the 18-year-old Dubliner taking command with 700 metres to run and winding the pace up, repelling the challenge of Síofra Cléirigh-Buttner down the home straight to win gold in 4:31.84.

“I’d say Síofra would definitely take me over shorter distances so I knew I had to use my strength,” said Healy. “The last 200 I was waiting for someone to pass me and when I crossed the line I was surprised no one did.” Ciara Mageean was highly impressive when taking the 800m, the recent European Indoor medallist showing her class and kicking to victory in 2:07.30.

Defending champion Leon Reid came from behind to take gold in a world-class men’s 200m, the Menapians man pushing past Marcus Lawler in the final metres to win in 20.62. Lawler was second in 20.68.

There was drama in the men’s 400m, where Christopher O’Donnell backed up his victory last year by winning in 47.05. He faced a head-to-head duel down the home straight with Harry Purcell, who dived for the finish and crashed to the track but had to settle for second in 47.09.

“I was digging the whole home straight,” said O’Donnell. “It was just getting longer and longer.” John Travers retained his title in the 1500m, sprinting to victory in 3:49.40. In the men’s shot put Eric Favors, the Raheny Shamrock athlete who is based in the US, threw a championship record of 18.64m.

Sarah Lavin powered to victory in the women’s 100m hurdles, the UCD athlete taking gold in 13.30, while Ger O’Donnell retained his title in the men’s 110m hurdles, the Carrick-on-Shannon athlete taking glory in 14.26.

Paul Byrne won his first senior title in the men’s 400m hurdles in 51.71, while his St Abban’s clubmate Nessa Millet won the women’s 400m hurdles in 58.83.

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