Blow for Irish relay qualification hopes

HOPES of having an Irish men’s 4x400m relay team at this year’s Olympics suffered a blow yesterday with the cancellation of the relay events at tomorrow’s meet in Salamanca, Spain.

The team were due to compete in what would have been their last opportunity to set a time to qualify them for this summer’s Olympics in Beijing.

The team, which consisted of Paul McKee, Brian Doyle, Gordon Kennedy and David Gillick, were on track to get close to a qualifying time in Spain. Paul McKee had been in excellent form, winning the 400m at the recent European Cup, while Gillick smashed his own Irish 400m record last weekend in Lille.

Irish team manager, Patsy McGonagle admitted the cancellation was “a serious blow”.

“Both the lads and myself were extremely confident about making it as everyone has been in good form and the addition of David (Gillick) we felt we had enough to get through. We are in a very difficult situation now as there are no more accredited meetings available but we are going to exhaust all avenues to try and find a meet for this team. It will be tough but Athletics Ireland are doing everything they can to sort something out.”

Meanwhile, top Irish sprinter Paul Hession has promised Cork City Sports enthusiasts plenty of excitement by confirming he will compete in both sprints on July 12.

“I have been deliberately avoiding the 200m but I plan to bring on some over the coming weeks — four in all in July — and that campaign will take me right up to the Olympics,” he said.

He has competed just once over the distance this year but that was a spectacular run at the Golden League meeting in Oslo where he finished second to Brendan Christian (Antigua & Barbuda) into a gale force wind.

“I was delighted with that performance, particularly as I don’t run well into a headwind,” he said. “To finish second in a Golden League meeting is special but the run over 300m (new Irish record) the following week was even better.”

He now holds national records in all the sprints from 60m right up to 300m but from here on the emphasis will be on the his prime event which is the 200m. He will have his first big onslaught on it in Salamanca tomorrow night and then, tomorrow night week, he will return to Thessalonika where he broke the 100m record last year to see if he can replicate that achievement over 200m.

“The plan is to run both the 100m and 200m at Cork City Sports the following Saturday,” he said. “I like Cork — the track is fast for sprinting and the atmosphere is always good — so I am looking forward to doubling up there.”

Brendan Christian had been among the early entries for the July 12 showpiece at The Mardyke but now he has been replaced by the American sprinter, DaBryan Blanton, who won the 100m at The Mardyke last year.

Dwight Thomas (Jamaica) who has two previous wins at The Mardyke returns and he will bring two other Jamaican sprinters with him — 200m specialist Chris Williams and Mavin Anderson.

The field also includes Yuri Fojtic from the Czech Republic and Marcin Urbas of Poland who won a medal at the European indoor championships in Madrid when the 200m was run at an indoor championship for the last time. The Pole is one of the small band of Europeans who have broken 20 seconds for 200m and all the indications are that Hession could be the next.

From a local point of view, Derek Duff, will be appearing before the home fans. The Leevale man won the national U23 title at the weekend but appears to have been overlooked in terms of relay team selection.

US sprinter Brianna Glenn who won the 100m last year is returning to defend her title although she will be concentrating on the long jump in the US Olympic trials.

And there was also confirmation that record holder, Joanne Cuddihy, will compete in the 400m. The Kilkenny athlete is back in full training following a knee injury is all set to take her place in a race that will also feature Marian Andrews (Togher) who recently posted a new pb for the distance.

Commonwealth champion Scott Martin (Australia) has been added to the field for the men’s shot putt which is shaping up to be a contest of world class proportions.

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