Athletes eye Olympic qualification in Dublin

LINDA BYRNE will add to an already exciting women’s field in the National Lottery Dublin Marathon this morning with the national championships incorporated in the event.

However, Olympic qualification will be the target for the leading Irish women Maria McCambridge (Letterkenny AC), her former DSD clubmates, Linda Byrne and Ava Hutchinson, teak tough Limerick woman, Rosemary Ryan (Bilboa AC), Siobhan O’Doherty (Borrisokane) and the Belfast pair, Gladys Ganiel and Breege Connolly, who line up for their first big clash over the distance.

The Woodies DIY men’s championship will share the spotlight with Dubliner Sean Connolly, who ran 2:17:23 on his debut in Rotterdam and another exciting talent, Meathman Andrew Ledwith, striving to join their international team mate, Mark Kenneally, in London next year.

Maria McCambridge, who became a mother five months ago, has been around the course before and it will be a surprise if she does not achieve the 2:35 standard for London now that she has the experience to complement her immense talent. She ran 2:35:29 in Paris two years ago.

Linda Byrne, however, is an intriguing addition to the field. She was an excellent junior athlete, finishing fourth in the European junior cross-country championships on two occasions and then sixth on her debut at under-23 before finishing 10th in Brussels when she was among the favourites.

After a disastrous showing by the women’s senior team at the European championships in Dublin she contemplated quitting but former international, Enda Fitzpatrick, who has been coaching her since she first went to DCU on scholarship, told her to have a re-think.

“We met about a month later and I suggested she consider staying on and doing a Masters and run on the road and make a bit of money,” he said.

Inevitably she was drawn to the longer distances and ran 77 minutes for her first half marathon in Enniscorthy. She put her toe in the water at last year’s Dublin Marathon when she ran the first 17 miles which took her close to her home.

However they felt something was not right and she had some blood tests done and saw a dietician. She is only back training since May 1.

On four weeks training she ran 77 mins for the half marathon in Enniscorthy and then 74:50 in Longford. She came off 85 miles training to run two thirds of a marathon in Athlone at 2:39 pace without too much effort.

Dick Hooper, who has more big marathons and more miles in his legs than any other Irishman, and Jim Aughney are reaping the rewards of The Marathon Mission and another of their protégés, former Iona College student, Sean Connolly, can achieve the men’s “A” standard (2:15) following his 2:17.23 debut in Rotterdam.

The Tallaght man will be joined on the line by another former Iona student, Andrew Ledwith, who, like Linda Byrne, will be making his marathon debut.

Moses Kangogo Kibet, who set a new course record at 2:08:58 last year, is back to defend his title with no fewer than 14 Kenyans in the field including Ben Maiyo who has a pb of 2:07:09 and Chepkwony Gilbert Kiptoo who posted a best of 2:08.33 in Kosice last year.

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