800m cracker in store

Ciara Everard and Laura Crowe combined to produce the most exciting race of the domestic indoor season when they clashed in the 800m at the recent Universities Championships in Nenagh, breaking the U23 record set by Sonia O’Sullivan all of 22 years ago.

And it appeared for a long time as if the senior record would fall as Crowe, running for An Riocht, peeled off three successive 30-second laps before fading in the finishing straight and eventually being caught on the line by Everard, who put her name to the record time of 2:05.76.

They will line up again this weekend at the Woodies DIY Senior Championships in the Odyssey in Belfast, where a repeat of that duel could produce the most exciting event of a programme that has some notable absentees.

Derval O’Rourke (Leevale AC), however, will return to the Odyssey, not just to reclaim her 60m hurdles but to do some fine tuning in advance of next month’s World Indoor Championships.

Race walker Robert Heffernan (Togher AC) will share the spotlight with O’Rourke.

The teak tough Corkman has already qualified for London 2012 at both 20km and 50km and remains Ireland’s big hope for a medal in Olympic track and field.

Today he will be going for a record 14th indoor title in Belfast. He set the national record at 18:51.46 at the Odyssey in 2008 and went on from there to set an Irish 20km record at 79 minutes 22 seconds to become the first Irishman to break the landmark 80-minute barrier.

He has recently returned from a training camp in Australia, where he was accompanied by his wife, Marian, a member of the Irish 4x400m team that is on course for Olympic qualification. She will drop back to 60m and 200m this weekend to improve her start and will not defend her indoor 400m title.

Paul Hession has had to withdraw with a slight injury and David Gillick has not raced indoors so far but the up and coming athletes will provide plenty entertainment.

Thomas Barr (Ferrybank) set new junior and U23 records in one fell swoop when he won the 400m hurdles in a championship best of 50.06 seconds at last summer’s outdoor championships and he converted that to the 400m indoors at the Inter-Varsities championships last weekend, winning in 49.31. If he challenges in Belfast he could be the one to beat.

Amy Foster (University of Ulster) had a sprint double at the Inter-Varsities and, last season, won both the 100m and 200m outdoors. In the absence of title holder, Ailis McSweeney, who is recuperating from surgery on her troublesome Achilles tendon, should add another double to her CV.

With Hession absent, the three who figured in the Inter-Varsities, David Hynes, Dean Adams and Steven Colvert could battle it out again in the men’s 60m while David Killeen (Leevale AC), who won the 200m, will be fancied for a repeat when he returns to the track where he has had some of best moments.

In-form Mark Christie (Mullingar Harriers) will be favourite for the men’s 3,000m while young Danny Mooney (Letterkenny), who ran a new PB of 3:45.78 in Sheffield could claim the 1,500m title with Orla Drumm, Sara Louise Treacy and Kelly McNiece likely to battle it out in the women’s 1,500m.

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