For 65 years the Cork City Sports has provided the stage for Irish athletes to showcase their talent against world class opposition on home soil.
There have been some star-studded names through the decades from Sonia O’Sullivan and Mark Carroll to Steve Ovett and Yuri Sedykh. And tonight English joins that illustrious list.
The Donegal man is the most successful Irish track athlete of recent times having won bronze at the European outdoors in Zurich last summer and secured silver at the European indoors in Prague in March.
The UCD medical student will be looking to provide the home crowd with the victory that escaped Robert Heffernan and Thomas Barr last year in the aptly sponsored Mater Private 800m.
He will be using the race as a final tune-up before flying to Tallinn, Estonia for the European U23 Track and Field Championships where he will bid for gold next week.
“We are delighted to have the men’s 800m back in the programme for 2015 and the confirmation that Mark will compete in this star-studded race will ensure that will be one of the highlights of the meet,” said Meet Director Dick Hodgins.
“English’s main challengers will be Andreas Bubé (Denmark), Joshua Ralph (Australia), Tomas Timoranski (Slovakia) and Michael Rutt (USA).
The two-lap specialist is coached and managed by Australian Nic Bideau – husband of Sonia O’Sullivan. The charismatic coach, who heads the Melbourne Track Club, has played an integral role in recent years providing some star athletes to compete in Cork. Among them have been distance running legend Craig Mottram who set the 3,000m meet record of 7:38.15 in 2005.
“It’s important to support Irish meets,” said Bideau who was keen for English to compete before jetting off to Tallinn – the Irish team travel on the same day of the meet but the Donegal man will travel the following day in order to compete.
“There is a big tradition of athletics here and it’s important for Irish athletes to support the meet to develop the sport,” continued Bideau.
Another of Bideau’s charges, Brett Robinson, will compete in the LeisureWorld 3,000m. Robinson, also from Australia, was a world finalist in the 5,000m in Moscow in 2013 is looking for his first win on the European circuit. “I haven’t won before in Europe so I’m thinking Cork will be the perfect place to get my first win,” said the Australian 5,000m champion.
“My dad is coming to watch me run so it would be great to get the win while he is there. I’m going there with the goal to win and nothing else.” There will be a number of international stars on show and US distance running sensation Mary Cain has been the latest addition to the star line-up.
Cain is the world junior 3,000m champion and it will be her first time to race in Ireland. She was born and raised in New York but both sides of her family come from Ireland. She is also represented by Donegal’s Ricky Simms.
For the first time at the Cork City Sports four sub 10 second men will line up in the SuperValu 100m. Keymar Hyman (Cayman Islands), Ngoni Makusha & Gabriel Mvumvure (Zimbabwe) and Michael Frater (Jamaica) will be hoping for favourable conditions in what has the potential to be the fastest race ever run in Ireland.
USA blade runner and Paralympic T44 World record Richard Browne will compete in the Cork City Council men’s 200m. Brown is chasing the qualifying standard for the Olympics and will compete against fellow USA athlete Curtis Mitchell, a sub 20 second 200m runner and bronze medalist at the world championships.
Another star attraction of the meet is sure to be two-time Olympic gold medallist, DeeDee Trotter of the USA. Competing against Trotter in the Henry Ford & Son women’s 200m will be Waterford’s Kelly Proper who is chasing the world championship qualifying standard (23.15 seconds) for the event.
The meet provides the platform for local young talent to shine. One of those talents this year will be Leevale’s Louise Shanahan who competes in the women’s 800m sponsored by The Irish Sports Council.
Shanahan won the national junior 800m last Sunday to seal her place for the European Junior Track and Field Championships later this month.
Also featuring in the women’s 800m will be An Riocht’s Laura Crowe who is returning to her best form as she bids to qualify for the world championships in Beijing in August.
Irish TV and Setanta Ireland will screen highlights of the event which will also be streamed live online on YouTube and also on the Cork City Sports website.
Meanwhile, the nomination policy has now been released for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The athletics programme takes place from the 10th –18th of August. Irish athletes who have achieved the standard already in 2015 since the qualification window opened include Mark English (800m), Thomas Barr (Ferrybank; 400m Hurdles) and Robert Heffernan (Togher; 50km Race Walk).
Heffernan is joined by fellow race walkers Alex Wright (Leevale AC; 20km) and Brendan Boyce (Letterkenny; 50km) – he also coaches both athletes. Breege Connolly (North Belfast Harriers AC) is the sole qualifier in the marathon as a result of Martin Fagan’s (Mullingar Harriers) recent retirement from the sport.