Birthday boy Marcus Lawler wins title in sensational style

On what was his 21st birthday, Marcus Lawler came of age in style yesterday by blitzing the field to win the 200m title at the GloHealth National Indoor Championships in Athlone.

Birthday boy Marcus Lawler wins title in sensational style

Fittingly, it took less than 21 seconds for him to confirm his status as Ireland’s fastest man, his time of 20.96 seconds establishing a stadium record and marking his first sub-21 clocking indoors.

What’s more, it proved to everyone, and perhaps most of all to Lawler himself, that the path to Olympic qualification is now looking a little clearer.

“The aim was to come down here, win and break 21 seconds, and I achieved it,” he said. “That wraps up my indoor season. Now I’ll get back into training, and look at the European Championships [in July], then please God, I can qualify for Rio.”

While Lawler’s one-lap exhibition proved a fitting climax to yesterday’s action, there was much to celebrate earlier in the day on an afternoon that served as the ideal antidote to the problems plaguing the sport on a wider, international scale.

Athletics Ireland, though, could now be left with a problem of their own, as both Mark English and Ben Reynolds laid down convincing cases to gain selection for next month’s IAAF World Championships in Oregon. With neither having achieved the respective qualifying standard, only one can be selected.

Reynolds came closest of the two to securing qualification yesterday, setting a personal best of 7.73 to win the men’s 60m hurdles ahead of Gerard O’Donnell, but his time fell agonisingly short of the qualifying standard of 7.72.

“My preparation hasn’t been the best, so I’m pleased,” said Reynolds, who will compete at two separate events in the Czech Republic and England next weekend in a last-gasp bid to secure the time.

For English, meanwhile, victory came in much more casual fashion, the UCD student coasting to his fourth national title in the men’s 800m in 1:51.57 ahead of Raheny’s Kieran Kelly (1:52.23). It was on Saturday, during the qualifying heats, where English made the required statement about his form, soloing his way to a time of 1:48.15. “It’s a solid run,” he said afterwards. “I’m happy with the shape I’m in.” Though Reynolds is closer to the standard, it will come as no surprise if English is given the nod for selection. After a series of impressive runs on the indoor circuit — and with several of his international rivals set to be absent from the World Indoor Championships — he would hold by far the strongest medal chance of the two.

One athlete already qualified for Portland, but who has opted out of that event, is UCD’s Ciara Mageean, who breezed to victory in the women’s 800m yesterday in 2:03.76 ahead of Laura Crowe (2:05.08). The 23-year-old, who is already qualified for the Olympics, has instead chosen to take some downtime before building up for the outdoor season.

At the opposite end of the age spectrum to Mageean, but no less impressive yesterday, was Sean Breathnach, who at 37 years old set a national record of 18.16 metres in the men’s shot put. The mark broke Paul Quirke’s previous record of 18.07m, which had stood since 1991, and proved a lesson in the value of persistence. “It was my aim for the indoor season to b” he said. “I put a good plan together for the next couple of years and it’s working. I just love this sport.”

Another who let his passion for the sport shine through yesterday was Eoin Everard, who took gold in both the 1500m and 3000m, having spent much of the hour between the two races taking a mandatory drug test.

“When you get to 26 or 27, you realise this is it,” said Everard, who works full-time as a physiotherapist. “I don’t put that much pressure on myself any more, but I still do all the training. It’s a myth that you’re not able to train when working full-time. I just get up at 6.30am in the morning.”

Elsewhere, Sinead Denny of Dundrum South Dublin took an impressive win in the women’s 400m, her time of 53.57 leaving her clear of Jenna Bromell, who ran 54.30. UCD’s Sarah Lavin added to her list of accolades taking another national title in the 60m hurdles, 8.27 seconds just outside her best of 8.25.

In the women’s 60m, Bandon’s Phil Healy took a narrow win in 7.47 seconds ahead of Niamh Whelan (7.49) before going on to make it a double in the 200m, running 23.75 for the win.

Phil’s older sister, Joan, made an impressive return to championship action taking bronze in the 60m in 7.50 seconds.

Craig Lynch of Shercock was a class apart in the men’s 60m, taking victory in 6.81 ahead of Keith Pike (6.87) and Christopher Sibanda (6.91).

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