Fernandez wins after return from one-year ban

Francisco ‘Paco’ Javier Fernandez, a multi-medallist at Olympic, World and European level, led home the field in the 3km walk at today's Cork City Sports meeting.

Francisco ‘Paco’ Javier Fernandez, a multi-medallist at Olympic, World and European level, led home the field in the 3km walk at today's Cork City Sports meeting.

The Spaniard went around the Cork IT track in 11 minutes, 14.63 seconds, finishing ahead of Tunisia’s Hatem Ghoula (11:26.34) and South African Pieter de Villiers (11:33.63).

It was Fernandez’s return to race walking. He had to serve a reduced one-year ban after being linked with a drugs scandal, although he was never accused of doping.

Leitrim’s Colin Griffin was the top Irish finisher, claiming fourth spot in 11:38.27.

Cork star Robert Heffernan, who injured his hamstring in last weekend’s Grand Prix in Dublin, unfortunately had to pull out yesterday on medical advice and Jamie Costin was another withdrawal.

Heffernan, who is a close friend and training partner of Fernandez, told the Irish Examiner: “It’s a huge disappointment for me especially on account of the lads coming over.

“But I have to look at the bigger picture and the World Championships in Daegu.

“If I was to miss another week’s training it would interfere with all my preparations. I need every day from here on."

Marian Heffernan, Robert’s wife, was fourth in her 400m race. She clocked 53.64 for a season’s best with Britain’s Shana Cox (51.43) taking the scalp of American Natasha Hastings (52.06).

Australia’s David McNeill was the only man under eight minutes in the 3000m - he came home in 7 minutes, 58.55 - and Mary Cullen from Sligo ran the second fastest Irish 1500m of the year when finishing fourth (4:15.96) in her race.

Tabarie Henry from the US Virgin Islands came home strongly to win the 400m in 45.73 seconds, ahead of Trinidad & Tobago’s World bronze medallist Renny Quow (46.33) and Michael Mathieu of the Bahamas (46.50).

In the 100m hurdles, Lithuania’s Sonata Tamosaityte was first in 13.44 seconds with Cork woman Derval O’Rourke unable to compete.

O’Rourke is part of the Irish 4x100m relay team that has qualified for this year’s World Championships, and the quartet are in action in Le Chaux du Fonds in Switzerland tomorrow.

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