Some heavy-hitters may be absent, but this weekend’s Irish Life Health National Senior Indoor Championships will prove a key staging point for many of Ireland’s best on the path to the Tokyo Olympics.
With bonus points on offer for the world rankings system, it’s a great opportunity for the likes of Phil Healy, Marcus Lawler, Ciara Neville, and Andrew Coscoran to move a step closer to qualification.
Thomas Barr, Mark English and Ciara Mageean are all absent, their indoor seasons already brought to a close, but will be no shortage of class on display in Abbotstown. Those who can’t make it to will be able to follow the live stream on Athletics Ireland’s Facebook page.
Here are five key storylines to follow:
Healy hunting sprint double
Ireland’s fastest woman may not be a fan of that title, but it’s one she has undeniably earned in recent years with national records over 100m and 200m. Equally as accomplished over 400m, she puts her versatility to the test by attempting a 60m/200m double this weekend. She should prove a class apart in the longer sprint, but over 60m the 25-year-old will face a tough test against Ciara Neville and Rhasidat Adeleke. Healy’s best is 7.31, but Neville has improved to 7.33 this year and Adeleke, still only 17, has clocked 7.35. With the World Indoor Championships in China cancelled due to the coronavirus, this will be Healy’s final competitive outing indoors before she focuses on Olympic qualification over 200m.
Lawler’s Tokyo target
If he’s on song, there will be no stopping Marcus Lawler in the men’s 200m final on Saturday. He’s been remarkably consistent this indoor season, clocking 21.04, 20.92 and 21.00 for 200m and he’s 35th on the world ranking list over 200m, with the top 56 set to make the Olympics. Extra bonus points are on offer for national championships so he will be keen to make Saturday’s race one of the five performances that count towards his ranking. He will need to be near his best to take gold with Mark Smyth of Raheny in flying form; the 21-year-old Raheny sprinter lowering his PB to 21.29 last month.
Coscoran to show his class
Everything changed for Andrew Coscoran over the past month, and this weekend the 23-year-old Star of the Sea athlete has the chance to end his indoor season in style. During a spell stateside he lowered his 1500m best to 3:37.98 and his mile PB to 3:56.85, enough to earn him a place in the famed Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games in New York. Coscoran is just outside the rankings cut-off for Tokyo, but a fast race in Sunday’s 1500m final coupled with a national title would help his cause immensely. The biggest threat may come from his friend and training partner Brian Fay. The 21-year-old Raheny athlete miscounted laps during the mile at the Athlone International Grand Prix this month but still clocked a swift 4:00.77.
Tonosa takes on Travers
John Travers has won the national indoor 3000m title the last two years and there’s a strong chance the 28-year-old Dubliner makes it a hat-trick on Sunday. However, he faces a credible threat in Hiko Tonosa, a 24-year-old Ethiopian-born athlete who has lived in Ireland since 2017. They last clashed at the Raheny 5-mile in January where Tonosa was by far the stronger, winning in 22:40 while Travers was eighth in 23:15. Tonosa will likely put the field to the sword early but if Travers can stay with him until the last lap, his finishing kick should prove too hot to handle.
Walkers sharpen their speed
It may be five months away, but it’s already fair to say that the athlete with the best Olympic medal chance for Ireland is Brendan Boyce. Sixth in the world last year, the 33-year-old looks on track for a similar showing over 50km in Sapporo, Japan in early August. He will drop down to 5,000m this weekend, a distance at which he has a best of 19:39.11. This, however, will be little more than a training exercise for Boyce, and he’s likely to be well behind Alex Wright, who set the national record of 18:50.70 at this event three years ago. Last year’s champion Kate Veale should be tough to stop in the women’s 3000m race walk.