It may be slightly thin on top-level Irish talent, but the 66th edition of the Cork City Sports is once again loaded with such a rich of cast of world-class athletes that few will even notice.
In recent days they have been arriving from across the world for tonight’s meeting, which gets under way in the Cork Institute of Technology at 5.15pm.
“It’s the opposite of last year,” says meeting director Joe Hartnett. “In 2016 we had to drag them to Cork, but this year we’re beating them away with a stick.”
The athletes he’s referring to will exemplify the full range of athletic prowess – pace, power, strength and endurance. Let’s start with the speed merchants. In that realm few can compete with Alonso Edward, the nine-time winner at Diamond League meetings who finished runner-up to Usain Bolt during the Jamaican’s world record run over 200m at the World Championships in 2009. The Panamanian was an Olympic finalist over 200m and has a best of 19.81.
He will compete over 100m this evening, where his chief threats may come from Jamaicans Everton Clarke and Ryan Shields. Ramon Gittens of Barbados is making his third visit to Cork, having finished second in the 100m in 2015 and won last year, clocking 10.22 for 100m into a headwind. The entrant with perhaps the biggest scope, however, could be Sydney Siame, the 19-year-old from Zambia who is a rising star in the event.
The women’s 100m is headlined by Barbara Pierre, the American who clocked 10.99 at their national championships in Sacramento last month. The reigning world indoor champion over 60m is famed for her explosive start, an asset that has carried her to much success on the circuit in recent years, and if weather conditions comply it will be no surprise to see the 11-second barrier challenged tonight. Bandon’s Phil Healy will lead the home charge.
On the endurance side, the Cork City Mile is the main attraction, with 2012 Olympic 1500m silver medallist Leonel Manzano of the US taking on Australia’s Patrick Tiernan. Manzano, an astute racer, should be capable of dipping well below the four-minute barrier.
Tiernan, however, will provide stiff opposition. The Australian will likely enjoy plenty of support due to his Irish connections: he is coached by Cork great Marcus O’Sullivan at his base at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, and is managed by Nic Bideau, partner of Sonia O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan and Bideau’s daughter, Sophie, will compete in a junior women’s 800m tonight, having handed some rivals a comprehensive defeat at the Morton Games during her summer excursion to Ireland.
Arriving off the back of a superb performance at last week’s Morton Games is Robert Domanic, who kicked to victory in 3:55.71 in the meeting’s showpiece mile event last week in Santry.
Australia’s Collis Birmingham will be one of the star attractions in the men’s 3000m, arriving to Cork off the back of a 13:28.29 5000m performance in Santry last week, which placed him second.
Two-time world silver medallist Javier Culson heads the field in the men’s 400m hurdles, while Laura Roesler of the US is the star of the women’s 800m, a 1:59 performer this year. Leevale’s Michelle Finn is the leading Irishwoman in the women’s 3000m, where Nicole Tully of the US should prove tough to beat.
Field event junkies will have plenty to give them their fix, with the men’s high jump featuring Britain’s Chris Baker, a European bronze medallist with a whopping personal best of 2.36m. His biggest challenge could come from Jamal Wilson of the Bahamas, a 2.30m performer. The women’s event features Liz Patterson, a former US collegiate champion who has cleared 1.94m this year.
Making a welcome return this year is the inter-firm relay, which will see 16 local companies compete in a 4x200m event, and for the first time in 12 years, the event will return to live television with TG4 going on air at 7:20pm.
With tickets priced at €15 for the stand and €10 for ground admission, Harnett is hopeful of a strong turn-out. “This is one of the strongest line-ups across the meeting’s history,” he says. “It will be one of the highlights of the sporting summer in Cork.”
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